The amount of spending we do during the month of April, between taxes and birthdays and anniversaries, I always feel the need to tighten the belt and reign in the budget. First place I felt we could save some money this year, was with our groceries. I don’t feel like I’m typically frivolous with my dollars, but if I’m not careful, I tend to load up the cart with interesting and fancy extras we don’t necessarily need. And besides the need to save some money, it also began to feel like I was becoming a bit of a hoarder in the food department, at one point stocking almost 50 lbs of meat in our freezer, yet still finding myself buying more. So bottom line, I’ve been working on being more intentional with our grocery budget for the past couple of months, and it’s working! Because I’ve received lots of questions about my weekly grocery haul photos on Instagram, I thought I’d answer a few of the most commonly asked questions, and also share with you my most recent Thrive Market purchases.IMG_5433

First, let’s start with Thrive Market. If you’re not familiar with Thrive, it’s an online grocer offering only “natural” healthy living foods, at a discount price. While in the beginning Thrive was said to offer wholesale pricing, it’s more like 25% off of retail. which is still a pretty good savings. Membership costs $49 a year, yet I’ve easily made up the cost in savings with just 2 orders (you get recaps in each order on how much you’ve saved, and accumulated savings). If you use this link, you’ll save 15% off your first order and your first month is free, so you can at least try it out with no membership obligation.

This month I ordered a case of Kit’s Organic bars, 3 packs of Krave jerky, 1 package of Pamela’s pancake mix, 1 bottle of Spectrum coconut spray oil, and because I’m trying to switch us away from Ziploc completely, paper sandwich bags. I only had to spend $2 more for free shipping, I added on the package of sustainable “plastic” forks to pack in the kid’s lunches and meals on the go. I’ve shopped around and even when these items are on sale or with a coupon, I can’t get them cheaper anywhere else. The key with Thrive is to have a general knowledge of prices so you can pick and choose which items you’re really going to find significant savings on. You may find some items for around the same price at your local market, but most items offer a significant savings.

Now let’s talk a bit about the grocery budget and answer some questions.IMG_3692

The $100-$125/week grocery budget does include the kid’s school lunches, breakfast and dinners. It does not include packing a lunch for my husband, as he eats out almost daily with his employees. I eat lunch out 1-2 times a week as well, but eat leftovers or make something else at home.

The grocery budget does not include home/personal care products.

In addition to the weekly budget, we also do a monthly Costco trip and spend on average $100-$150.

Once a month I purchase our CSA produce box at $75, and includes 2 boxes of fruit and vegetables and 5 dozen eggs. You can email me directly, if you’re local to the Southern California area, and I can add you to our CSA distro list with pick-up locations on Long Beach and Los Alamitos.

Once a quarter I also spend about $100 on our beef CSA, J&J Grassfed Beef.

We don’t buy or eat 100% organic, but rather on average 50% of total food purchases are organic, the rest conventional. We do strictly purchase organic milk and chicken, and pastured pork and grass-fed beef.

We eat out as a family on average 2-3 times a week, usually Friday night dinner, Sunday lunch out after church, and on a busy sports day, we may get take-out from Chipotle or ZPizza.  We could and should be better about this, I’d like to get eating out down to just once a week. Goalsssss.

Total monthly spend, on average is then $700-$800/month for our family of 5.

A few ways I’ve been able to save extra money.IMG_3025

Coupon clipping and the Target Cartwheel app. Sprouts offers a monthly coupon book with some pretty good savings, and of course the Cartwheel app has a ton of products with a savings of 5%-20% off. I’ve had the best luck by searching the app for only the things on my shopping list, rather than perusing the app and adding on items we don’t necessarily need, just because it’s “on sale.”

Meal planning is of course the easiest and most significant way to save money, since you can stay on track with your shopping list and spending.

Keeping an organized pantry and regularly cleaning out the fridge keeps me from buying more of what I don’t need, and makes sure we eat *most* leftovers.

Fenugreen fresh paper has really helped with keeping the produce fresh for at least a few extra days, thus reducing waste. I recently used them on a bunch of berries I bought at Costco, for Taylor’s tea party, and they kept them fresh for over a week.

Not being shy about putting items back along the grocery

Being stingy with meat. Unless I’m planning on making enough for plenty of leftovers, I usually only cook with 1-1.5 lb meat portions for our dinners. I also remain pretty steadfast on our Meatless Mondays.

