One of the Hardest Grocery Budget Questions I’m Ever Asked

A few months ago I shared about my family’s current grocery budget. Some of you felt a mighty relief that you weren’t the only one spending so much each month to feed your family . But others of you fell over with shock. (Sorry ’bout that.)

Before I get too far in to today’s post, allow me to catch you up on some grocery budget posts that will help you understand where I’m coming from here:

Long story short, we are a family of 6. We have four sons ages 19, 17, 15, and 12. Our oldest lives in the college dorm, but comes over from time to time (sometimes with friends). We almost never eat out, we don’t have cable, and we drive old vehicles. Our health care/insurance costs are amazingly low (praise the Lord!). But…we spend a boat load of money every month on groceries. Eeeeek!

groceries Lincoln

Almost every month, we fork out somewhere between $800-$1,100 dollars for food to feed our family. Yep, sounds a little scary to some of you. We used to get away with much less back when all four of our boys could share one apple for a snack and be fine until they ate their tiny little dinner.

Now it’s just not possible. Our four boys are teenagers now. They are tall. They are extremely active. We care about wholesome nutrition. Our grocery bill reflects all of this.

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One of the most difficult questions I’m asked by people is this one:

If you had to cut back on your grocery budget, what would you cut?

I open my mouth in an effort to answer, and nothing comes out. Of all our groceries, what would I not buy? What do I buy that’s a splurge that I could give up? How could I cut back?

Honestly, I’m not sure I have a good answer. I buy food. My family eats it. We waste almost nothing.

Okay, here’s one. Sometimes I splurge and buy juice. This is fun, but not a necessity. We could give that up, which would save, what? About $8 a month? I buy La Croix sparkling water, and this is a total splurge. It’s a fun drink that I could give up. Again, this offers a savings of just a few dollars every month.

Could I (tearfully) give up on buying a grass fed cow every year? Maybe. But even with that, would I really be saving money? Buying our meat in bulk like this really cuts the cost down.

And speaking of cows, I really can’t skimp on the meat at our house, as far as quantity. I feed my boys plenty of rice, potatoes, and pasta to help fill them. But they never feel satisfied without substantial protein.

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How about produce? The thought of cutting back on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables makes me feel sick inside. Our bodies need nourishment from these, and I would hate to cut back. Fruits and veggies are a big part of our meals, and I believe the variety of nutrients they provide helps to keep my boys feeling satisfied, especially when compared to cheap crackers or whatever else I’d offer to fill in the gaps.

Also? I’ve already stopped buying “only organic.” I gave that up several years ago when I realized the cost was keeping us from eating enough fruits and vegetables. I buy organic when the price is reasonable, but otherwise, I trust that God is bigger and we just wash and eat the nourishing conventional produce. (I save a lot of money price-matching our produce, so I’m so thankful our Wal-mart still offers this!)

We already skip the milk. We buy one gallon each week (to use for cooking) from a local farmer, so it is organic and grass fed. But one gallon. For $5.00. It’s more expensive than store-bought, but the $20 I spend on milk each month doesn’t make or break my budget.

So I guess that brings me back to:

My family eats a lot of food.

That, and we feed extra people quite frequently.

Our grocery budget allows for including extras around our table regularly, and for that, I’m extremely thankful. I wouldn’t want to ever give that up, and God continues to provide so I don’t have to.

But truly, if I had to cut back on my grocery budget, I think my kids would be hungry.

Either that or I think they might get sick more frequently. There’s no way to know that for sure, I guess, but after so many years of filling them with nourishing foods, including a lot of fruits and vegetables, I really think their bodies are thriving on the nutrients. To cut back and substitute them with “filler foods” could potentially hurt them and make our doctor bills increase. Worth it? Absolutely not.

This is where I land for my family right now. If our income decreased and we would need to cut budget in order to make it, food would be one of the last things I would/could adjust. And I know, without a doubt, that God would provide for my family’s needs. He is God and we never need to doubt him.

If I had to cut back on my grocery budget

What are your thoughts on this topic? If you had to cut back on grocery spending, what would you/could you cut out?

A Freebie for you!

Here’s something exciting!

Want a recipe eBooklet full of my Top 10 Money Saving Recipes? Join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club, and we’ll send it to you for FREE! (Joining means we’ll also keep you informed of all the latest money saving groceries and homemaking items we come across. A win-win!)

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

Sign up to join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club here.

Also for Savings Club Members, we just finished a project we started a couple years ago (no time like the present, right?).

Another NEW Freebie for you!

