Trying to Stick to a Family Budget: Grocery List Spending Tips & More

Lori | Home Made Simple
by Lori | Home Made Simple

I am so excited to share my first monthly family budget recap with you! I have been keeping up with our family grocery list on a budget to share all the numbers with you for one month. The big lesson: I want to stick to my plan of using cash and minimizing extras.

I’m a little bit shocked by some of those numbers. I’m also a little bit proud of myself for other numbers. I need accountability to avoid those easy impulse purchases that will mess up my budget because those sorts of things started to snowball last year.

I’m trying to be mindful of keeping up with my expenses, using cash, and not buying things we do not need.

In one month, I spent $435 on groceries. This is just what I spent, not what other family members may have purchased. I consider this a big win because I usually spend a lot more than that–probably double. Here are some of the lessons learned.

1. Shopping alone or with others

I realized there’s a big correlation between me going to the grocery store by myself or just with my son or going to the grocery store with the older people in my family who have more requests on their lists or add things on impulse.

I don’t like to say no but I have been trying to make it a rule that we are not buying extra things. That’s helped curb some of that extra spending.

But I’m also not going to tell my husband who works hard that we’re not going to buy the things he likes to eat. I don’t think that’s kind to do. I’m just trying to make modifications, instead.

I decided that if I’m going on a big grocery trip, I’m going with a list and I’ll go by myself. I really think that will help.

Paying with cash

2. Using cash works best for me

I also can tell that using cash made a big difference. I can see that if I have just a set amount of cash in my wallet, I’m less likely to buy on impulse. I can see the benefit of not overspending by having a cash system.

Cash is the way to go for me. Some people like to get cash back by using credit cards at grocery stores. I know that I don’t have the self-control to do that without making impulse purchases. Using only cash is like a hard stop on my spending.

3. Dividing groceries vs household goods

I divided groceries–food or meal items–from household goods. I put anything not food-related into a separate category. Even when I bought protein powder, or especially things like toilet paper or toothpaste, for example, those were separate purchases.

I spent $57 for the household items. I think that’s good! Having those items separate from groceries inflated the food amount and it’s not things we’re eating. It’s not fair to put that into the food category. It was beneficial to separate all that so I could see what I spent on food versus household items.

4. Animal food

I also separated out animal food–you may not have this category. We have a lot of animals to feed. I did get rid of the horse but we are feeding one cow, two pigs, four goats, four dogs, and chickens. I was really shocked by the amount of money we spent to feed the items.


I spent a total of $278 for this category – that’s over half of what I spent on human food. I have to think this through – I may get rid of the goats and pigs or maybe they will go into a different category.

The cow is producing milk and I’m mindful of how I use the milk. But $278 is a lot and it’s the number I’m disappointed about. I had to buy two big bales of hay for the cow and goats.

A hay saver would be good to have so maybe I can work that into the budget to make the most of the hay that I do buy since half is wasted. Everyone with a homestead has to think about all of this.

5. Accountability and anxiety

I realized I was going to need to admit to the fact that we spent this money this month. One of the times I spent too much I was not by myself.

During that shopping trip, I felt the anxiety and stress started to rise but I calmed down. I just have to keep focusing on making improvements as I go along. I know myself – I’ll start to get lazy in the next couple of months about keeping this all going.

6. Eating out

We did eat out about five times this month. It was all meaningful, well-spent money. We enjoyed each occasion and I don’t feel bad about this at all.

Once a week is a fair amount to eat out for us. There were some options we used to make this more doable such as sharing points when we went out to Chick-fil-A, for example.

We may do a no-eat-out-month, which seems to work for us but we love to eat out. Sometimes moms are annoying penny pinchers and I don’t want to get to that.

Dining out

7. Things to work on

I have to work more on eating from my pantry and freezer. I still have a lot of food to go through. I plan to be more mindful about that, too.

Family grocery list on a budget

We’re still working out the bugs on spending but I would love to hear your feedback on these numbers. I hope reading about my family budgeting was helpful to you. I’m interested in hearing how you handle family meals on a budget! Leave comments!

Next, check out my Frugal and Delicious Slow Cooker Meal Ideas.

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