Grocery Budget Makeover: Hawk’s Family

Meet our next Grocery Budget Makeover family. Hawk’s family of two lives in Kentucky and spends about $450 a month in groceries. They shop at Kroger twice a week and do not use coupons.

Here is more from Hawk.

A grocery makeover is something we have been trying to accomplish for a long time on our own.  We are newly married and trying to start our family through adoption (our only option).  We would like to make our adoptions debt free, but in order to do that we have to save the money.  I started my own business in Feb of 2010, during the downturn of the economy, so my income is very spotty.  My husband works full time and I feel like he is running himself to an early grave because of our adoption goals.  Spending so much for food with just the two of us is crazy!  I have tried paring down food options, but I firmly believe in making everything I can from scratch.  Unfortunately it seems to cost us more money doing it this way, and I can’t understand why.  I need a grocery makeover so that we can make our goal having a family a reality.

I applaud Hawk’s family for their debt free adoption goal. If you have advice for Hawk or shop at Kroger and can give some Kroger shopping tips please leave them in the comment section.

Comments

  1. This should be an easy one as it doesn’t seem like Hawk is really doing any of the typical grocery savings tips.

    1. Use a site (there are many) that posts weekly store circulars & matches them up with coupons.
    2. Start working the drugstores and/or another grocery store besides Kroger to maximize deals (ideally, 1 Kroger trip/week and 1 other trip to another place)
    3. Making food from scratch typically DOES save money, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Hawk needs to work on creating a stockpile for her favorite ingredients and work on following sales cycles to build that stockpile at the lowest possible prices. She could also consider purchasing some items in bulk.
    4. Menu plan! Hawk – are you creating a menu plan based upon what’s either local/seasonal or on sale? Do you shop with a list? I love to cook from scratch too, but I have had to limit myself and not try EVERY new recipe I see – or at least not all in the same week 😉

  2. Elizabeth Shirey says:

    Hawk,

    I agree with Kelly. You need to make sure you use coupons. They are offered through coupon websites, circulars, newspapers, and even the brands you love will offer coupons on their site. It is all about looking for the best deals. Sometimes, those deals may even mean skipping out on the brand name and opting for the generic (some taste just like the original).

    I also try to make everything from scratch…even bread. I’m not sure what type of meals you are planning, but meals that you can make in bulk and freeze is the best. For instance I may make a large batch of spaghetti and freeze half for another day. You can do this with baked ziti, chicken and dumplings, beef stew, stir fry, lasagna, chili, the list goes on and on…

    Not every meal needs to be glamorous. Have a peanut butter sandwich once in a while or a grilled cheese with vegetable soup–another meal you can make in bulk and freeze.

    Another thing I have changed in our household is our cleaning supplies. I have chosen to use vinegar for most of my cleaning. I use vinegar to clean windows, the bathroom, as a brightener for clothes, in the dishwasher (spot treatment), to mop with (just add it to water and soap), and so much more. It sanitizes. It is not toxic. Best of all it is cheap!!!! Baking soda works great on tile/grout, stainless steel, etc…

    Just remember sometimes less is more. 🙂 Good luck!

  3. Bridgett says:

    In my area Kroger is one of the more expensive stores across the board, but their sales are fantastic! Couponing is definitely key to really saving there. They will combine one store coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon per item. That can really add up. Take my trip last week for example. They had Charmin (12 double rolls) on sale for $5.99, which is a pretty good price to start with. But they also had a $3 electronic coupon, plus I had a $1 manufacturer coupon, so I only ended up paying $1.99 for it! I was able to do this with several higher priced items, and my total went from being $109 down to $49!

  4. I agree whole heartedly with meal planning! Also, is Kroger the ONLY place they could be shopping? Try shopping around (we shop at Aldis) and trying different grocery stores. And cooking from scratch is nice, but it doesn’t have to happen EVERYDAY or Every meal. There are a lot of meals that can be made using premade ingredients, save time and save money. For instance, I get my Mac and Cheese for about 35 cents a box, compared to the high price of homemade Mac and Cheese. I guess you just have to decide which is more of a priority for you, adopting your child sooner or shopping only at Krogers and making everything homemade.

  5. I’m a Kroger shopper too! They have the best sales!

    Here’s what I do:

    Shop the sales – stock up on meat and freeze it for future use. This saves a ton of money! I always buy toiletries on sale (with coupons!) and keep several in our closet so we never have to pay full price. We also make (most)everything from scratch so we don’t have a lot of coupons to use toward food, but ALWAYS use coupons for hair products, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, etc. You can save a lot of money this way!

    Also, meal plan and only shop once a week. You will save money just by not shopping 2x per week because inevitably extra things get thrown in your cart. Plus, you save gas money by only making one trip!

    Finally, use EVERYTHING you buy! For example, f you only need half an onion for a recipe, make sure you have something planned for dinner later in the week that uses up the other half. Wasting any food is money down the drain. Making sure that we use up everything we buy is a constant challenge to me, but I’m getting much better with it. If you’re not going to use the other half, make sure to chop it up and throw it in the freezer. You can freeze A LOT of things I never realized, including milk, cheese, and bread!