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips
If you’ve been reading here for a while, you might remember that about two years ago (I’m embarrassed that it’s been that long!) I asked all of you to submit your best ways of saving money on real food. I FINALLY compiled these into a fun downloadable resource for you!

This eBooklet is full of 30 Real Food Money Saving Tips. This resource is super practical and easy to read through. I bet you’ll find some ideas you hadn’t thought of before, some that you can work toward now, and some that might benefit you in a different season.

It’s free for all and it’s loaded with tips! Get it here —->

Sign up to join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club here.

What are your best ways of saving money on real food?

Spend Money Wisely So You Can Be a Generous Giver

If you’ve hung around here much, you’ve heard me sing the praises of both Budget Focus and One Child Matters. They are two very different organizations, focusing on two very different needs. I believe they are both very important and different as they are, I believe the two fit together perfectly.

How?

Budget Focus is a site created to help you get your finances in order. They help you set up a budget, spend only the money you have, avoid debt and climb out of debt, and find financial peace and security. What does that have to do with One Child Matters? Well, when you know where your money is going and how to wisely use your money, you are much more able to put your money toward important needs like One Child Matters.

Spend Money Wisely - Be a Generous Giver

I love One Child Matters for all the efforts they make toward loving children. I love that they work so hard to care for the needs of children. And I love that you and I can so easily be a part of this ministry.

Obviously, getting your finances in order means you can use your money in great ways that go beyond helping meet the needs of children in other countries. There are local needs all around each of us, our own family members and church family members have needs – there are many, many needs. One of the biggest blessings of being financially secure is that you are then much more free to give!

I encourage you to consider One Child Matters as one of those opportunities. Our family has been so blessed by our sponsorship to our little girl, Gladis.

If you’re in need of an online source to help you get your budget on track, please consider Budget Focus. This month, they’ve knocked down the price of their annual plan to make this possible for everyone!

How have you found budgeting to be helpful in your efforts to be a generous giver?

$1.66 Per Month – How Much More Convincing Do You Need?

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I thought the prices at BudgetFocus were good already. But right now? They’ve knocked a huge chunk off the price, which means we’d all be crazy if we don’t jump on this.

For less than $20.00 for the entire year, which breaks down to a hair over $1.66 per month, you can have access to everything BudgetFocus offers. Their site walks you through setting up your budget, offers you an awesome online envelope system, helps you keep track of your spending, and provides you with great information and guidance. Do this. Feeling confident about your budget, no matter how much or little your income, is so beneficial.

This price will not be available forever. Get it now. Get your budget under control and organized. I can’t think of a better investment in your financial peace.

A Happy Mother’s Day Discount From Budget Focus

I’m pretty sure none of us really cares about being rich. But I do know that most of us appreciate financial security – the peace that comes from knowing that bills are paid and needs are met.

www.budgetfocus.com

This week, BudgetFocus is offering Heavenly Homemakers readers a lovely Mother’s Day gift:  They cut the price of their annual budget plan to just $19.95.

Did you do the math on that? That’s only $1.66/month – incredible! Buy this for yourself for Mother’s Day. Ask your husband and/or kids to buy it for you. What an amazing price on an amazing resource. I think you’ll really love their online envelope system.

Hooray for getting the budget in line so that you can live in financial peace. Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks BudgetFocus!

Don’t Be Afraid To Buy Used Appliances

There are some items I will not buy used. Such as:

  • Shoes (won’t fit right; not good for the feet)
  • Underwear (self explanatory)
  • Hats (unless I know and love the head it’s been on)
  • Make-Up (although I don’t usually wear it anyway)

I’m sure there are items you would add to the list. Matresses, cribs, car seats – there are many items that are worth buying new. Sometimes, it’s even worth paying more for an item so that you can be sure you’re getting good quality, thus saving money in the long run.

But let me share our family’s experiences with buying used appliances…

Over the weekend, within about one hour, both our washing machine and our dishwasher quit working. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Matt was able to fix the dishwasher himself. But the washing machine? Well, it was many years old, on its last leg, and a bungee cord was the only thing that had kept it from falling apart since June 2012. Matt gave it a good shot, trying to keep it alive just a little bit longer, but in the end, he met me with the question, “You ready to go shopping for a new washing machine?”

So, go shopping we did. We were met at the door of our locally owned appliance store and shown wonderful, beautiful, shiny new washing machines. We were given all the details about their bells and whistles, and were provided with many convincing reasons for why we should buy the top of the line (especially with our four active boys).

