Groceries: Cut the Dance and Start to Wiggle!


If you are new to the budgeting/debt-reduction lifestyle, then step 1 is usually the maddening struggle to find your “Wiggle-room“. Wiggle-room is that extra corner you can cut somewhere (anywhere!) in your current spending to begin your snowball. It is vital to find your wiggle-room quickly, in order to sock away your emergency fund and then get that snowball rolling! Where is the best place to start? Well, for us it was: The Grocery Budget. You might be amazed at the amount of wiggle-room you can find by doing some smart shopping.

1. Plan your meals.  ( – a great site for menu planning inspiration)
2. Plan to do your own cooking.
3. Make and stick to your shopping list
4. Shop where the prices are lowest.

Note: To make our life easier in this area, we have completely eliminated the biggest headache of them all: The Coupon Dance. We Clip Zero Coupons. None. Nadda. Not a single one. Never, never, never ever. We’ve simply decided we will assign none of our precious evening or weekend free time to this.

So, First begin shopping where the prices are consistently lowest.

For us they are (and in this exact order)

1. Aldi, and if it’s not there,
2. Walmart, and if it’s not there,
3. Sam’s Club.

If you don’t want to take our word for this, then spend a bit of your free time doing a research project. (and this is actually kind of a fun and very eye-opening motivator for frugality!) Pick 20 common items you are likely to consistently buy that can be found at any grocery store. Price-check those 20 items at Aldi, Walmart, Cub, Rainbow, Festival, Kowalski’s, Byerly’s & Lunds. (Leave Sam’s Club out of this, unless you’re ready to play with a calculator for an extra hour. We go to Sam’s Club mainly because they have very good produce for the prices.) Trust me though, your end result will quickly reveal your wiggle-room. (Spoiler Alert: We’ll see you at Aldi )

Next: Figure out what might be an appropriate amount to budget for groceries for your family. (Pick a goal, any goal, then challenge yourself to beat it over time)  Recently I was reading a blog that recommended budgeting about $100 per person each month.  So for our family we should budget about $500 per month.

I decided that for the month of April I would track our grocery expenses to see how close we are to this amount. We shop only twice a month for grocery related items.  One of the shopping trips is usually larger due to when items run out, etc. 


Aldi – $67.67
WalMart – $ 40.76
Sam’s Club – $52.72

Two weeks’ total On Food – $161.15 


Aldi – $ 142.41
WalMart – 102.15
Sam’s Club – $ 57.64

Two weeks’ total on Food = $302.20

Total for month of April – $463.35

Based on our totals for April, I find the $100 per month per person to be a fairly generous amount to budget for groceries. This month our totals were a bit higher as Jen is going out of town for 5 days next week, so we bought more convenient things for meals prep while she is gone. 

So if you are new to budgeting, and need to find that wiggle-room to create your emergency fund and then start your snowball, I would start with making your monthly grocery budget be $100 per person in the family and start shopping where the same foods are cheaper in price. I think it is a very easy place to start.  As you get better at cooking and frugal shopping, that amount will probably decrease, but this is a very good starting place. 

Happy Budgeting!!

Paul and Jen
Joyfully Living Below Our Means!



Other Articles in our FPU Series:

Financial Peace University
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
FPU: Leap of Faith
Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan
FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting
FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund



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