You face a lot of challenges in a medical marriage: matching, relocating, doing the lion’s share of the household. You basically take care of your family while your DrSpouse takes care of others’ families.

Feeding your family under those circumstances is just one of your tasks.

The challenge to making meals is that a residency and fellowship salary doesn’t go far if you’re not careful. And even after training is over, you want to stay frugal for at least 2 to 5 more years so you can catch up on retirement and pay off student loans.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, Americans spend about 12% of our total budget on food, which makes it an area where it’s easy to overspend.

You can prevent overspending on your grocery budget WITHOUT sacrificing taste and health at all.

No, I’m not talking eating rice with beans, and beans with rice, all day, every day. I’m not even suggesting cutting coupons.

The secret sauce of saving on groceries is in the planning.

Take a look at these tips to help save on your grocery budget.

1. Determine your REAL Food Budget

Look at the USDA food plan as a starting point for knowing how much you should be spending on food.

For example, in 2019 a family of four (two adults and two young children) on the thrifty plan is $723 and on the liberal plan is $1103.

If you look up your data on the table and find that your budget is much less than the thrifty plan, you don’t have a food spending problem. You may have to allocate less spending in other areas. Or if it’s possible, increase your income with moonlighting, if your DrSpouse’s program allows it.

Looking at the USDA food plan will help you determine what budget is realistic or not.

2. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry

We throw more into our carts when our stomachs are empty. And if we’re hungry and angry, we become hangry and not nice to be around.

Do I need to say more? 😁

3. Buy Generic

Remember the time when the only cereal choices were General Mills and store brand?

That’s no longer the case.

Now the cereal aisle is bigger than a third-world country’s entire store.

We have more choices. And food taste and quality have come a long way. Generic is not necessarily inferior in any way to the brand.

Give generic a try and you’ll find that it may taste the same or even better.

Aldi’s is the DocWife household’s favorite grocery store. They are really good at creating their own store brand version of the top-selling grocery brands in the country, which translates to saving around 20% on groceries for our family.

4. Go Meatless Once A Week

Instead of cutting back on 10 items that are just a dollar each, cut back on just your most expensive item. That most expensive item is probably meat.

Don’t let the fear of not getting enough protein for cutting out meat scare you. Many studies show that as long as you get your daily recommended amount of calories, which is around 2000-2500 for an adult, you are highly unlikely to have protein deficiency.

There are many excellent non-meat sources of protein like beans, lentils, and tofu that cost so much less than meat.

You could do Meatless Monday, or Lenten Friday all year round, not just during Lent.

If you’re ever in need of inspiration for vegetarian recipes, reach into other cuisines. After all, beans are one of the most widely eaten food in the world.

(Even if it’s not for money reasons, eating less meat is also healthier for you. According to the American Heart Association, cutting back on meat will decrease your chances of heart attacks and strokes.)

5. Buy In Bulk

The idea of bulk is that when you buy a large amount of anything, the price of individual units tends to be lower. You can find bulk at club warehouses.

You could buy family packs like 5 lb. of drumsticks or 3 lb. packs of ground beef that you can cook part of it now and freeze the rest for later.

Costco is the DocWife household’s favorite club warehouse. Not only do they have great deals, but my kids also get full from all the samples 😜

Beware that not everything is cheaper in bulk. Look at the label per unit to compare bulk at club warehouses and smaller packages at non-club warehouses, and see which comes out ahead.

6. Meal Plan Around What’s On Sale

Map out the circulars you get in the mail and make meals around what’s on sale that week.

  • If ground turkey is on sale, make turkey burgers.
  • If pork shoulder is on sale, make pulled pork.

Try mastering ten meals that are healthy, easy and that your family loves. That way you can take advantage of sales no matter what’s on sale. Get your Pinterest game on, girl ❤️

7. Shopping list

Stick to the ingredients on your shopping list. This helps you not forget what you need and also prevents you from straying into other parts of the store.

This way, you’re not splurging on things you don’t need and you’re also less likely to head back into the store, straying some more, and repeating the cycle.

8. Curbside Pickup

There’s s miraculous service aimed at us superwomen. It’s called curbside.

Imagine having a bunch of kids with you because your DrSpouse is working. You don’t have to go inside the store, you can shop online and then drive up for pick up. All you do is hand them your payment and you’re on your way.

Instacart is one of many curbside services. Their delivery fee is $5.99 on orders $35 or more and they have a minimum of $10 for an order. While it seems like a luxury, it really saves you from impulsively buying, but also your sanity for not hauling your kids in.

9. Track Your Food And Don’t Waste

About 60% of food in each family in America is wasted. That means food spoils in our fridges before we get a chance to eat it. That is staggering as it’s such a high number compared to other countries.

We have good intentions. Nobody is bragging about how much food we throw away.

Life gets busy and the leftovers gets pushed to the back where it’s forgotten. Or the produce in the drawer gets ignored. It happens.

We need to be better planners.

Take a look at your fridge at least weekly to see what needs to get eaten first.

When you go to clean out your fridge, take a look at your receipt and make a mental note of what items you throw away to know what you’re not eating.

Also, make sure you don’t eat out on days when you still have leftovers in the fridge to eat.

10. Eat What You Already Have In Your Fridge

Before you shop, snap a pic with your phone so you know what you already have so you don’t buy duplicates.

This leads not only to less food waste (see #9) but also less spending.

“Theresa, You Didn’t Mention Couponing?”

So, you noticed that I didn’t include coupons.

I have a personal story. When my husband was in medical school, one of my closest friend’s entire weekly bill for a family of six was always around $30-40. She introduced me to extreme couponing.

I followed her technique. Soon, I also got a “high” from all my cheap hauls.

I understand couponing because I’ve done it.

I no longer do it because the game has changed. Gone are the days of double couponing. Also, coupons nowadays are marketing tools to push very specific new products, and we never need those products. They also tend to be processed foods. That’s why I’m not a fan anymore.

I know couponing works. But it’s not one of the ways I suggest because I don’t do it myself. That’s what makes me totally authentic to you.

Let’s Review

  1. Determine Your REAL Budget
  2. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
  3. Buy Generic
  4. Go Meatless Once A Week
  5. Buy In Bulk
  6. Meal Plan Around What’s On Sale
  7. Shopping list
  8. Curbside Pickup
  9. Track Your Food And Don’t Waste
  10. Eat What You Already Have In The Fridge

In Summary

You have a lot on your plate (pun intended) when it comes to managing a medical family. Grocery shopping and feeding your family is just many of your tasks.

It’s easy to overspend if you run into the store without a plan.

But with conscious planning, you can cut your food budget and still eat well and healthy.

I’m hugging and supporting you ❤️

To strong medical families,


Your Turn

Share with US how you keep within your food budget!