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Create a grocery budget

Create a grocery budget.

Grocery Budget

Knowing how to create a grocery budget will help you save money. Do you want to lower your grocery bill and avoid paying high prices for groceries every time you shop? One very important thing that you need to do if your goal is to lower your grocery bill is to set a grocery budget.

Not just any budget, but a realistic budget. You can’t simply pick a random number out of thin air and determine that you will start using that number as your new grocery budget. You need to do a bit of research first.

Why do you need a grocery budget?

A budget allows you to track what you are spending and gives you boundaries – which is a good thing. If you don’t have boundaries, you are likely to overspend, buying much more than you can actually afford. That ultimately leads to debt, and I’m sure you know that debt is never a good thing to have.

Look over your past purchases

Think back to the last few times you went grocery shopping. Do you remember how much you spent? If not, you may need to track your spending for the next 4-8 weeks to get an average of what you are spending on groceries each week.

Hopefully, you are keeping your receipts so you can easily access this information. If not, start now. You can dispose of these receipts once you have added them to your budget spreadsheet.

What to include in your grocery budget

What you include in your grocery budget will vary from person to person and from family to family. Some people consider groceries to be food and beverages only, while others (like myself) consider groceries to be just about everything – food, beverages, diapers, pet food, household items (such as laundry soap), beauty products (such as shampoo), etc.

This is a personal preference, so decide what you think will work best for you. Keep in mind that if you do decide that groceries will only be food and beverage purchases, you will need to have another budget for health, beauty, pet, baby, and household items.

Ignore what others are doing

Your grocery budget is going to look different from mine. It’s going to look different from your friends. It’s going to look different from your neighbor’s.

We all have different needs, so no one’s grocery budget is going to look the exact same. Don’t look at what someone else is spending and assume that you need to spend the same amount. You don’t. After researching what your family will have to spend to buy the groceries you need, that is the only number you need to worry about.

Lower your grocery budget little by little

Let us say that you spend an average of $200 on groceries each week. Goal number one for you would be to spend only $200 the next week. The week after that, aim for $190, then $180.. slowly getting your budget lower and lower, until it gets to an amount that you are comfortable with, and can afford.

Don’t try to chop off a big chunk of your budget right away. It’s much easier to shave off just little bits at a time.

Give your grocery budget some wiggle room

You should always have a little bit of wiggle room in your budget, just in case you have to buy something that is not on sale, you are overcharged at the store and didn’t catch it, the price of your favorite brand of cheese goes up… you never know what is going to happen, so always give yourself some room to breathe.

After you have determined what your grocery budget is going to be, add another $10-$20 per month as a wiggle room. Just in case. If you don’t need it for one month, carry it forward to the next month. At the very end of the year, if you still have money left over, use it to stockpile groceries that you are running low on.

If you really want to lower your grocery bill, creating a budget is one step you don’t want to skip. Remember to keep this budget in mind every time you are out shopping for groceries and always aim to only spend what you have budgeted for the week.

After you have been using a grocery budget for a few weeks, it will become much easier to stick to that allotted amount for groceries, and you never know – you may actually enjoy sticking to a budget (I personally find it to be a fun game!).

Do you use a grocery budget when shopping?


  1. Maggie

    Great article! Looking forward to the rest of this series!

    Unfortunately thought, the link to the budget spreadsheet doesn’t work…

  2. Dawn

    I feed a family of 4 on $42/a week, including 4 loaves of bread, 3 – 4L bags of milk, and a box of Pampers diapers a month!

    • Stephanie

      How do you feed a family of 4 on 42$/week???? I would love to know how you worked that out!!

      • Dawn

        This is down from from $100 a week (in the middle of 2010), I built my stock pile (of cleaning supplies and personal care items, between July -December 2010, no where near as big as Mrs. J’s, but big enough for my family. If it’s not on sale and I don’t have a coupon for it I really try to avoid buying it, as I probably can do without!! My meat is always bought from the butcher, not Walmart or other grocery store. After buying from him a few times, I explained how I saved enjoyed saving money and worked out a deal with him. but not low enough that either of us are ‘losing’ out!!!

    • PNK

      Wow, we spend approx $ 400 a month, that is down from $ 500 a month ln ( 2011 ) for 2 people. Will try to cut it more this year. Please share your secret.

