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How to spend $330 on groceries for a family of 4 on real food for a month without coupons, eating mostly organic, is doable. You can do it with as little as $82.50 a week, without coupons and that includes all meals, three squares a day!
Let’s be real here, if you’re eating and buying organic and whole foods, your grocery bill can begin to add up quick like, especially when you’ve got a family still at home. Even with raising all of our own meat, there’s certain months when I know we’ve went a little overboard on our grocery spending.
Disclosure: I’m an affiliate for Tiffany’s Grocery Budget Bootcamp and earn a commission if you decide to purchase, but regardless, we have a jam packed session for you with a ton of FREE help. Thank you so much!
Today’s episode, #123 How to Feed a Family of 4 on $82.50 a Week with Organic Whole Chicken and Real Food Sides, plus our free cheat sheet 8 Tips to Get Your Grocery Budget Back on Track Now,Click Here for Your FREE Cheat Sheet will help you even if you aren’t able to raise your own meat or if you’re pretty self-sufficient and have a good amount of homegrown stuffed into your pantry and larder. Because all of us would like to keep a few more of our hard earned dollars in our pockets, am I right?
Listen to Episode #123 below!
I’m very excited to bring on today’s guest to talk about how she consistently spends only $330 a month on groceries (going on 5 years) for a family of 4 without coupons and eating a whole foods and mostly organic diet. Welcome, Tiffany from the blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs.
Melissa: I love Don’t Waste the Crumbs because as homesteaders and pioneers, we’re all about using everything that we’ve got and then figuring out ways to even reuse those items. You have a set dollar amount that you guys spend on groceries every month.
Tiffany: We spend $330 a month on groceries.
Melissa: And that’s for a family of?
Tiffany: There’s four of us, two kids, my husband and two kids, and my kids are 10 and eight.
Melissa: How long have you been on this budget amount?
Tiffany: Ooh, wow. Forever. Okay, goodness. Actually, I should think back to when my daughter … we’ve been doing this, I’d say, a solid five years or so. When my daughter was two or three was when we reduced it. My husband and I, when we first got married, we actually set a budget for $400, but as we had kids and got a little bit better at the whole saving money thing, we were able to reduce it a little bit. Probably about five years it’s been $330 a month.
Melissa Norris: That’s pretty much what you spend every month because I know a lot of times you’ll see people be like, “This is what we spent, this much only on groceries,” but if you’re only doing that once every three months, if you average that out over a year, you’re obviously spending a lot more. You’ve been sticking to this pretty strict budget for a long period of time.
Within this $332 a month, does that include toiletries like toilet paper, that type of thing? Is it only food? What’s the breakdown on that?
Tiffany: That’s actually a really good question. It’s a question I’m asked often, too. It used to included toiletries and diapers when my kids were in diapers and all that fun stuff, but I realized that in order to get a solid grasp on what we were spending on groceries, I was doing myself a disservice by including things that weren’t groceries.
We kind of drew a line and said if it’s not food, if you don’t eat it and don’t use it in the kitchen, then it doesn’t count because … well, just because. How can you really figure out what you’re spending on food and hone that in if you’re constantly including that belong in the bathroom or dog food or whatnot?
Melissa : Okay, so it’s just your food consumables that are in the kitchen that you’re obviously eating because sometimes when we go to the grocery store, you look at your total receipt, and I’ll throw some extra things in there, like maybe some cleaning supplies or whatever that’s not necessarily food. I wanted just to give that distinction.
Here’s one of the other things, I want the majority of my food. We don’t want processed stuff.
Clipping coupons can be great, but personally, we try to eat whole foods and there aren’t coupons for those items, so clipping coupons is not part of my budgeting and our grocery shopping.
A lot of times when you see those extreme couponing shows, you’ll kind of see those headlines where people are like, “I spent $10 and got $500 worth of groceries.” But your saving methods are on real and whole food.
Melissa: Now I want to talk a little bit about what are the items that you’re buying and on that budgeting and kind of break that down a little bit.
Tiffany: We buy a lot of staples things that I know I can always get a good deal on, for example, whole chickens.
We just make so much food from scratch, like there’s hardly … I’m mentally going through my pantry as I’m talking, and I don’t think I have a single box in there right now, which is good because we buy by the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your food is the healthy version, and it gives you a little bit of wiggle room. We’ve been doing this for so long that our wiggle room isn’t even at 20%. That makes me really happy.
Melissa: We do the 80/20 rule and make most of the things from scratch. We give ourselves grace because becoming too dogmatic can make you just a little bit crazy, and your family.
