19 Ways to Cut Back an Already Bare Bones Grocery Budget

July 11, 2015 by


Things just went from bad to worse. You got the call that your husband lost his job, the car needs major repairs, or another medical bill just found its way in your hands.

You’re already frugal but this news demands even more cutbacks. While it may seem that you are already doing all that you can to skimp and save sometimes you find yourself needing to cut back even more.

If you’ve found yourself in this position, I’m here to help.

I’ve recently had to reevaluate our already frugal lifestyle. I will admit to you that cutting back an already bare bones grocery budget isn’t fun or easy, but it is possible.

I’ve talked in the past about Kitchen Stewardship so you know my feeling that we have the most control over our finances in the kitchen with regard to what we put into our shopping cart.

In an effort to encourage and inspire you should you find yourself in a similar situation, here are the changes our family will be making until our storm passes.

1. Oatmeal – We enjoy our oatmeal made with apples, raisins, and Craisins. The Craisins add a flavor we really enjoy, but they are expensive so when those run out, we won’t be replacing them. The same is said for our favorite cookie – Healthier Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the meantime, I will use less than I normally do to make what we do have last longer.

2. Bacon – Because we have chickens, we have bacon and eggs for breakfast 1 -3 times a week. I already purchase turkey bacon as it is significantly less expensive than regular bacon, but for now we will learn to enjoy our eggs sans bacon (or at least with less).

3. Toast – I already make homemade bread for toast and sandwiches, but I’m thinking we can forgo using jelly.  We can be happy with just butter or cinnamon sugar.

4. Sandwiches – We already eat lots of peanut butter & jelly and grilled cheese sandwiches. Very rarely do I purchase lunchmeat but I do occasionally when I find a good deal. For the time being, I will forgo all lunchmeat.

5. Salads – My family could eat salad every day! If we don’t have one for lunch, we enjoy having one for dinner. We will continue to eat salad as long as the price of lettuce remains reasonable but we will do without the addition of meat. I already mix up my own Ranch Dressing, but I will be researching a less expensive dressing option.

6. Soups – We eat a lot of soups because they are healthy, frugal, and filling. I will focus more on our vegetarian favorites like Creamy Vegetable and I will cut back the meat in soups like my Enchilada and White Chicken Chili.

7. Breads – I enjoy serving muffins like my Oatmeal Raspberry w/ Chocolate Chips with soup but I will save those for an occasional treat and serve a more frugal choice like The Easiest Bread You’ll Ever Make.

8. Baked Potatoes w/ Broccoli – a frugal and filling lunch we need to enjoy more often is that of the baked potato simply topped with butter, steamed broccoli, salt, and pepper. Sans cheese or meat, this is a meal we need to eat more regularly.

9. Fried Rice – This is a meal that I serve regularly for lunch. I usually add a chicken thigh or two, but for now we will get our protein from the egg.

10. Whole Chicken – Most of the chicken we consume comes from whole chickens purchased on sale, but I do occasionally buy chicken thighs and tenders from Costco when I have the opportunity. I will learn to make do with just the whole chickens, however, due to their frugality. (You can read about how I roast two of them without heating up my kitchen here.)

11. Cutting back on meat – I already cut back on the amount of meat I use in my recipes, but I will continue to cut back a little further and compensate with extra rice, beans, or veggies.

12. Tortilla Chips – I do occasionally purchase a big bag of tortilla chips from Costco because it really is a good deal for a fun addition my family enjoys with our Mexican themed dinners. We will be doing without this one for now though.

13. Granola Bars and Cereal – I don’t purchase these packaged products too often but I do like to have a few on hand for “emergencies”. I will need to nix this habit for the time being and make them from scratch.

14. Nuts – Gone are the days of the pistachios, almonds, and cashews. Those are our favorite snacking nuts but the humble peanut will be our invited guest as he is a much more frugal choice.

15. Coffee – I love me some coffee! It is, however, a want and not a need. Between the coffee and the half and half I need like so much, this is a costly indulgence. Instead, I search for strong flavors of tea that I pretend are coffee. Because my husband and I both drink our tea without the addition of cream or sugar, this is a much less expensive option.

16. Milk – We already reconstitute powdered milk to save money and we drink it sparingly as it is. I use the majority of it here – How To Stretch Buttermilk. I’m not sure how to cut back any more in this category, but I mention it in case you need to consider cutting back.

17. Butter – Use less butter w/ caution – it’s my experience that fat doesn’t make you fat – it makes you full. So while I will continue baking with butter, I will cut back on the amount I slather upon my fresh baked breads and muffins. I also need to get back into the habit of making my spreadable butter. (I’ll be sharing that post soon!)

18. Drinks – We already don’t purchase alcohol, soda, juice, or any other flavored drinks. We drink a lot of water to save money. It wasn’t fun at first but we have become used to it. For more encouragement, see 11 Reasons to Drink More Water and How To Freeze Lemon Slices.