  3. Lori

    I cut my grocery bill from $150 a week to about $100 a week. That with a family of 5, (2 teenagers with a 15 year old boy who eats like a puppy). I’m hoping to maybe shave a little more of that. Great article looking forward to the others.

  4. Kris

    Great article, looking forward to the series.

  5. teachermum

    I’ve never really had a budget, ever! In earlier years when all the bills were paid there was x amount left in the account, that was what we had to spend on gas/food/anything, though I didn’t always pay close attention to it.

    I did track what we spent to the penny a few years ago and came up with about $150/week that we spent over about a 6 month period, food only (two adults and two adult children). I’d like to use that number to play the game of how low can I go while still consuming a whole foods diet.

    I don’t “follow a budget” when shopping though, I just want to try and cut out all waste and see how low it gets. I always read the flyers and write down on a master list what is on sale/cheap at each store. We eat what produce is on sale. Some weeks I may not even shop, some weeks I buy more. I’m curious to see what it all averages out to this time, a few years later.

  6. Wendi

    This seems simple but it’s really hard.

    I’ve been budgeting $150 / week for 2 adults & 2 kids, 3 dogs, 1 cat, 5 guinea pigs. No diet restrictions.
    I got to the point where I put the money into the Mastercard before I spent it for food. I was thinking that I would have money left over. I never did.
    There was always a great deal I wanted to invest it, like meat, that would come up.
    I can’t seem to get the “only spend what you have budgeted for the week”.
    Maybe this year I’ll be more disciplined.

    • Valerey

      I definitely wouldn’t skip the sale items! I tracked my spending for the last year, and also averaged $150 per week (food, toiletries, formula, diapers) but what ended up happening was that some weeks I would spend barely anything and the next week (let’s say beef is on sale…) I could easily spend $250. My goal is to spend less on the necessities. If that means that I have to blow the budget one week because meat is ridiculously cheap, I will, but just make sure to spend much less the weeks after (of course, you won’t need to buy meat! lol)

  7. beth

    I have a family of 3 (one 2 year old) and we spend 25-30$$ per week on food, cant understand how people can spend so much $$ on food.

    • Valerey

      I think it depends on what you buy. We eat a lot of meat (2 meals a day each) so your family budget wouldn’t even cover the cost of only the meat for my family!

    • teachermum

      That’s amazing! I’d love to know what you buy/what sorts of meals you eat. Our yearly purchase of 1/2 grass fed cow is at least half that cost per week! And I’m quite certain we spend that much just on produce for a week (though 4 adults live here).

      • Wendi

        Meat seems to be the most challenging.
        Where do tou get your 1/2 cow from?

        • teachermum

          Sorry Wendi,

          In case this gets revisited with the new facebook post, we get our meat from I’d love to find something closer to home but still looking. As it is he delivers on a route of sorts and we only have to drive just under an hour to pick it up.

    • Happy only

      I would love if you could give us an example of what you buy each week and the meals you make for that price per week. Good for you for living on such a low amount. Ian just curious how you do it.

  8. Shelagh

    I spend $100-$125 a wk on groceries and that includes diapers for 3, wipes, personal care, cleaning supplies. I also have a stock up budget of $50-$75 a mth. So if something we use a lot of (meat!) comes on sale I can stock up. We have diet restrictions as well.

  9. Diana

    I budget for 160 a week and that is for myself,dh, and a 5 yr old boy and the cat too. lol I have been trying to get dh to understand that if there is money left over to just leave it there for the next week and so on, that way there will hopefully be extra money that I can use to buy extra(stock pile) things like tp and paper towel, shampoo etc…. Or be able to spend that money on a really good sale. But he says we can’t afford it, it’s kind of frustrating but I’m working on it. I love reading your posts they are very helpful now if I could only get my dh on the same page.

    • Cassie Howard

      Sometimes it’s hard to get your spouse on board until you show him/her the savings. Make a plan and try to work together.. just for a month, or even a week, so he/she can see the savings and hopefully see that it is worth it.

  10. Jessica

    I spend $50-75/week on groceries, feeding myself, DH, and 3 children under 6, with a box of pullups a month. We buy our milk in the states 😉 but othe then that we shop in canadian sales and if we dont have a coupon we will wait. Meat and veggies are a must have. With our no coupon not in the cart rule, we try new things all the time.

    • teachermum

      I’d also love to know what you buy and what meals you serve. That is a great low number.