I completely agree on organic meat when possible. I have to say as a homesteader, we are really blessed. We raise all of our own meat. We raise our own organic grass-fed beef. We raise our own meat, chickens, and butcher them. We have laying hens for eggs and practice organic and grass fed feeding.
Which does give me room in my grocery budget, right, because I’m not purchasing my meat from the store. I’m really excited to hear that you are able to still purchase organic meat and keep those numbers that low because that can be really difficult.
Sometimes I feel, I don’t want to say bad because I’m really excited that we can do that, but when I’m trying to help other people save on their grocery budget, I realize that not everybody is going to have that benefit that I do.
Melissa: How often do you go to the store? What’s your shopping schedule like?
Tiffany: I have two answers for you. When we were diligently working hard on reducing our grocery budget, like when we first set it at $330, and it was … because working within a budget is not always easy to do.
Some months are just easier, and some months are harder, especially when you’re reducing it from a higher number to a lower number. When we were actively reducing it, we did everything by the month.
We would shop monthly. I meal planned monthly. Then I’d just cook during the week, and sometimes I would supplement for fresh fruit and dairy as I needed throughout the month. Now I prefer to do a combination of both because we’re kind of in maintenance mode. I don’t have to work so hard to stay within my budget. I’ve been doing it for so long, it just becomes easier. It’s like riding a bike.
The more you ride a bike, the easier it becomes. I have a general amount of food, so to speak, that I buy every month, like the same amount of wheat berries, the same amount of flour, the same amount of chicken that I just buy every month.
Then I will meal plan for a week to a week and a half. Because I’m a food blogger, I try to include new recipes in there, too, which requires some looking ahead.
Then I supplement each week with the fresh produce, or if I’m out and about and I happen to see some clearance deals at the grocery store, then I’ll go ahead and pick those up, too, and that will get me through the rest of the month. I don’t like to be so strict in my meal planning and in my budget where I have the whole month planned out now, like I used to. Yeah, so now I’m kind of a hybrid. This way gives me a little bit of flexibility.
Melissa: That’s really similar to what we do as well, and part of that is because I live way out in the boonies. We’re an hour away from your Fred Meyers and your Costcos and just like what you would consider your regular shopping places. We do have, about 15 minutes away from us, we have a smaller grocery store, and so I’m able to go in there.
They do carry some organic milk and some fresh produce and stuff, so I can get kind of those things, like where I just need a couple of things to get me by.
Melissa: I’m just the same as you, definitely a hybrid. I try to do my major shopping once a month, and then if need be, in between, but just kind of a few things or if, yeah, there’s a spectacular sale or if I’m … we call it down. We call it going down below or down river because we’re in the mountains.
The backbone of being able to have that low of a food budget is obviously planning out your shopping, so we’re not impulse buying, and meal planning, which are two very basic things, but I think a lot of times we overlook them, or we get away from them.
Melissa: If you know you’re spending too much on groceries, what is a practical plan you can put into place to save money?
Tiffany: I would encourage whoever is just trying to draw a line in the sand, so to speak, of how to go forward is to add up all the receipts that you have from the past month. I teach a course called Grocery Budget Bootcamp.
In my course, I tell my readers to not cheat. Don’t cheat when you do this. Don’t just say, “Oh, I think I spent $30 at Kroger,” because odds are, you actually spent twice as much, if not three times as much. Look at your receipts.
Look up your bank statements, your credit card statements, however you spend money to buy your groceries, like however which way you’ve got to do it.
Go get the most accurate number you possibly can and then just start there, and so for this month, say, “Okay, last month, I spent $600. Then this month, I’m just not going to spend more than that.”
That’s the best way to just take that teeny-tiny baby step forward.
Then once you can do that per month, I call that gaining momentum. It’s kind of like a little win, like football, right? It seems like all the winning teams are always winning. Well, having that first win is what pushes you to keep on wanting to win. If you can just stick to whatever you spent last month for this month, call that a win.
If it was really easy, then go ahead and trim, I would say, 10% off, and you keep doing that. As soon as it starts getting challenging, where you’re thinking, it’s mid month, and you’re like, “Well, I don’t even know if I’m going to make it to the end of next week because this is not enough money,” then you can go backwards a little bit and maybe add 10% back in or 5%, just kind of to narrow down.