    My final thought is to mix up the meals. Have more expensive meals a few times a week, but the other days make a meatless meal, a big pot of soup that will last a few days, have breakfast for dinner, make pizza, or figure out how to utilize leftovers by transforming them into another meal (i.e. grilled chicken one night becomes quesadillas or part of a hearty salad). These are all cheap meals that we love around here!

    Good Luck!

  6. I also like to make everything homemade and do a lot of shopping at Kroger. I agree that sales and meal planning are key – my grocery budget is between $30-40 a week for the two of us. Clipping coupons is definitely key, and Kroger also offers electronic coupons that you can load on your reward card online. Kroger has fantastic sales too which, when combined with coupons, allow you to stock up on a lot of essentials for next to nothing! And my last tip is go store brand – there are very few things worth buying name brand in my opinion, and you can typically save quite a bit by going store brand instead.

  7. Kayla H says:

    I shop at Kroger regularly, and Kelly has some great suggestions :). Krogers vary by region, and I have been fortunate enough to find two sites that post coupon deals for my region. Menu planning is essential, at least for dinner. Our breakfast and lunches are typically cereal and left overs or something quick. My Kroger doubles and triples coupons so I can score some great deal. I also loaded my shopper’s card this week with digital coupons for the first time, and I got an 8-pack of Bounty paper towels for only $3.99! My suggestions to this family are:

    1. Menu plan
    2. Stock up on items you use regularly, It is easy to fall into the “it’s a good deal” trap for items you seldom use. Sometimes buying something pre-made (like pasta sauce) may actually be a better deal w/ coupons than making it from scratch.
    3. Look for the managers specials, especially on meat. I have scored some huge deals on meat this way, but also on health and beauty items w/ coupons that are marked down with managers special stickers and are in a shopping cart near the meat (in my store).
    4. Look for closeouts. Kroger will mark discontinued items with a closeout tag on the shelf, and paired with a coupon, you may pay only a few cents for something. My favorite deals have been on baby products and makeup.
    5. Ask for a rain check, don’t lose out on a sale just because they are out of stock.
    6. Know your store’s lowest price on an item, and try to wait until that item hits its rock bottom price and then stock up on as many of that item as you will need until it goes on sale again.

  8. Michele says:

    From one KY girl to another use coupons! Kroger will double most coupons. Also try not to use meat as your main part of the meal, instead use it in your meal such as soups or casseroles. This can also stretch your food for many days by having leftovers.
    Bring cash with you to the store (don’t bring a debit card just in case).
    I generally feed a family of 4 (mom, dad, and 2 teens) on $50 a week.

  9. OH My. I am curious as to where they live. $450 a month for 2. Ouch. That’s about what I pay for 6 🙂
    My advise:
    I agree with the coupon idea as suggested above. You do not have to be a crazy coupon-er for it to work. Kroger does double coupons ( doubles the coupon if is under .50) and has weekly ads. Sit down with both. Cut the coupons you will use and circle the items in the ad. Make a menu using only these items. You will not always find meat coupons, but they do normally have them on sale. Also, Kroger normally has great ‘managers choice’ items that are getting close to expiration. I find the managers choice deals with meat and bread.
    Instead of twice a week try weekly or bi-weekly(or every consistent payday). Having the menu ahead will help with that.

    Good luck with you debt-free adoption. That will be a great help in the end!

  10. Well, I am NOT a couponer…I tried it but where I live (rural area) just didn’t end up with savings to make it worth my time. HOWEVER, I have a family of 10 (most of whom are now adult-teen eaters) and we have a monthly grocery budget of $500 including household items.

    I have several things. One is a master list of meals, breakfast, lunch and supper. This helps me in my menu planning (when I can’t think of what to make) BUT it also helps me look at the meals that I cook over and over and helps me pare them down to a cheaper recipe.

    I also have a list of 20 2-week menus (3 meals a day for 15 days) in an Excel file. This took a while to pull together but it has done so much to save me time and help control my bi-weekly spending. If I am having something that calls for 1/2 c cheese, I try to include other meals with that same cheese in those 2 weeks so that I can buy 1 cheaper block of cheese rather than 1 smaller more expensive one.

    In my 2-week menus I include meals that are meatless to save money, and I work hard to vary the expense of the meals in each menu plan. So I may have beef stew one night and pasta with marinara sauce another – this helps to balance out the cost of the 2 meals.

    Over the past 15 years I’ve studied the Kroger’s flyers and have a good understanding of when their specials come out for food items we buy. On their 10 for $10, pasta (we only buy Barilla) will often be on that list. I’ll buy 30 boxes and store them for later use. When their Tyson chicken goes on sale (as it does regularly) I’ll buy 10 packages and freeze them in serving size amounts. I try to set aside $20 each budget period (every two weeks) for stocking the pantry/freezer to help save money in the long run.