They sounded great, actually. But the price tags?  Ouch.  Thankfully we have a line item in our budget for spur of the moment necessity purchases. But did we really need to spend that much on a fancy appliance, or would a less than the best still do the trick for us?

We really wrestled with this. When is it important to buy high quality, and when is it okay to go with a lower quality, lesser price? Ugh, and we really needed to make the decision quickly, as the laundry was piling up at home as we stood in the middle of the forest of washers and dryers. Our heads feeling as though they were in spin cycle. <— Clever, huh? I thought of that one all by myself.

Before looking much harder at the new washing machines, we asked to be taken to the back to see the used appliances they had on hand. This store has come through for us many times with their used items. Remember my used upright freezers?

Ugly though they are, they serve their purpose and sit in our storage room where no one can see them.
We were happy to pay a huge discount because they were used and ugly.
They’ve worked great for years!

One used washing machine really caught our attention. It was everything we really needed, much of what we wanted, and because it was a few years old, it was less than 1/5 of the price of the brand new ones. We asked question after question, we grilled them about what might be wrong with it, we stuck our heads in and looked for whatever people look for when they stick their heads inside a washing machine.

We listened again to the spiel trying to influence us to buy the new washer which was five times more expensive. We went home, we prayed, we looked at all the dirty laundry. We quickly came to the decision that the used washer was really all we needed. Writing the check for that was barely even painful. We got such a great deal! It was delivered and installed the next day.

Introducing, the newest member of the Coppinger Team:

washing machine

A few years old, a couple of scratches, and if you look real close, you’ll see my reflection since I was the one taking the picture. That came free with purchase.

We’ve given this washing machine quite a workout since it arrived, and it’s done great. Did we make the right decision? Oh yes, we definitely did. Even if it only has a few years of life left, we believe the amount of money we saved compared to buying new is still very worth it. And now, we have money left in our budget for any other last minute necessities. (Oh but please, no more appliances for a while.)

What has been your experience with buying used appliances? Is there anything you feel strongly about that should always be bought new?

Forget Everything I’ve Ever Said About My Low Grocery Budget

How to Handle an Increasing Grocery Budget

Well, please don’t forget everything – just the parts I shared a few years ago about how I can feed my family of six a whole foods diet for less than $500 each month.

See, I thought my kids ate a lot of food at that time (2011)…because they did. They’ve always been very active and have had hearty appetites.  But now? Well, we can polish off 2 pounds of meat, 2 pounds of strawberries, 1 pound of frozen vegetables, 5 pounds of potatoes, and a half gallon of milk – in one meal. An hour later they’ll need (and I do mean need, not want) more food, so we’ll eat a bowl of apples, four bowls of popcorn, and a hunk of cheese.

The boys who used to look like this:

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Now look like this:

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The little one who loved dressing up in costumes and climbing on my bulk groceries…

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Can now eat his weight in bulk groceries. And he’s the youngest one of the bunch. You should see his 6’3″ brother eat. Those 50 pound bags just don’t stretch as far as they used to.

The food portions we put on our plates at meal time still look like this:

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But that’s just a warm-up. An appetizer. A teaser plate. They polish that off and go back to heap more onto their plates, twice, or maybe three times – if there’s anything left. I typically have to act quickly if I want seconds (or firsts as is the case at times).

I love this. Feeding people is fun for me, watching my family eat great food is a joy, and observing healthy appetites does my heart good. Bring on the food, bring on the appetites, bring on the healthy eating!

But it does come with a price tag – an ever growing price tag that sometimes shocks me, especially when see the shopping cart, the bulk co-op purchases, the cases of food delivered to my door – and I know how long the food will (won’t) last.

grocery cart

This is what my grocery cart usually looks like (weekly) – filled with fruits and veggies to go with the farm fresh meat, eggs, and milk – plus all of our bulk food purchases.

Do I really mean for you to forget everything I’ve ever said about how to keep a low grocery budget while still feeding your family a whole food diet? No way. All of my tips and tricks still hold true. Our grocery budget would be increasing whether we were eating whole foods or not. I don’t even want to think about how much I would be spending every month if we were eating large amounts of processed food.  I believe eating healthy whole foods is what is keeping our food budget as low as it is right now.  Therefore, we’ll continue to:

Our grocery budget increases, but only because we’re eating more food, and there’s not much I can do (or want to do) to change that. If they are hungry, let them eat.  Just save some for me, boys!

To accommodate the changes in our grocery budget, we’ve had to shuffle some numbers around in our overall budget. Eating is not an option.  The money has to come from somewhere, right? So where has it come from?

