Grocery Shopping Tips

Grocery budget: Our kids are eating us out of house and home

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How to Save on Groceries With Hungry Kids On Board


Hello, fans of Mr. CBB, John here from Frugal Rules today!

I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts here before, but I thought I’d come back for some more.

What comes to mind when you think of Mr. CBB? I know the easy answer is budgets, I mean it IS a part of his blog name after all!

You could also say that he is known for the recipes he cooks up that make you want to lick the computer screen because they look so good – come on…I know I am not the only one out there! ;-).

Well, what comes to mind when I think of Mr. CBB is his Grocery Game Challenge.

Mr. CBB certainly knows how to stretch his grocery budget and I applaud him for being so proactive about doing so and sharing his tips.

Well, having three growing little ones, means that we have come up with a few ways we save on groceries, which is vital when trying to stay on a budget.

Anyone who is a parent to children, especially boys, knows that they can eat a side of beef at most meals, thus making it a growing challenge to keep a tight lid on that grocery budget.

That said, I know it is possible to keep their tummies full AND keep the grocery spending at a minimum if you work at it.


Blow up your list


Virtually any post you read on saving money on groceries will tell you that you need to go with a list. I know, been there done that! Well, the crazy thing is that a list can and does work. The key is to tie it to an established meal plan and automate it as much as you can.

Not only will this save you time, but money as well. My lovely wife has a pre-printed sheet that she uses every month. It has listed all of the basics we buy on a regular basis. When we get the circulars, we compare the list with them to find what we want to match and go from there.

We take it to the next level by involving the kids when they do go so they can begin to learn the need to be purposeful with our grocery spending and not give into every boxed treat that gets marketed to them.


Bust out those envelopes


It has been said and I have experienced it on my own, but it hurts much more to part with your cash as opposed to swiping that credit card when buying something. How does this apply to feeding the kids?

Well, we have found that paying by cash forces us to truly buy what we need instead of filling the grocery cart with all sorts of non-essentials. I know that using the cash method is not for everyone and it was a challenge for us to get started with it, but it really can help you keep a better control over how much you spend on groceries.

We have seen that this forces us to buy items at the grocery store that’ll not only feed our growing kids but also think twice before buying something that may not be on that list we’re carrying.

Buying one or two things not on the list is one thing, but they add up quickly and can easily derail your wanting to keep the grocery budget in check.


Know when to go


What kid doesn’t like to go to the grocery store? I can remember wanting to go with my parents as a kid and that was largely so I could ask for things.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret – if you don’t take them, then the problem is solved! Ok, I know it may not be as easy as that, but it does help keep the grocery costs down if you’re able to do it.

We always try to keep at least two of the three little Frugal Rules’ at home so we can shop without distraction and not mysteriously end up with 20 items we didn’t select in the shopping cart.

On top of leaving a few of the kids home, we also have cut back significantly on our number of trips to the grocery store to the point that we now go once every two weeks.

How do we do that you ask?

It’s very simple actually – we plan. We know what we go through in that amount of time and buy towards that end. This helps us stretch our grocery budget further by teaching the kids about not wasting food and eating what we have purchased.

We even try to be strategic about how we eat our fruit. We buy a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and try to purchase as much that’s on sale as possible. When we bring home oranges, apples and peaches we eat the peaches first, refrigerate the apples and save the oranges for last.

When the kids want an orange, we remind them that we’re eating our way through the other produce first. It gives us all something to look forward to and teaches them the importance of delayed gratification and variety without being wasteful.

This has allowed us to shave $100 easily per month from the grocery bill without losing out on what we eat. I will say that if we do need a few items of produce, we will make a quick trip on the off week to pick up a few things, especially if it’s not summer when we are able to pull things from the garden.


Make green your kids’ favorite colour


Probably the biggest thing we’ve done with our kids over the past year or two to help fill their tummies and cut back on the grocery spending is to introduce more green into their lives.

We do that in two ways, by involving them in our gardening as they get excited about seeing the food grow and by buying more produce at the store. On the latter, we watch the circulars specifically to find items that are on sale.

We commonly find many fruits for under $1 per pound and load up on it. While we do allow them to have fruit snacks from time to time, the real fruit snacks are so much better for them and so much cheaper.

This has an added benefit that we’re teaching them to eat healthily while also being excited to eat food that’s real and not processed.

How many growing kids are you feeding at home? How are you keeping the grocery bill at bay while feeding them?


Contribution By:

John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting, and frugal living. John is a father, husband, and veteran of the financial services industry who’s passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality.