19. Eating intentionally – Isn’t it true that we all sometimes eat even though we know we aren’t hungry? Maybe we’re stressed or bored or we simply have something temping us because we enjoy eating it.

I am learning to be more intentional about my hunger. If it is at the end of the night, I’ll go read a book or turn in rather than heading to the kitchen for a snack. If I’m feeling hungry during the day, I’ll drink a glass of water before reaching for food. If I do find that I am truly hungry, I’ll reach for a frugal snack like a banana or a handful of carrots.

I know that these simple changes may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but when you are counting your pennies, every one of them counts.

This is a subject big enough for a book (one of which I am writing, by the way!), but I just wanted to give you some suggestions so that you can start rethinking your own family’s grocery cart should you find yourself needing (or wanting) to cut back your expenses.

While many parts of the world struggle with malnutrition due to extreme poverty, there are far too many people from prosperous nations who struggle with poor nutrition due to poor food choices.

Whether we choose less quality foods based on income restrictions, convenience, or simply desire, nutrition is an important aspect of our health. There is a very fine line many of us walk between making food purchases that are healthy but frugal. For my thoughts on that subject, see Health vs. Finances.

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What do you think? Are you currently in this situation or have you been here before? Do you have anything you’d like to add?

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This post was shared on Frugal Friday LinkupA Proverbs 31 WifeCornerstone ConfessionsFaith Along the WayReflectGood Morning MondaysMotivate & Rejuvenate MondayTeach Me TuesdayWomen with IntentionI Choose Joy!Homemaking linkupWhile I’m WaitingCreative Home Keeper, & The Weekend Blog Hop.

40 Responses to 19 Ways to Cut Back an Already Bare Bones Grocery Budget

  1. bonniesteinborn

    Sorry to hear you are needing to cut back to this extreme. Will be praying that God will bring about a financial miracle. He still is in the miracle business, Blessings and praying for good health and HIS JOYOUS PEACE )

    • Heather

      Thank you for your concern and for your prayers, Bonnie. We deeply appreciate them. We’re abounding in His joyous peace as we learn to adjust to our new normal. Compared to the rest of the world, we are more than blessed just to have plenty of food to eat each and everyday. Amen? Blessings to you, Sister. xo

  2. Marsha Baker

    You are simply amazing! Oh how I long to be neighbors with you so I could help with some groceries and meals. Praying God provides your need and richly blesses your sweet spirit. I love you Sister! XO

  3. Erin | It All Matters Mom

    I love these ideas. There are so many little cuts that add up to a lot. I’ve done a lot of these, but I like the potatoes and rice meal ideas. We are blessed, even when we have to make difficult choices. Praying for God to continue to bless you!

    • Heather

      Thank you for your encouragement and your prayers, my friend. Know that I am praying the same for you and yours. Blessings. xo

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  5. Charlee @ Humble in a Heartbeat

    Heather, I relate to this so well. The last month we have had to spend even less on groceries and it has been almost too much to handle. I used to buy craisins every time I went shopping, but I have bought them one time in the past two months. I would put them in our baked oatmeal for extra flavor. We also went without jam for quite a while. I haven’t bought salad dressing in a very long time. Fortunately I know how to make a quick vinaigrette that is just as flavorful.

    I love that you point out how many people have poor nutrition from choosing to eat poorly. I am learning so much more about eating healthy on a budget from this experience! Thank you for sharing your experience because it makes me feel much better about my own. I know that both of our families will make it through these trials stronger and better equipped to endure more.

    • Heather

      Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Charlee. It is so important that we talk about what we are going through in order to encourage one another. That’s why I blog!

      Our families will be made stronger through this, if we haven’t been already. We can thank God for that aspect of our challenge, right? In the meantime, know that your family is in my prayers. Blessings to you and yours.

  6. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    Well, first off, I pinned this because your tips were exceptional!

    Sometimes we stock up on bacon when it’s on sale ($2.99 a pack is the magic price for me). I should try the turkey bacon when the other option is expensive. Breakfast for dinner is one of our favourite low-cost meals.

    However, I will not, in no way eliminate coffee… that is the one want that I need to have. lol

    Thank you so much for these tips.

    • Heather

      Thanks for pinning and for sharing your encouraging thoughts, my friend. I’m with you on the coffee, but desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures. 🙂

    • Heather

      Oh, yes, we eat a lot of beans! I just said that I use more beans, rice, and veggies and less meat. I am actually in the process of writing posts about very frugal staples – beans being one of them. Thanks for reading!

