Do you even remember what it was like before you got married and NOT having to plan what to feed your family every. single. day? 😁 Getting a meal to the table every day is one of the hardest parts of adulting!
The challenge is that food is expensive. 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. Buying food on a residency and fellowship salary won’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.
The good news is you can prevent overspending on your grocery budget WITHOUT sacrificing taste and health at all.
No, I’m not talking about 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 conscious planning.
Take a look at these tips to help save on your grocery budget.
1. Determine your REAL Food Budget
How much do you REALLY need to spend on food? Let’s look at the USDA food plan as a starting point.
That table, for example, says that 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
Studies show we throw more into our carts when our stomachs are empty. And if we’re hungry and angry, we become hangry.
Don’t shop when hungry!
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 grocery store!
We have more choices. And food taste and quality have come a long way thanks to technology. 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.com 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 only a dollar each, cut back on just your most expensive item, which is probably meat.
Don’t let the fear of not getting enough protein scare you. Many studies show that it’s practically impossible to have a protein deficiency if you live in the U.S. As long as you get your daily recommended amount of calories, which is around 2000-2500 for an adult, you are OK.
There are many excellent delicious, non-meat sources of protein like beans, lentils, and tofu that cost so much less than meat. 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. There’s so many meals out there!
You can even turn meatless meals into a family tradition like Meatless Monday or Lenten Friday all year round, not just during Lent.
(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. For example, you could buy family packs like 5 lb. packs of ground beef that you can cook part of it now and freeze the rest for later.
Costco is the DocWife.com household’s favorite club warehouse. Not only do they have great deals, but my kids also get full from all the samples when we go together 😜
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.
Master at least 10-20 meals that are healthy, easy, and that your family loves. That way you have a repertoire to choose from and can take advantage of all sales no matter what’s on sale.
There are many great recipes on Pinterest. Get your Pinterest game on, girl ❤️
7. Make a 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. Buy A Subscription To A Grocery Delivery Service
There’s s miraculous service aimed at us superwomen that deliver your groceries to your door within an hour.
Imagine not having to lug a bunch of kids inside the store!
Typically, the older generations like our moms and aunts don’t get it. They didn’t have it back then and it feels hoity toity along with getting your hair done at the salon every week. But once you try grocery delivery service, you can’t go back.
Our DocWife.com household uses Shipt regularly and we love it. We found that it not only saves my sanity but also from impulsively buying. We’re actually saving because I only order what’s on my list. Use my link to try Shipt and you’ll get 50% off membership (reg. $100).
9. Track Your Food And Don’t Waste
We all have good intentions on eating all the food we buy. Nobody is bragging about how much food we throw away.
However, a study shows that 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.
Life gets busy and leftovers get pushed to the back where it’s forgotten. Or the produce in the drawer gets ignored. It happens.
To save better, we need to be better planners.
Take a look at your fridge at least weekly to see what needs to get eaten first.
Tip: Look at your receipt and make a mental note of what items you throw away to know what you’re not eating.
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. Let me tell you a story.
When my husband was in medical school, one of my closest friends was a doc wife and their entire weekly bill for a family of two adults and 4 kids was always around $30-40.
My jaw dropped and I asked, “How do you do it?!”
That’s when she introduced me to extreme couponing. I followed her technique and soon after, I also got a “high” from all my cheap hauls, too. I stocked my pantry so well that it looked like a military bunker.
However, I decided to no longer do it because gone are the days of double couponing. Also, coupons are marketing tools to push multiples of an item, like buy 3 and get 1 free and we never need that many. With these changes to the game, it’s no longer interesting to me to coupon. But I have high respects my doc wife friend and all my friends who do.
- Determine Your REAL Budget
- Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
- Buy Generic
- Go Meatless Once A Week
- Buy In Bulk
- Meal Plan Around What’s On Sale
- Have a Shopping List
- Buy A Subscription To Grocery Delivery
- Track Your Food And Don’t Waste
- Eat What You Already Have In The Fridge
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 a hugger. I’m hugging and supporting you, friend ❤️
To your strong medical family,
Share with US how you keep within your food budget!