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  1. We have 4 kids (1 girl and 3 sons) who are all grown now, but the boys could eat a lot. I realised early, if we wanted leftovers, they had to be taken out first. It was also easier to load the plates for the boys, otherwise they wouldn’t leave enought for the rest of the family. Most meals were a meat and potatoes type meal. Meat was always purchased when it was reduced or on a really good sale. Potatoes were a staple in our diet too. No matter how much they ate at suppertime, in a couple of hours they were hungry again. We stocked up on cheap weiners for hotdogs, and boxes of cheap mac & cheese dinners.They loved them and it didn’t kill our food budget..It was easy food they could make themselves.
    Our kids weren’t overweight, but they also didn’t go to bed hungry. If we bought treats, such as popsicles, they were told they could have one a day. We did this with glasses of milk and juice…one a day.
    Even though a bag of oatmeal is cheaper than the premixed single serve flavored ones, if we bought them on special, they were still better than dry cereal. Sometimes you need to compromise. The same with things like yogurt. The single serves are convenient, but buy the larger one and a bunch of reuseable small containers.
    We would buy our bread and buns really cheap at the bread outlet thrift store. Baking it from scratch/ bread machine is even cheaper.
    In the summer we would pick strawberries to make jam.
    There are always ways to save money on groceries. Some families find that only going to the grocery store every 2 weeks works for them. For us, we go often, but only look for sales/reduced and stock up.
    Substitute ingredients in a recipe, or even omit it. It may change the may be better. There is no sense skrimping on groceries, if you are going to waste it on take-out food. Take that money and build up your pantry.

  2. No kids here, but I swear bf had a hollow leg. When I was living on my own I was spending about $30 per week on myself for food (and eating pretty well-whole foods, veggies, lean meats etc.) Now with bf I can easily spend $100 a week if I’m not paying attention. Somehow oreos always make it into my cart when he shops with me.

  3. Hello There!

    Thank you very much for sharing this nice post. Yes, I agree. The key is to tie it to an established meal plan and automate it as much as you can.


  4. Hi John!! We raised three kids as well and the two boys are still here. The older boy is back after 8 years in the military and a medical discharge. I am trying to feed four adults with my budget here…. It’s tough!! Back when they were all home I used lists, the flyers and such. Oddly enough taking the kids with me shopping wasn’t a big deal, they were familiar with the word no, and heard it often enough to know I meant it. Their father how ever I try to leave at home as he will add things to the cart and ignores me when told no… As well he is the fussiest one I have to feed!!! Just how he got away with that being the fourth of five kids is beyond me!!!!!
    Even now the boys look over the flyers with me to see what is on sale. If there is a treat on sale they would like it gets pointed out to me. Whether I get it or not is up to me and the budget. They are cool either way. Both boys are tall & slim, but if it is something they like they can pack it away with the best of them. You start to wonder where they put it all!!
    The military pounded it I to the heads of all that you need to drink plenty, so I now find myself getting coffee, pop, gator ade and a hot cider mix depending on the time of year. He drinks something from the time he gets up until he calls it a day. I watch for sales!!!
    Our daughter is now doing the same as I did when they were all in school and lunches were needed, as she is a single Mom to our grandson who just started JK. I took the kids with me to pick out what they wanted in the lunches, with in reason. What kind of sandwich do you want? What to drink? And what for snack? I set the guidelines and they worked with in those. This helps to send lunches they will actually eat!!!
    We can all use what ever help is out there to keep food costs down and by helping each other we get ideas to help ourselves. Good luck with the budget as your kids get older… I have seen how much a teenage boy can eat and lived to tell the tale!!!! Great article John!!!!,

    1. Thanks for the kind words Christine! I shudder when I think of what our two little boys will eat as they get older. We joke that we’ll need a cow, some chickens amongst other things in the backyard to keep them full Lol!

  5. Great tips, John! Little girls can surprisingly eat a lot too – well, if they like what I’m serving! LOL! Meal planning have definitely been key to helping keep our food costs down. I think it’s great that you involve in your kids with putting together your grocery list. It’s so important for them to see Mom and Dad do things like that and carefully figure out how to get the best deals possible. We’ve even talked about looking at the nutritional value of the items we buy as an additional consideration beyond just cost.

    1. Thanks Shannon! Our daughter can eat her fair share as well, though she has hit a picky stretch where she doesn’t want to try different things. We’ve found that having her help out with the list, shopping and our gardening have helped quite a bit with that.

  6. I try to go once every two weeks but I start struggling between the 7 and 10 day mark. I devour fruits and vegetables and once I’m out, I’m stuck with all carbs. I made a pit stop at the farmers market yesterday to buy a few veggies to tide me over till my next grocery trip, I ate ALL 5 of the tomatoes I bought- they were just so delicious!

    1. That really can be difficult to do Stefanie. It took us some time to get to that point, especially with how much our kids love fruit. we’ve learned to stage how/what we eat so the stuff that last longer is the last thing being consumed which can help out a bit.

  7. We have really tried hard over the last couple of months to cut out as much processed food as possible. It does cost more for fresh produce than other less healthy options, but if you cut out the snacks, it all evens out. We do still buy granola bars and ice cream and a few things like that, but overall it’s been a positive change. We have so many activities through the week, that I have learned to get all the meals for the week ready on weekends, or at least have the ingredients ready to go. So far, it’s working well.

    1. We’ve done a lot of that as well Kim. It might take a little more time, but it’s so worth it in the long run. We do a bit of that on the weekends as well when we’re only slightly busy and not crazy busy and it helps us save some good time.

  8. I don’t have any children Frugal Rules so your post was really interesting to me. I had never thought about what tips and tricks parents need to employ to keep their budgets on track. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Mary! Yea, they can make sticking to a budget (grocery or otherwise) difficult it you don’t watch it. The fun comes when you include them in it and begin to teach them about being financially savvy.

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