How to Feed Your Family on a Tight Budget

When financial times are tight, the grocery budget is the easiest part of the budget to cut. Over the last 15 years our grocery budget has ranged from less than $100 a month (when we had no children) to more than $400 a month (last year when our income was higher). Right now our grocery budget is $400 a month. I may try to reduce it soon though.

To keep our grocery spending under $400 a month, I’ve been using the Grocery Game and stocking up on things when I can get them on sale with a coupon. Lately I’ve been a little disappointed with the deals at the Grocery Game, though, and I’ve begun to wonder whether the $10 every 8 weeks is worth the service anymore.

Fortunately, My Grocery Deals is another great option for those who want to save money on groceries. It’s a free site that shows you what’s on sale at your local stores. The best news, however, is that they are planning to add coupon matching sometime in the hopefully near future. When that happens, I will definitely be converting from the paid Grocery Game service to the free My Grocery Deals site.

Now that you know what my grocery budget is, I’d love to hear from you! What is your grocery budget? How many people do you feed on that budget? Does your grocery budget include paper products and toiletries? (Mine doesn’t). And how much do you regularly spend on meat? What are your tips for keeping the grocery budget down?

If you’re not comfortable sharing how much you spend on groceries, don’t worry about it. I’d still love to hear your cost-cutting tips!


By , on Mar 28, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. 6 of us:

    We spend $440 on food for a family of 6 and 3 of them are teen age boys. We never eat out but 2-4 times a year. I don’t buy any paper product except for t-paper, it’s a waste of money.

    • Hillary:

      I have been trying for the last 3 months to spend only $400 on food for our family of 6. Was wondering what kind of meals you make? I do shop the deals at the local grocery stores and stock up when it’s unbeatable. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks!

  2. pleasehelpme:

    Okay I am shoppingfor food in my apt…i use to get food stamps but i dont any longer….as I read every1’s monthly bill Im getting scared because i usually only spend $100/month on groceries and Im trying to reduce that to 80… this unreal??!

  3. Eric:

    Help southern seven! Ok I have a family of 7, my wife home schools or has home schooled all of them (just 3 left in school now) Anyways we have been married for 21 year also this Dec. 17th and we have alway eaten out a lot. We now are at the point of spending about $4,000 a month between eating out and groceries! It is killing us! Can you give me a list of what you guys eat? I know it’s mostly that we need to quit eating out so much but even when we go to the grocery store we spend $400 for a weeks worth of grocery’s and still eat dinner out 4 days a week. My wife says its impossible to spend $500 a month on groceries and I know that it is more expensive where we live (Disneyword) but there has got to be a better way! Thanks, Eric

  4. Michelle:

    I spend $1000 per month on groceries for a family of 6. I buy alot of generic stuff but healthy food. We eat breakfast, lunch & dinner at home always.

  5. kena:

    i spend 1000.00 a month on food only for a family of 5. we all eat breakfast lunch and dinner at home and rarely eat out or order in. i cook almost everything from scratch. i do a lot of shopping at aldi, and my moms garden in the summer

  6. BJK:


    I can (if I think really hard) remember back to collage… ok It was not that long ago but some of the things I did was getting together with a few friends and trading nights for dinner. Making a meal for three or four cost the same as one and sometimes canbe cheaper. If you only make one meal and then have left overs for the next night it is not bad. We would have dinner together three nights a week and have leftovers alone. But you are only cooking two meals a week. One for the group and one for yourself.

    Another thing I would do was cook a meal and put 1/2 in the freezer and the other 1/2 in the freg for left overs. That way I have three to four meals. Two for this week and two for next week.

    Good luck.

  7. Sam:

    I’m a single college student spending about $350 per month on food and non-alcoholic drinks…and I don’t eat breakfast or drink milk.

    To break it down, $225 goes to groceries of which about $10 relates to non-food items such as TP and paper plates. $100 goes to eating out whether it’s fast food (very rare) or a nice restaurant dinner for myself and someone special, and $25 goes to soda from vending machines. Of the grocery amount I probably spend $50/month on beef & chicken which are the only meats I eat.

    I’m going to be continuing my education and I’d really like to get those numbers down. My current goal is to get my spending under $250 monthly, if I do this I could set another goal. Trouble is I don’t know where to start. I read stories about families with kids spending less than what I do, so there must be some way to spend far less money; from reading the other posts it seems 95% of you are miles ahead of me. I’ve been reading alot about cutting food costs, but it seems most ideas i’ve read are 1)not suited to a college student with no storage space, one mouth to feed, and little free time, or 2)very complex and geared toward people who have mastered cost-saving techniques which I have not. Can anyone help me?