  7. Julie @ Loggers Wife

    We’ve had to do a lot of these over the past few years. I often use powdered milk for baking and save the actual milk for drinking, cereals, oatmeal, etc. However, we don’t skip the coffee. I don’t have a cup every day when we need to cut back but my husband gets up before 5am for work and works hard in a physically demanding job. I’m not about to cut out his coffee. He makes a half a pot of coffee every other day and puts the extra in the fridge for the in between day. I stock up on the “good” coffee whenever it goes on sale or else he makes do with the cheaper stuff. (visiting from Titus 2 Tuesday)

    • Heather

      I completely agree that the hubs should have the one extra that means the most to them when they work so hard to provide for us. I’m so happy to hear that you make that possible for him! Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. Blessings.

    • Heather

      I can only imagine the additional cost of having to follow a gluten-free diet. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. Blessings to you and yours.

  8. Lisa notes...

    Great list, Heather. I’ve read recently how much money Americans waste on food each year that we buy and don’t eat. Better to not buy it at all than to waste it. Your tips are helpful. “The humble peanut” is my invited guest for the week too. 🙂

    • Heather

      I couldn’t agree more, Lisa! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. Blessings to you and yours. xo

    • Heather

      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Kristia, and for your wonderful blog that has helped me tremendously. Blessings to you and yours, my friend. xo

  9. Adrienne

    Not too long ago I asked my husband to pick up some bulk cashews from the store. I rarely buy cashews because of the price, but I enjoy using a wee bit in my cinnamon rolls. He should know that I do not keep cashews on hand and if there are some it’s very little. I feed him bulk peanuts and I eat almonds by the count. Whelp, came home with a MONSTER size bag of cashews. It had to weigh a couple of pounds. I freaked out! LOL. “You just spent $30 on cashews!” Later that week his parents were visiting and he commented that all of his money was currently tied up in cashews. I’m still trying to teach him about being frugal at the grocery store. When we were dating he would go to the most expensive grocery store and pay full price for everything. Old habits die hard!

    • Heather

      This cracks me up! All of his money is tied up in cashews! What a story. Thanks for sharing that and making me smile today. Old habits certainly do die hard. Thanks so much for reading. Blessings to you and yours.

  10. seraireland

    Great post!
    We are in the same boat. Our food budget is small compared to most, especially for our family size of 7. When I’m talking about it with others, they are amazed at how little we spend. But we don’t have anything extra so I’ve gotta work with what I’ve got. I’ve had to get creative, think outside the box, & really figure out ways to stick with our budget. At times it has been challenging & overwhelming but we’ve always made it through. I’ve actually turned it into a game now, finding creative ways to eat healthy on less. Making it a little funnier, helps eliminate feeling overwhelmed.
    I think it’s great your writing a book, that will help so many others out there. For me, I taught a workshop & 5 week group and eventually started my blog. I can’t wait to read your book and add some new ideas to the mix.
    Thanks for sharing, visiting from Intentional At Home.

    • Heather

      I understand what you are going through, although I don’t have a family of 7. It’s amazing how things don’t work on paper, and yet we always seem to have what we need, isn’t it? We are blessed just to have food to feed our children so for that I am utterly grateful. I make a game out of it, too. It can be fun to see how much you can do with little, how far you can stretch the budget, and how creative you can get. Know that you and yours will be in my prayers. Thanks for taking the time to read and share with us. Blessings.

  11. Hannah @ Seeing the Lovely

    Good for you, Heather! Finding extra ways to cut the grocery budget is never easy, but you’ve got some great ones here! My husband and I are trying to save as much money as possible right now, and I may consider using some of these ideas this next month as I do our shopping. Keep up the great “can-do” attitude!

    • Heather

      Thank you for your encouragement, Hannah! I really appreciate it. (I love your name, by the way.) Attitude is everything, isn’t it? Thanks for reading. Blessings to you and yours.

      • Hannah @ Seeing the Lovely

        Thanks, Heather! Yup, it really is. My husband and I are currently paying off student loans and saving for a car, which means that there are certain things I pretty much avoid in the food budget, but it doesn’t mean we have to be miserable doing it! I like to think of it as a challenge vs. a hardship. Thanks again for a great post!

        • Heather

          There is such wisdom in that perspective. I choose to intentionally count my blessings rather than focus on my lack. The result is that I am filled with gratitude for all that I do have. If we think about how much of the world lacks clean water and sufficient food, we realize that we really do live like royalty in this country. Wishing you and your hubs the best in your finances! Thanks for the conversation.

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  13. allthatsjas

    WOW, really awesome tips whether you need to save money or not. They’re also healthy. I grew up on oil and vinegar dressing for my salad and it’s still my favorite! My husband is slowly warming up to it, especially if I use lemon juice instead of vinegar. Found you on My Flagstaff Home. Would love if you’d party with us at Thursday Favorite Things if you haven’t so far! Have a blessed weekend! 🙂

    • Heather

      Thanks for reading and for the invite. Yes, I can do oil and vinegar dressing, but like yours, my husband needs a little time to warm up to it. 🙂

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