  11. Julie

    I am very envious of those of you who spend $25 a week on food, we are a family of 4 (though one is only 9 months old) and we spend probably double that on produce alone! I know it very much depends where you live, I was always jealous of Gail Vaz Oxlade’s clients and how “small” their food budget was, no way we could survive on that little on the west coast

  12. Andrea

    I have actually been tracking our spending over the last several months – what good timing!
    For 2 adults, it looks like we are spending $35/week, which includes groceries/paper products, but excludes health/beauty.

  13. Shanny

    I think it’s great how some people can manage to spend so little! We’re a family of 4 (and 4 adult-portion eating people!) and we can’t spend that little. Even with financial difficulties, it was HARD to live on 100$ a week (sometimes less). It must greatly depend where you live. In Québec, milk is 6$-10$ for 4L. I’m lactose intolerant, but need my milk, so it costs easily 25$ a week just for milk for the 4 of us. Bread is about 3$ a loaf (and that’s a good deal), so I try to make my own and shop at Costco for flour and sugar, etc., but it’s still very expensive. We do our best to get great deals, buy 50% off item, use coupons and price match, but it’s still not unbelievable deals like some places in Ontario or the states. I guess you do the best YOU can and as Cassie said, you can’t compare what other people spend! Although I am curious in seeing some people’s meal plan just in case I can cut corners in places I didn’t think of…

    • Cassie Howard

      Yes, it does vary on where you live. Some places (like where you are located) cost much more than others.

  14. Steph

    We spend about $700/month for two adults and one toddler. That’s including diapers, wipes, personal care items, etc. I do feel this amount is high, however I value having some organic fruits and vegetables in our diet, higher quality dairy products (no fillers in the sour cream and yogurts), and high quality processed foods (often organic and with fewer preservatives and fillers). In the summer this amount is significantly lower as produce is local, cheaper, and we grow our own as well.

    I am highly curious what people are eating for $50/week.

  15. tanya

    I just can’t get the hang of this coupon thing. There are never any available coupons for the things I buy. I spend about $850 per month on a family of 5 – including all toiletries/wipes/nappies (diapers)/cleaning products.
    I am very conscious of what we eat, so I buy mostly organic/local and make everything from scratch, but it is very expensive eating this way. Whenever the sales come around, I am often too broke to take advantage! I meal plan, create shopping lists etc, but I am struggling to find a way to lower our grocery bill without compromising on our principals.

  16. Jen

    I spend about $160-190 every 2 weeks for 2 adults. That includes everything from produce, to packaged goods, beverages, laundry, health & beauty & pet…

    I write down stuff out of flyers that are on sale, and try to buy those meats, since we don’t have much of a stockpile in the freezer. We eat porkchops, chicken, sausages, meat in chili, tacos, speghetti… veggies, salads… and I get pop & chips for my boyfriend who drinks pretty much only pop… I drink water or juice/iced tea now and then. Our sides include veggies and either a noodle, potato or rice usually..if not salad. I buy most veggies frozen, except salad ingredients because it’s only the 2 of us. I have started to ‘stockpile’ laundry items, shampoo, toilet paper, shaving items, toiletries when on sale though… depends what coupons I have & what’s in flyers…I find setting a budget ensures all my bills are paid, and we have less debt. I can afford to put some money in savings, I buy less junk food, and stick to my list!

  17. Jen

    I’d love to know how you spend $35/wk. I try to buy a lot of veggies/meat, so maybe that’s why I’m over. I cut a lot out and I’m still at $180 average every 2 wks, so $90/wk..for 2 adults.

  18. Mrs. B

    I spend about $150 for 3 adults and one teenage boy who eats like more then the female adults. 🙂 This includes meats, lots of veggies and fruits. I can often do about $120 and then I keep the extra in a separate envelope for my stock pile fund. I just stocked up on paper supplies at the 20X event on Saturday at Shoppers Drug Mart.

    • Cassie Howard

      Great job!