  8. Jerry Fox:

    Budget for 3 on groceries

  9. Lora, I’m no where near as frugal as I ought to be in this area, but everything I learned, I learned from The Tightwad Gazette books — they are just awesome! Doing some “long-distance short-knowledge diagnosing,” I’d suggest you look at what you purchase from Sam’s — a lot of foods they offer are highly processed, and you can make it cheaper from scratch, or you can choose different foods entirely (it’s no fun trying to make homemade breakfast cereal, but you can microwave quick-cooking oatmeal almost as fast as you can pour a bowl of cereal, and for a *lot* cheaper). Also, since you “save so much money” buying in bulk, you’re probably eating/using more than you think, and probably buying a bunch of junk you didn’t mean to. Get a price list of food items you normally buy there and see how good a deal they really are. I don’t shop at Sam’s any more (too far away, and not enough deals for me to justify the annual fee), but my memory is that they stock one or two different kinds of items (like just Ragu and Classico spaghetti sauce), and while their price may be better on those brands than your local supermarket, I’d bet that grocery store generic foods will beat the Sam’s price on brand name. You may also be able to find and use coupons in stores, but usually not at Sam’s.

    The people with the lowest grocery bills probably have the highest “nutrition per dollar” ratio — little or no junk foods and empty calories like soft drinks, potato chips, bought desserts, etc. I’m guilty of this myself, but a bag of potato chips costs $2-3 most times, and you get, what, 8-10 oz? I can frequently get a 20-lb bag of potatoes for $4, which is much better value for the money. My family can eat a bag of potato chips in one sitting, but can barely use a bag of potatoes before they go bad.

    Just the tip of the iceberg — check out the book I mentioned for tons more tips!

  10. Lora Wright:

    I need help desperately! I live in Florida. There are four in my family, an 18 year old daughter and a 7 year old son. On an average, we spend $1000.00 a month on groceries! I try to shop once a month at Sam’s Club, but after seeing what all of you spend . . . there’s something seriously wrong with my shopping habits! If anyone can help!

  11. Awesome! I love thegrocerygame and I just came across your site from Blisfully Domestic. Great site :)

  12. Kelly:

    Over the past two years, I averaged $16 per month food only (actual numbers). That’s a single adult vegetarian (not a health freak, just habit) with a small garden who cans, bakes, and makes everything from scratch.

    Also looks like I will be buying my next house cash at the age of 25 :-) Great blog!

  13. 99k:

    We live in northern VA (DC metro area) and it’s $350 a month to feed our family of 4 – that does not include ANY toiletries or supplies, that is food only. Last month we did dip up to about $400 mostly because there were 5 weekends in the month and we do our grocery shopping on the weekend. Toiletries, cat litter, etc. usually run us another $70-80 bucks a month.

    Very interesting to read everyone’s numbers!

    (i’m going to pay down 99k of debt by 2011!)

  14. Dana:

    For a family of 11, with 9 children from 17 down to 5 months, 3 dogs and 1 cat, I spend $550.00 month for food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, animal supplies, underwear, the occasional birthday/christmas gift, a magazine here and there. I make everthing from scratch, I have a circuit I shop for best deals, use a price book. No paper goods other than toilet paper, shop in season. I also can and bake, grow a small garden.

  15. Nancy:

    We spend an average of $460/month on all groceries including paper products, laundry products, dog food, etc. We are a family of 4 including our kids ages 9 & 7.

    I do not spend more than $2 per pound for meat and stock up when it’s on sale. I purchase most of our groceries at Aldi’s and at other places only when it’s on sale. I always suppliment our meals with homemade breadsticks, biscuits or corn bread to make food “stretch”.

    I get discouraged with the amount I spend each month as I really want it to be lower. I am working on finding more frugal meals to add to our current menu.

  16. It’s just my 15 yo boy and me, we spend about $240 per month. We spend no money on dead animals. The only paper products we buy is an occasional (2x/year, when I want to wash windows) roll of paper towels and toilet paper. I buy only food, as opposed to “food-like substances.” We eat out, at family owned restaurants that also make everything from scratch, only once a month.