    The other thing I have just recently started is having 1 week a month when I try to spend $10 or less on groceries!! I plan EVERY meal that week from what I have in my freeze, fridge or pantry. It started one week in an emergency when we had an expense that left us with $25 for groceries. My daughters and I took it as a great challenge and actually only spent $4.84 that week! This monthly challenge has helped us cut our monthly budget from popping over the $500 and settling well into that amount and allowing us extra for stocking up.

    You CAN cut your grocery budget shopping at Kroger’s, even if you don’t coupon. It takes some work, some organization and some dedication. Best wishes to you and on your adoption!

  11. all the above are fantastic the only thing I havn’t seen is : a bent and dent store there are alot around where I live and I never buy any thing with an expired date. U can find some really good deals….. other than that buying in bulk has saved us a ton over the years, it takes time to separate and individually freeze the items for meals but it is well worth it…..Good Luck and God Bless!!!!!!

  12. Rhonda Hall says:

    With meat, pay an extra dollar or two to get a bigger cut, then half it at home and freeze half or make the whole roast or whatever it is and after meal, divide the rest into 2 and use part the next day for chicken and noodles or hot shots, the next day have BBQ sandwiches…so you get 3 meals out of one cut of meat..
    Also, start some seedlings right now for later planting…..can save tons of money by having a garden or container garden…..Produce is going to be high this summer so: plant your own….helthier too…..

  13. It seems like 2 people spending $450 a month will easily be able to reduce by the biggest percentage and win this challenge. When we were just a family of 2 we always had hoards of leftovers. If you don’t like eating the same meal 2 nights in the week plus a lunch, then freeze half for later. We just ate the same meal 2 nights in a row. Lasagna, tetrazini, stuffed peppers, stew all make great tasting leftovers. Try a couple meatless dishes a week. I just discovered home made soup (which I used to turn up my nose that it wasn’t a good dinner) is delicious!!

  14. I love cooking and especially trying new recipes. This can be very costly, even using scratch made ingredients. This is how I trim down costs. If a lasagna recipe calls for ricotta, buy cottage cheese and process it in the food processor you will still get great texture and taste but for a fraction of the cost. Use half of the cheese/meat a recipe calls for, you get the taste, but at a fat/calorie/money savings. In most recipes (not baking) you can sub half and half for heavy whipping cream (Which is ridiculously expensive) and still get a great product. Buy store brands. At our local Food Lion, their brand tomato products are actually better for you than the name brands. Utilize your freezer! Tomato products freeze well, so buy the larger value sizes and freeze the other half for use the next week. Buy meat when its on sale and freeze it. Flours, shortening, nuts, bran, and other foods that can spoil over time store well in the freezer, allowing you to buy in bulk and use as needed. We also shop at bulk stores like Costco or Sam’s Club for staples, like spices, sugar, nuts, meat, and veggies. These stores can be a money trap so you have to be careful that you are actually getting a good deal. Good luck!

  15. You can do it!! I also do most of my cooking from scratch and spend about that much a month (including HBA) for a family of 4 in Michigan. My advice – learn the coupon game. There are free sites that do coupon matching, but I gotta say SavingsAngel.com is an unmatched database. I would also add at drugstore into your shopping rotation if you can. Once a week to CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens (with coupons!!) and you will bringing home free toothpaste, shampoo, deoderant, etc… Stockpile those and it will make a little breathing room in your budget.

    Good Luck!
    Click HERE to cut your grocery bill in HALF! 30 days FREE!

  16. Do you have a Kroger Rewards Card? If you don’t have time for clipping or printing out paper coupons try loading ecoupons straight to your rewards card. They have some high value coupons you can match to sales in their store. I just matched a $3.00 off Charmin toilet paper to a sale. There are several websites that offer ecoupons and it only takes 5 minutes at the beginning of the month to load these the coupons from the websites to your card. It’ll save you money on top of the sale price. And you don’t have to carry around paper coupons.

  17. Hello, I am a newlywed, working full-time to put my husband through college. My mom never really cooked a whole lot and we were raised as “fast-food” kids. I am struggling, I save money when using some coupons, but usually its just the processed junk that is discounted. I have started buying in bulk from some of the members only stores, but I always feel like I didn’t plan well enough or I am missing key ingredients. I make my own yogurt, and granola, I freeze alot, but I can’t get the whole menu planning thing down, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to only have to shop once a month or even every two months. Any tips? What websites were you referring to? Any help will be appreciated!

  18. “I save money when using some coupons, but usually its just the processed junk that is discounted.” …………..This is such an over-used false statement, It is crazy when there are so many sites to print organic coupons and they are available in the Sunday paper inserts!
    If it is a Gortons product, that means any Gortons fish not just the breaded ones. They have a wonderful grilled seasoned salmon that is very tasty and check the back is really good stuff.
    Also KASHI and the fat free greek yogurts. Lots of others, do not just look at the picture on the coupon..read it.

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