If you think of it in terms of a funnel, we’re starting at the very top of a funnel and having to slowly narrow ourselves down until we get to a number that works well for us as a family, that works well for where you live, that works well for what you want to eat, what you have to eat, like dietary restraints and allergies and all that stuff, plus for the food that you want to buy because if you want to buy the higher quality food, your budget by default, unless you’re a homesteader like yourself, is going to be more.
There’s just no way around it. You cannot feed a family of four organic and pastured meat and all this good stuff on like 50 bucks a month. It doesn’t work. We have to be realistic with the numbers, but that would be my recommendation for starting, is just figure out what you spent last month and make that the goal for this month.
Melissa:: Awesome. So you guys, for those of you who are listening to the podcast, you can go and get all of our resources and these links for to go and check out Tiffany’s free video teaching series and her different courses and things. Go to melissaknorris.com, and you can click on the podcast button and grab this episode. Or if you just want to be like, “Hey, I just want to go see those videos right now,” then go to melissaknorris.com/grocerybudgeting.
Tiffany: Usually, on Sundays, I like to roast a whole chicken, and sometimes I’ll do it inside. Sometimes I’ll do it on the grill. Usually Sunday night dinner starts with a whole chicken and two vegetables, sometimes a potato or a sweet potato. It’s really not really fancy. Sundays for us is a day of relaxation and taking care of things at home and just playing, so I try to keep my meals simple on Sundays.
My strategy comes with that whole chicken because I always save the bones, like religiously saving the bones to make stock later, so those go into the freezer. We can get at least three meals from that one chicken, so we’ll serve about half, usually a little less than half. It depends on the kids and how much chicken they’re eating that night, of the bird. We’ll serve half the bird on Sunday.
But then the other half gets split between two other meals later on. I’ll usually have:
It’s funny how it works because I mentioned Sunday to Saturday, but part of the reason we can keep our budget so low is because we are fanatical about eating leftovers. Nothing gets thrown away. I think I’m allergic to throwing food away.
It sounds so funny, but I tend to get a little anxious when I see something in the fridge. I get overwhelmed. I look at the containers. I’m like, “Okay, guys, I can’t even cook because there’s just too much food in here.” It’s going to get thrown away if we don’t eat it, right, and that’s our hard-earned money on food we have already bought, so why would I throw my money away?
I plan out the Sunday through Saturday, but in reality, there’s also leftover night in there, too. The meal plan gets pushed out a little bit, and so that’s why I mention sometimes three, sometimes four chickens a month because it really just depends on when a meal gets kicked out. By the time the end of the month comes, it’s not four true weeks, if that makes sense.
Melissa: Yeah. It totally does. I mean it really works. Sunday night, I try to do a really big dinner so I specifically have leftovers for Monday because until just a few months ago, I was still working my day job outside the home. I was a pharmacy tech and traveling and then doing the blog and writing and our homestead and everything, too.
Melissa: Yeah, and so for money-wise, definitely not throwing those leftovers away, but for me, it was a time-saving feature because some days I wouldn’t get home from the pharmacy until 7:00 p.m. at night. Then if you’re trying to cook on top of that, you can’t have eating dinner at 8:00 p.m. and then in bed by 8:30 for your kids.
Melissa: I end up freezing a lot when my family is sick of the same leftovers after 2 days. What’s your strategy for attacking leftovers so when you open the fridge door, you can see all these containers? What’s your strategy for dealing with them so this food is not going to waste, but it’s getting consumed as well?
Tiffany: Other than leftovers for lunch, I kind of look at what’s going to go bad first and the hardest thing to reuse. Say for example if I make a pot roast one week. I’ll put a bunch of mushrooms in it, but then I’ll have a little bit of mushrooms left over, so my goal would be, “Well, what can I do with those mushrooms?”, because if you ignore the hard stuff, it ends up in the trash can. That’s just the reality, right?
No one likes slimy spinach. No one likes slimy mushrooms. If we ignore it, it’s just going to sit there even longer. I try to tackle those first.
I have a handful of go-to recipes that when I start to have a build up of leftovers, that I lean to those. My first one is always tacos. My family loves tacos, like they really could eat tacos every day for the rest of our lives and nobody would be complaining, so tacos it is.
If I have these mushrooms, I might want to do a fajita variation, so I’ll caramelize onions and cook up those mushrooms along with anything else that would taste good in that whole cooked vegetable medley and that will go with tacos. Another thing I like to do is fried rice. This works really well if you just overestimate how much rice that you need to cook a meal.