The USDA reports the average cost of food for a family of 4, to be anywhere from $150-$300/per week.  Considering the high cost of living in Southern California, I think we’re doing pretty well. Are you happy with your weekly food costs, and if so, how do you work to save money each week? Would love some extra tips!

  • Nicole

    Love this post, I’m always so interested (nosy!) about what others spend on groceries. I live in Canada so very different market/availability, but I’m always looking for ways to trim our spending.

    Aside from sticking to a weekly meal plan my biggest savings is having (usually meatless) soup at least once a week (only in cooler weather, so 7 months of the year). In warmer weather soup night becomes egg night (no meat sides). There are so many ways to make eggs, including my fav use-it-up quiche!

    I will also freeze just about everything – leftover single portions of meat, a pepper that is too soft, tomato paste (because you never need a whole can!) to use later. I even keep a bag of veg scraps for stock. We often have a use-it-up meal or two at the end of the month to clear out all those bits and pieces.

    • Andrea Howe

      I love to freeze leftover tomato paste too! 🙂

  • Heidi

    I feed myself, my husband and our 22 month old daughter, and we don’t really buy a whole lot of meat, just a bag of frozen chicken breasts, and a pound each of beef and turkey. I try to buy organic or at the farmer’s market if I can. To save money and stay a little organized with my shopping, I usually pick one night a week as a breakfast for dinner night and one night I call wild card where it’s usually a hash of stuff I need to cook up before the grocery store day. (Stir fry!) Breakfast for dinner is usually eggs and waffles/pancakes (I like the Kodiak brand of mix or Shutterbean’s yogurt-oat waffle recipe less the sugar) no meat. It’s also good to have a few go-to recipes you know you can whip up quickly. I make this thing we call “bean eggs” which is a tortilla topped with seasoned black beans and a little cheese and topped with whatever veggies (sweet potatoes, broccoli, zuchinni, brussels) we have, avocado and greek yogurt and sometimes we put an egg on it.
    Meal prep is also key to a successful week for us. If I’m in the kitchen cooking I try to throw in a pan of veggies to roast to use the next night, or I’ll cook up a batch of rice, farro or quinoa to have on hand to throw in something or to eat for breakfast with fruit and yogurt. Soups and chilis also save the day. Some chili even makes great burrito/taco filling and you can sneak tons of veggies in there.

    • Andrea Howe

      I love all these suggestions and ideas Heidi. I have a few “no-recipe” meals I always love to fall back on too, including one a I made this week, which is one of my favorite meals from childhood. 1 lb ground beef, plus 1 can green beans or about 2 cups of fresh, and a jar of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. Saute up together and top over rice for an easy, and relatively affordable meal.

  • This is such a great post. I’ve always wondered about Thrive and the detailed costs of your grocery bills since we try to eat rather clean & healthy as well. Are you seriously saying that you get 2 boxes of fruit, 2 boxes of veggies and 5 dozen eggs for $75 every month?! That is insanely cheap. One thing I miss about living in CA is the price and availability of fruit. It’s much more expensive here in WI. I might have to see if Karri wants to split a Thrive membership!

  • These are such great tips! I spend about $800/mo at the grocery store for just my husband and I. I feel like that is just way too much, but it does also include personal care and household products such as shampoo, laundry detergent, tinfoil, etc.

  • I’m always fascinated by what other people spend on their grocery budget. Apartment Therapy did a survey on this a while back, and I was surprised at how little some people spend on food. We have a family of five, and I’m embarrassed by the amount we spend on food every month (far in excess of what you spend). I track our food spending every month and I meal plan, but we consistently spend the same amount every month. Even when I get our grocery budget down, we spend a greater amount on restaurants. Its like a magical number that just doesn’t deviate.

    We do have some constraints that most families don’t (multiple family members with multiple life-threatening food allergies and sensitivities, and diabetes). We eat pretty low carb because of the diabetes, and I find it difficult to make the sort of cheap dishes that utilize small amounts of meat with large amounts of rice/potatoes/dough. We do eat a ton of vegetables and fruit, but a large portion of our budget goes to meat.

  • Ooooh, neat that you’ve tried Thrive Market! I’ve heard about it on Robb Wolfe’s podcast. Sounds like good stuff!

    I wrote a long article for this online magazine about how we save money and shop for a mostly local, real food diet. http://incompletemagazine.com/how-to-shop-for-a-balanced-real-food-diet/

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