I was in line behind at woman at the grocery store one day and her grocery total came to over $400! I couldn't imagine ever spending that much money on a weekly grocery trip, but it did get me thinking.
According to a recent online US News article (which you can find here: http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2012/01/09/5-ways-to-stretch-your-grocery-budget), the Department of Agriculture anticipates a 3 to 4 percent increase in grocery store prices this year. Now that I'm not working I've been challenging myself to keep our weekly grocery budget down. Based on current grocery prices the USDA has created four different food plans (thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal) at different costs. They have charts breaking down food categories by pound per family member and examples of food for each category, but no recipes. According to their most recent data in November 2011, for a family of four (with two children under the age of 5) on the liberal plan, the weekly cost of groceries is $243.40! I honestly can't remember if or when I spent that much money on a weekly grocery trip, even when I was working! The weekly cost of groceries on the thrifty plan for a family of four (with two children under the age of 5) is $124.90.
Now, call me crazy, but for the past eight months or so, I've been tracking our weekly grocery spending. We don't give ourselves a particular budget, but looking back these past few months our weekly average spending was approximately $135, give or take. Now that the holidays are over and we've pretty much resumed our normal cooking and eating habits, our grocery bill for January has been approximately $90 each week, so far. That's almost $35 below the USDA's thrifty plan!
If you have never kept track of your grocery spending, I challenge you to do so for a couple of weeks. I think you'll be amazed at how much (or little) you are spending. With me not working, we've been eating out less, my husband has limited his buying lunch to once a week or less, and we've definitely been trying to limit our food waste (i.e. eating leftovers, using the remaining grated cheese from one recipe in another, etc.). I make a weekly menu based on what I have in the freezer and what's on sale at the grocery store. I don't buy organic produce or meat but I do buy hormone-free milk. I continue to use coupons and stock up on things when they are on sale.
I'd love to hear any other suggestions that you may have on saving money on your weekly grocery spending!