You can freeze rice, and rice freezes beautifully, but sometimes you just are tired of looking at rice, either in the fridge or in the freezer because those little bags, they add up, like, “Okay, I’ve got to eat some of this rice before I cook even anymore.” Fried rice is another good one. I like quiche, just because you can throw anything with eggs, and to me it always tastes good.
Then salads are another one that we use. We’ll get just a fresh head of lettuce, but we can toss almost anything of any amount into a salad, and it will be good, random pieces of fruit or any meat, any vegetable. It always tastes good in a salad. Of course, you already mentioned it, but soup is a really great one, too, for leftovers.
Melissa: Yeah, I love piling things into soup, but a lot of my soups … of course, like split pea, but then I’ll still put leftover ham, and then of course, that’s where all the broth from all the carcasses because same as you, I save all of the bones from everything and then end up making chicken broth and/or stock, beef, all of that.
I’m intrigued by some of your meatless nights of your foods because you try to do those two times a week, which I think is fabulous because meat, when you’re buying it from the store, meat is a lot of times one of our biggest expenses if you’re just looking at per item.
Melissa: What’s your strategy for looking at serving some meatless meals?
Tiffany: It really is whatever I happen to have on hand, but the biggest win, I would say, in order to making meatless meals a success is to write down and keep a list of the meatless meals you’ve made that you like because off the top of my head, to be honest, I’m kind of like, “Oh, man, what do we eat as meatless meals?”
That’s because when I’m meal planning, I look at my list because I know that we’ve made this soup or this type of sandwich or this stir-fryish dish that doesn’t have meat. It makes it easier because you don’t have to keep it all in your memory, off the top of our head. You just have this huge list, and if you’re always adding to it or if you find something on Pinterest or your favorite blogger puts up something that looks fun, I’ll add it to that list, too.
I’ll type a little note that says, “New,” so I know it’s not tried and true just yet. But that’s why I’ll do. I know we have sandwiches. We have the stir-fries. Sometimes we’ll do a pasta dish. We have the soups. Goodness, what else? Wraps are a good one. Even meatless tacos are a good one, just the same concept. Salads that are meatless. It’s always a simple variation of one of the above.
When you mix and match with what you happen to have, it’s almost like never having the same meal twice.
Melissa: Very true. No, I like that. I’m a big proponent, too, because one, it is time saving, and two, you pretty much know that, for the majority of the meals anyway, that you’re serving things that your kids and your husband like and will eat.
Melissa: I do the same thing. I’ve got a master list of recipes or meals, and not all of them necessarily even have to have a recipe, but my kids are the same way.
Tacos are the thing. I kind of always know that at least twice a month, we’re going to be serving tacos and then spaghetti once a month or just kind of those different meals that everybody loves and knows.
Then I pick the other ones that when you make it and they really eat it up quickly, they really love it, there’s no fighting or the bribery, like, “You have to eat four more bites or you are not going to have any dessert.”
Melissa: Having that kind of master set of the meals that everybody likes or those recipes and that you know turn out well is really good, but then sometimes you get tired of them, and you want to put a new one in there. Then I love that you have that second list, like, okay, we’re going to try these out, and then when we know that they’re good or not, then they can get moved into kind of the master meal planning.
For me, that makes meal planning so much easier. It’s not something that I have to start out with from scratch. I honestly don’t even keep a meal plan where I write out breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the week. I just have this master list, and I just will pull from it for that week.
Kind of like you, once you start having a pantry and a fridge and a freezer and of course, I’ve got all my canning stuff, too, and dehydrated stuff, once you kind of have it stocked with the basics and you’re cooking from basics and making just good old-fashioned, from-scratch food, then you’ve got all those ingredients on hand.
So it’s not as important for you to know exactly what recipe you’re making because you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to have to go to the store and get the ingredients to make all of this,” because you don’t have it to pull from, from your pantry.
Tiffany: I wanted to mention that sometimes you can take your list or a recipe that you love, and you can tweak it just slightly.
I had this idea with enchiladas. You may have enchiladas written down as … well, most enchiladas usually have meat in them, but you can do a meatless version. You can have so many different variations of enchiladas just by changing the type of tortilla or by changing the stuff that goes on the inside and by changing the sauce that you have on the outside.
You could literally probably have enchiladas every week, but never really feel like you’re having enchiladas every week because the flavors are so different.
I guess that’s where I think it’s helpful for me when I look at my fridge to say, “Okay, what do I have?” I look at my list of meals. What can I possibly make? I think that’s what makes the family say … that they don’t fight me so much.
There won’t be like World War III going on in the kitchen because I’m making things that I know that they love, and it’s just slightly different than the last time.