Well, as we’ve taken a look at all the line items in our budget, it can look at first glance as if there is no flexibility. After all, we try not to spend money on anything we don’t feel is necessary, so what can we possibly cut out? Nothing, really. And while I’m on the subject, can I tell you how nice it is to have a clearly itemized household budget so that we can put a name on every dollar we earn and spend? There is so much comfort in this, even if there are sometimes question marks about how to adjust those numbers.

What has worked for our family is this:  Our boys are now able to earn money by doing various jobs such as mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, babysitting, and other miscellaneous jobs people call on them for. Our two oldest boys are licensed soccer officials, which means that in the spring and fall they are called to the soccer fields 4-5 days/evenings each week to referee games. They are good at what they do, they enjoy the work, they earn nice paychecks, and they are good savers. So guess what? In an effort to both help our household budget and teach them how to manage money, our boys have become more responsible for purchasing many of the items they need.

As a result, we’ve been able to shift some money from our clothing budget over to our grocery budget. We let the boys pay for their own outings with friends, church youth functions, part of church camp costs, etc. Aha! It’s a win-win. The boys get to continue eating (you’re welcome, children), plus they learn about budgeting for themselves.

I’d love to hear how you manage your grocery budget, how you cut food costs, and how you teach your kids about managing money.

Also, I want to encourage you to take advantage of what BudgetFocus offers in the area of setting us a specific (but simple!) household budget. I love this resource!   Through Mother’s Day, they knocked down the price of an annual plan to just $19.95 – a super deal!

Now let’s talk grocery budgets. How are you holding up with growing appetites at your house?

Budgeting. What’s the Point?

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We can be super smart with money, always buy items on sale, shop around for the best deals, and stay perfectly within our budget each month. We can live very frugally, make food and household items from scratch, recycle, reuse, patch, repair, and gratefully accept hand-me-downs. We can work hard, pay off all our debt, build up our savings account, and put ourselves in a wonderful position financially.

Awesome. Go you! Rock that budget. Being wise with our money is just what we’re called to do.  Becoming financially free is a tremendous blessing. I will forever and always work toward this and encourage others to do the same.

But if we aren’t working to be financially savvy for the right reasons, all of our money-saving, frugal, happy budgeting ways are really for nothing.

We can, of course, decide that focusing on money is a bad thing, and therefore scrap the budget altogether. We can buy the newest and best of everything. We can rack up credit card debt so that we never have to deprive ourselves of anything we want. We can throw money at all forms of entertainment and not really be sure where our money went at the end of the day. We can fly by the seat of our pants, not really paying attention to our wallet or the bank account or the pay check. It’s just money, right?

Hey you. I think you’re awesome too, but wisdom suggests that you set up a budget and learn to stick with it. ;)

Why? What’s the point?

Whether we’re talking about spending or saving, I believe we’re called to be wise with our money so that we can be a blessing in God’s kingdom. If we’re so hung up on padding the savings account that we can’t see the needs around us – we’ve missed the point. If we’re so into stuff and splurges that we lose sight of those whose basic needs aren’t met – we’ve missed the point.

And that point is?

I believe that if we truly want to be financially free, we have to learn to let God be in control of our money. Every decision, every investment, every expense, every gift, every penny stashed away into the savings account – every line item in our budget. We are all blessed so that we can be a blessing. Your budget can help you be the blessing to others that you are called to be.

Are all of our budgets going to look the same? Will all of our spending priorities jive with everyone else who is working to be wise financially? Will we all need to start darning socks and making homemade laundry soap in order to be considered a wise steward?  No, no, and I hope not.  After all, you could fit the entire state of Nebraska through the holes in the socks we finally threw away last week.

Let your budget be a blessing – to your family and to those you minister to. Because that, my friends, is the point.

Want some help getting your budget on the right track? Already have a great budget, and want to dig deeper? BudgetFocus is a great resource, and I highly recommend it.   Use the code HH33 to receive 33% off a 12-month plan. Can’t go wrong with a great discount like that!

Get Your Budget in Focus With This Amazing Discount

After so many of you shared within the comments of our BudgetFocus giveaway post your desire to get your budget on track, I am so excited to share this big discount with you!

First, our giveaway winners:

1) Kathy: sep101@
2) Melissa Miller: wareagle2989@

Ladies, email me and I’ll forward your info on for your free annual subscription!

And now, the wonderful discount.

I feel that the price options for BudgetFocus are already very reasonable. For as little as $5.00 each month, you’ll be guided through setting up and keeping a workable budget for your family. Now, with a special temporary discount they are giving Heavenly Homemakers readers, you can enjoy this service for as low as $3.33 per month! Isn’t that awesome?