  19. Mimi

    You can cut your grocery bill a lot by including vegetarian alternatives. That’s what we did. Two adults and three kids and we spend roughly 80$/week, including diapers/household supplies. I’d say about 40$ in produce, 10$ meat and the rest is whatever else we need. Just got myself a nespresso machine for Christmas, and lthough I know coffee is more expensive this way, it is much tastier, and it won’t affect my budget much. Oh, and it does help that my 13 month old is on soy milk, as it is often on sale and coupons are readily available (because here in quebec, milk is always 5.72$ for 4L of 2%, no sales no coupons…)

  20. Anna

    I only started couponing in September but have already cut my spending by a lot. I am SO glad to hear others spend as much as I do grocery shopping. I used to spend about $200 a week (including tp, toiletries, etc) – when I did a session with a credit counsellor this amount seemed to amaze her – she thought I was nuts (3 people in the home). I have gotten it down to about $150 right now and am trying to go lower. I am trying to cut out impulse buys and tracking every cent I spend. I find that doing a menu planner is the biggest help for me as this way I am only buying food I actually plan on using instead of throwing out items I bought that looked and sounded good at the time, but I never go around to using.

    • Cassie Howard

      I used to shop like that too, until I started menu planning. It’s a great way to save money by only purchasing the things you need for your meals.

  21. Happymomy

    We are a family of 5. 2 adults and three kids under 12. I spend $400-$450 per month on groceries. We buy a lot of fresh fruits and veggies. I don’t think it is possible for us to get it any lower because we don’t eat a ton of processed packaged foods. I make my own breads, muffins, ect. I cook most meals from scratch. If anyone thinks I can slash more I would love to get your ideas.

    • Cassie Howard

      That is a very good budget for a family of 5, especially because you make a lot of food yourself.

  22. Deb

    Hi there I started with coupons in June2011 but found myself on/off for months at a time will organize my binder for hours on end then be off and will never seem to be fully organize with coupons this did not help with my shopping I was still spending way to much $$,but this is my year to really get myself organize…so my grocery bills are usually 130.00 with meat add another 60+ I do not buy process ,pkg foods, ,tonight went to do my shopping and only spent 96.00.this also include salmon{can}for salmon melts,turkey sausages,I also had few extras in cart as jam which never buy or mini pizzas as a treat for my son lunch.I use up all my FRC I had in past I was forgetting them and yes even losing them.I this wish I can find a way to spend less on produce and suggestions will be great:}

  23. Cindy

    I find we are now spending $600.00 to $800.00 a month. Then we spend about $200.00 every second to third month on a Costco stock up trip as well. We used to spend $1200.00 or more each month! This is for a household of 5 including 2 1/2 teenagers who eat everything that isn’t bolted down! I think we are doing well because I used to spend almost double that. We use at least 3 – 4 litres of milk a week and eat/buy a large quantity of fresh fruits and veggies. We use alot of toiletry / bathroom items and this as well as dog food and treats is included in our monthly bill. On the whole I think our family is doing well and sticking to a budget that works for us. I have a garden and I did alot of canning of homemade items that really is helping reduce the amount we are purchasing. I also purchased in season fruit and canned that, so it really reduces the quantities we are buying in winter time.

    • Cassie Howard

      Wow, that’s very impressive! Canning and growing your own food is sure to be a huge help. I want to start doing that soon. 🙂

    • Donna R.

      Wow. Your family sounds exactly like mine – right down to dollar amounts. It’s very gratifying to get that grocery bill down isn’t it.

  24. Bobbi

    We are a family of 7, I only shop sales and we don’t eat prosessed foods. I try to use coupons but most I get are for stuff we don’t eat or use. I spend atleast 300 a week on food, sometimes I can get it to 200 but not often.. Then there is the odd trips during the week for milk or Vegys.. I don’t know how to get it lower with the kids hitting teenage yrs I can just see it getting worse.. Youngest is 2 and there are 4 boys and 1 girl. They eat all the time we are a one income family so I’m trying to help with expenses I wish I could get the food bill to 1000 or close to it a month

  25. elizabeth

    I spend $25-$40 a week or a family of 3 (and 1 big dog), and my husband and 3 year old have celiac and cant drink cow milk/yogurt, so I make all my own baked goods. We have a garden in the summer, we eat meat at least 1 time a day. I dont understand how people can spend so much money on shopping.
    I save over $20 a week with coupons.

    I work 2 nights a week and my husband is in school (with no income), we have a large 3 bedroom house.

    Ps. This is my fav site, its full of great advice, thanks!!!!

  26. Sam

    Elizabeth, there is no way you can be providing good,wholesome, balanced meals for 40 dollars a week. Maybe if your eating Kraft dinner?
    I spend on average $250 a week for a family of four. We eat lots of fruits and vegetables, very little to no processed food and good quality meats and cheeses. I believe in saving money but I don’t compromise my families long term health for the sake of saving a buck or two.

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