Melissa: Yes. You feel like you have a little bit of freedom, too, because sometimes if you’ve got this meal plan … I’m not knocking meal planning. Don’t get me wrong because it totally is a way to save time and money. But sometimes you feel kind of locked into it.
Get FREE access to these three videos really focused on maximizing your savings at the grocery stores. A lot of people can shop at farmer’s markets and they can shop at the grocery store and find out what Tiffany did when she realized, “We were actively reducing our grocery budget and I was spending a lot of time in the grocery store, it kind of felt like … I don’t want to say it became a game, but it was almost like I knew the stores were trying to make money on me, so my goal was, “How can I not let them make money on me?”
Find out everything about what you should not buy at the grocery store. It’s so surprising at how grocery stores prey on us. I’ll give you a hint. It’s called convenience. There’s a reason why there’s batteries at checkout and why we can buy all kinds of home good things at the grocery store. We’re going to totally talk about what you should never buy at the grocery store.
We’re going to talk about sales, specifically which sales to ignore because the grocery stores … I think one of their tactics is confusing us. I don’t think they do it outright, but when we see lots of different sales, and it’s three for five or four for seven and buy 10, get one free, or 10 for 10, like just all the numbers across all the products that we buy, it just gets confusing.
I boil it down and tell you just to flat out ignore these and just focus on these other ones, just really the ones that will make a difference.
Video #3 13 Strategies to Be a Savvy Shopper
I’m going to teach you how to become a savvy shopper. It’s literally these little tiny tips and tricks that are going to sound so simple and sometimes they may even sound a little silly, but I tell you, they work, especially when you do all of them together. You walk out of that grocery store with confidence, with everything that you need to buy, and with more money in your pocket.
Melissa: Well, amen, because that is something that we all want. This is all in the free series, so that’s amazing. I know for myself that I will start to fall in a trap sometimes, like, well, I already know how to budget, or I’ve already got my groceries pretty well. There are a lot of us who consider ourselves to be pretty frugal and savvy people when it comes to money.
That can become a trap because there’s always somewhere that we can do better at or just a little bit. When you start to think like, “Well, I’ve already got it dialed in as good as it can get,” then right there you’ve kind of opened the door. I mean there’s always something more that we can learn, and we learn it from other people.
A lot of times, those simple and basic things, that, like you said, sometimes are like, “Well, that sounds kind of silly,” but they really do have a big benefit. I think making sure that we kind of have our mind open, like, okay, well, there’s always something more that we can learn is really what keeps us staying frugal and even learning how to save more money, just in different ways, and also learning what works for us and what doesn’t.
Tiffany: Absolutely. Absolutely. I have a lot of course graduates who took the course knowing that … I call them seasoned budgeters because it’s kind of like the been there, done that crowd, but came in feeling very confident in what they were doing already, and 99.9% of the time they come out going, “Wow. I can’t believe I still learned something new despite the fact that I’ve been doing it all this time.” Yeah, you hit it right on the money.
Melissa: I’m really excited. I’m going to go through the free video series myself because I know that I have room for improvement, too, and so I’m excited. Like I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons that I wanted to really talk to you is because I knew that you were coming at this from the aspect of real food, not processed stuff, and just regular, normal cooking from just your basic but fresh or fairly whole foods type ingredients.
Melissa Norris: So much of what I see on grocery stuff is getting the Top Ramen noodles for a penny apiece or whatever, and I’m like, “No.”
Tiffany: No, there’s no Top Ramen in my house.
Melissa Norris: Right. That’s why I was really excited to talk to you and kind of learn from you and your strategy and then how to kind of put that into my own shopping and stuff even better, was because I knew you were at it from where my readers and listeners and my homesteading peeps, all of us, come from. I do have a lot of readers and listeners who want to be able to grow and raise more and more of their own food, but they’re not at that place yet.
This is really going to help people, when you’re not at that place yet, to save even more money so that you can save up for it, if it is investing in livestock or getting land to do more homesteading things because that’s really when we need more money in the budget, I’m like, “Okay, well, my mortgage is what my mortgage is unless I want to refinance,” and we won’t even go into that.
But it’s like my grocery budget, that is one place that I know if I have to, that I can pull money out for other things that may come up all of a sudden. I’m like, that’s the only place that I can take the money from. I love that we’re going to be attacking it. I think it’s great.
Tiffany: Yeah, absolutely.
Melissa: Thanks so much sharing with us today and everybody, make sure you click here to watch the FREE trainings to save big on your groceries!
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.