Head over to BudgetFocus.   Use the code HH33 to receive 33% off a 12-month plan. This cuts the price of an annual plan to just $39.99. What an amazing price on an amazing resource to get you on your way to financial freedom!

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Take advantage of this deal for just three weeks. I love the idea some of you suggested to buy this as a wedding gift to help couples get started on the right track with their finances. Whatever your need, BudgetFocus will take all the difficulty and confusion from budgeting.

Ready? Go!

Is It Worth Spending Money On a Budgeting System? Plus a Budget Focus Giveaway!

What can you get for five bucks? A coffee at your favorite coffee shop. A bucket of popcorn at the theater. A box of cereal and a container of cookies. All fun things, and items people often toss out five dollars for without much thought.

But what if? What if, for just five dollars per month, you could find financial security and peace? What if, instead of blowing a few bucks here and a few bucks there, with nothing to show for it, you could put just five dollars each month into getting yourself on the right track with your budget? Would it be worth it? Well, I’d say it would be very worth it.

If you are ready to be in control of your money, I really want to encourage you to sign up for BudgetFocus. It is such a simple system, and it will walk you through every aspect of setting up and sticking with a budget. For as little as $5/month ($59.99 for an annual plan), you’ll be all set up with a spread sheet, online envelope system, and all the guidance you need to set up and stick to a workable budget for your family.

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Five dollars a month.  That is a tiny price to pay for a system that can change how you manage your money. What a breath of fresh air! BudgetFocus even offers everyone a free 14 day trial period just so you can get started and see how great it is. After that, you can pay monthly, or purchase a discounted twelve-month plan – a very inexpensive resource for budgeting!

Now here’s the very fun question for you:  Who wants to win a year’s worth of Budget Focus services for free?! BudgetFocus is giving away two annual plans this week. Interested in winning? Leave a comment on this post for a chance. I’ll draw two random winners on Wednesday, April 2. Be watching for a post stating the winners as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen.

In the meantime, check into the pricing plans offered by BudgetFocus. Try it for free, then consider investing in all they offer you. It’s money well spent. After all, what do you have after spending five dollars on cookies? I think we all know. :)  But five dollars for a budgeting system? Relaxed, stress free financial planning. Love it!

But Do You Need It?

Recently, our two youngest boys came to me very excited. Something they wanted was on sale – today only! They had discussed it at length (a solid five minutes, I’m sure) and decided that they would like to pool their money to purchase it. They eagerly asked me if it was okay.

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See how studious these two are, always sitting still,
focused while carefully writing scripture? Mmmhmmm.

I had mixed feelings. The boring mom in me knew that they definitely didn’t need the item. But the fun mom in me knows it’s okay to spend a little money on fun sometimes. Our boys are all very good savers. They rarely spend their hard earned money or birthday money, and in fact, they rarely even ask to spend it. I knew that since they were asking, and since they’d already discussed how to go in on it together, the purchase was important to them.

So, the non-decisive mom in me said, “Let’s talk to Dad and see what he thinks.”  Then the practical mom in me asked a thought provoking question:

If this item wasn’t on sale, would you still want it this badly? Or do you just think you want it because it’s on sale today?

It started a great discussion, which of course ended with the boys asking, “um, so can we buy it?”  Clearly, I had been able to make my nine and twelve year old think deeply, and offered them life-lessons that they’ll take with them long into adulthood.

After talking it over with Dad, we came to the decision that since it was such a huge discount, and only totaled $5, their purchase sounded like a fun idea this time. While five dollars doesn’t sound like a big deal, and while it might seem that our dilemma and discussion was silly over such a small amount – we feel that every financial decision needs to be talked through, especially at their ages. Throwing money at this and that is a great way to end up with an empty wallet. We felt it was important to take advantage of that teachable moment.

So how about we adults? What factors into our decisions as we decide what to spend our money on? Do you frequently make impulse purchases, buying something that is on sale whether you need it or not?

We’ve been talking recently about budgeting and the envelope system as we all work together to let Budget Focus get our finances on track. I’d love to hear what helps you process your spending decisions. Also, I’d love to hear from those of you who have taken advantage of the free 14-day trial at Budget Focus. Have you plugged in all your numbers into their simple budgeting and online envelope system? I encourage you all to check out what Budget Focus has to offer. You can try it for free, and their pricing packages are worth paying for as a way to help you get your budget organized and running smoothly.

How do you help your kids make a purchasing decision?