  17. HerMoney:

    We spend about $300 a month of grocery store but that includes an occasional cleaning product, toilet paper, etc. It’s just the two of us but that covers us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We are really good about bringing our lunch with us everyday to work. I usually keep a few lean pockets in the freezer to grab for the days when we done have anything prepared for lunch. Like many others commenting here we could easily cut our amount down if we wanted to but I enjoy cooking and we like to eat pretty healthy, yummy food.

  18. Grocery spending is a huge chunk of our budget, and it grows every week as food prices climb. We live in an area of California where everything is expensive, and much of what we eat is produce or basic dairy foods, and there aren’t many coupons for those foods in the Sunday paper, unless I want to buy some super sugary yogurt or ice cream (which we tend not to keep around the house). I can go through several Sundays’ worth of papers before I even see ONE coupon for something we’d normally buy. So many of the coupons are for processed foods that just aren’t in our diet. It’s frustrating to try to eat healthfully, prepare foods that we enjoy eating (e.g. more than just beans/rice/soup), and keep the grocery bills down. I think for our family of three we spend around $600/month on groceries.

    We do try to shop at the local farmer’s market, but even there the savings aren’t great, though the quality of the produce is higher.

  19. My wife and I spend $200 per month on groceries, plus $50 eating out allowance. This does not include my lunches usually, as my company reimburses me for client lunches. However, I wouldn’t anticipate it going up much even if I did pack my lunch because it is extremely cost effective to do so.

    Sometimes that $200 includes non-grocery items, but not usually.

  20. On average I spend about 400 per month for a family of 5. (Kids are 11, 9, and 8) We are all BIG eaters too. This includes pet foods, toiletries, laundry supplies, etc.

    I use to match up coupons w/ sales. I stock up on anything that my family eats regularly. DH likes junk food and takes frozen meals in his lunch. He also drinks a lot of milk and pop.

    I got 160 dollars’ worth of groceries for 48 dollars today (I will post tomorrow on my blog) w/ sales and coupons and store “perks”, i.e. CVS ecb deals and Meijer coupon promotions.

    I go to the farmer’s market in the summer and we eat whatever fruits and veggies are on sale the rest of the year. I also love to go to roadside stands in late summer! Great deals on corn and tomatoes here in MI!

    My goal is to get this down to 80 per week, if possible! Still trying, but with food prices rising, I may not be able to go much lower.


  21. We spend $500 a month on groceries for a family of 4. That includes all paper goods. I used to think this was so high but lately I think it’s pretty average. I shop with a lit, price match, stock up on meat when it’s on sale. I’m sure I could eat more cheaply but when I start to restrict my eating is when I really start to feel poor.

  22. tbkaiser:

    We are living in NY State and are a family of five. I am feeling bad about ourselves after reading what others are spending. We spend anywhere from 700 to 1000 a month on household and food stuff. My oldest is ADD so I watch everything we buy and I need to make a lot of things that would be almost cheaper junk food snaks. We live where there is only one store in town and the closest town is about an hour away. I just coupons but again there is very little that we buy that uses them

    It is good to hear what others are doing. I am even thinking about what I can cut down on. I have cut out most drinks. All we get is milk, oj and water (I don’t buy that)

  23. Beth:

    I have a family of five, one dog. I spend around $400 a month on all food, cleaning and toilet stuff.
    I also buy 2 12 packs of beer a month and a bottle of spirits every month. I do buy 3-6 papers a week, and I use all the tools I can. I do use the grocery game, couponmom and hot coupon world and slick deals. I have not been impressed buy the grocery game, however I know that I save more than $10 every two months using it, my next payment is in three weeks I will decided then.

    I also will be getting my bill to around $350 a month, with out giving up anything. This really does take me about 3 hours a week but before I started to do this my bill was over 1000k a month. Right now I am saving $600.00 a month so I think that is a good trade off.

  24. Lee:

    It’s nice to hear with the above comments that we’re not so off the mark with our grocery budget, though I’m sure we could probably be more wise with our choices, with more fresh food,as opposed to junk food.

    I’d like to explain my above comment about “comp” sales, in case someone doesn’t understand.
    It is essentially price-matching. Wal-Mart will match a local store’s sale prices, as long as it’s the same brand and size product; they also do this matching other store brands to wal-mart brand products. They don’t “comp” the buy one, get one free sales, unfortunately. I usually just go to the particular stores that have the sales and buy there when it’s something I can’t get at our main store. We also do our best savings, shopping just the sales and with a set menu and list.

  25. Adrienne:

    I put a link back to your site on my blog, and then I realized I should have asked first. If it’s not ok, I will remove it ASAP.

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