Frugal Grocery List

Frugal Grocery List

Budgeting your groceries is not only economics and it is also an art. We need to bear so many things in our mind, in order to come up with a decent budget: income, preference, time, store’s availability, seasons, life’s situations and much more. According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the average expenditure for a low-cost meal plan for a family of four in the United States is $786. Honestly…I am spending way too much, right now! I need to work on so much to stay on the track! So, here I have prepared a frugal grocery budget and planning on to stick to it. :)



  • Tally up all the expenditure. The first things first. :) Whether you use a spread sheet or simple paper and a pencil. If you were a track runner, this is the official starting line. Bring in the whole month’s grocery bill into account. Now, you know where you exactly stand. Mark ‘Wants’ and ‘Needs’. Needless to say…you are going to get only the ‘Needs’ from now on. Forget the ‘Wants’ for the time being.
  • Budget your expenditure on weekly basis, its easy that way. Some people track it monthly; it’s a matter of personal preference.
  • First and foremost tip is to make a grocery list. Have a running list stuck on your refrigerator door! Add items to it, whenever you see them getting empty!
  • Stick to the grocery list. Develop a huge sales-resistance and never incline towards advertisements. :) Its hard…believe me and its also doable. :)
  • Check your pantry before you step out for the shopping! It may sound like a dumb tip…but, honestly, many people end up buying the same stuff that they have already stocked!
  • Do shopping on weekends, when there is a deal going on! Usually…week days sounds like a nice idea(when there is slow traffic and empty aisles)…but, you see…a leisurely stroll around the store will soon fill up your cart! And, you don’t want that to happen, right!
  • Cost-compare the items at various stores. And, do smart purchase. At least keep a track of few stores…where they sell many of your items cheaper. Also, bear in mind…you are not going to drive around in order to save a few bucks. For example: On Monthly basis…I buy rice, lentils and spices at the Indian stores. And, buy…whole grains and sea food at the International stores (all located in the same complex). And, my weekly purchase is at Food Lion or Wall Mart.
  • Buy the whole foods instead of pre-processed foods. Avoid items like peeled garlic, sliced vegetables, tray salad, marinated fish, sprouted beans, mint paste, grated cheese, carton – egg whites, shelled pistachios, chicken stock, hot sauce…the list goes on. Probably you all know ‘Time is Money’  with the simple skill like peeling a garlic, slicing veggies…you can save a lot! And, trust me…it wouldn’t take more than few seconds. :)  And, the other list of items is even crazy…you are paying for water in the name of chicken broth and hot sauce etc. 
  • Cook from the scratch. Its much more nutritious and cost effective. Yeah, I know…buying pre-processed meal can save time. But, its also a way to blow your money quick! If you plan ahead…it wouldn’t be that hard as you imagined! After all…by now, you know…what you are planning to eat for the rest of the week. :)
  • Now, after cooking from scratch…don’t stock those store bought snacks. Be creative and use the ingredients in your house to fix some snacks as well.
  • When I say cooking, that includes baby foods as well. Steam and blend veggies and fruits. Like I said, store them in glass jars. Its much more safe than those store bought products (which is loaded in sugars and preservatives).
  • Meat eaters – Unless the recipe calls for the specialty cuts…go for regular cuts. Whole chicken is a deal than drumsticks.
  • Invest in a nice set of glass boxes. And, store your leftover foods in it. Its going to help you save money and time.
  • Just stick to your staple diet. Usually, buying components of an exotic item is lot pricier than the local produce. So, if you wanna eat an Ethiopian meal…its lot cheaper to buy a dinner than cooking it all by yourself with so many ingredients that you won’t be using regularly. Get the picture??
  • Some people may live on donuts, top ramen noodles and potatoes…but that’s not me. One can still budget the groceries without being deprived on all the goodness – balanced meal. Go to farmer’s market and explore more locally grown vegetables.
  • Take an advantage on the seasonal produce…(and also don’t give in and bulk purchase them).
  • I never used coupons. I cannot be judgmental…if you are planning to use it! In my opinion…coupon is trick to make us buy more ingredients that we really don’t want!
  • Sales? Do not get fooled by this gimmicks. Most of the rubbish gets into your way on that day. If you need them, you will buy it anyway…and who is going to wait until ‘Sales‘. Well…unless it is a ‘car’ or ‘electronic’ items…that’s a different story!
  • Bulk Buying? Again, its like another ‘Coupon’ thingies! Buying a few extras of this and that each time, which inflates the grocery bills! Well…you don’t have to do it…unless you live hours from a grocery store, this sort of pseudo-bulk shopping isn’t going to help.
  • Don’t get sentimentally attached to the brands. Most of branded items plus the store items do come from the same place (but labeled differently). For example: Milk, flour, fruits etc.
  • You better steer through the eye-level shelves and look for the items from the bottom most or the top most racks (somewhere hidden and invisible places too). Well, that’s how they market us the pricey stuff.
  • Do not take kids to the stores, they offer lot of distractions and make you throw in lots of items that you haven’t planned on buying! And, it is always better to do the shopping alone than with the spouse, especially when he loves to buy all the stuff that looks bright and frilled. :)
  • Freeze the excess produce or seasonal fruits and veggies. Frozen food is frowned upon saying its unhealthy. But, when you freeze it…you know that its done only during the peak of the season, plucked fresh and for the recipes like smoothies and purees…frozen is just fine as the fresh.
  • Shun organic for at least for few items. Its not that important for certain vegetables and fruits.
  • Step out to shop after a good meal. Never go on shopping spree when you are hungry! You will end up hoarding stuff in minutes.
  • And, regarding Healthy Vs Cheapest? You be the judge. No one can say which is better for you. So, you need to decide…whether its a twelve grain bread that you want or you may be comfortable eating the normal whole wheat loaf?
  • Don’t eat out (often) or (ever). Its totally impossible. But, with a heart of the steel…it could be done. Especially…if you enjoy cooking and exploring new recipes. :)

 © 2015 Malar Gandhi, All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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