How to spend less than $400 at the grocery store without coupons for a family of four.

4 years ago


I have a family of four. I go to the grocery store weekly. I spend less than $400 dollars a month to feed my family without clipping coupons.

Why no coupons?

I have three reasons: 1. It’s time consuming and my time is valuable. 2. Most of the necessary items I can’t live without don’t issue coupons ie: meat, milk, fruits and veggies. 3. A Sunday paper costs around 2.00, so to make it worth my while I would have to save at least 2.00 from the coupons just to break even not to mention the time it took me to go buy a paper and clip the coupons.

Not long ago I was a super couponer. Every Sunday I would go to the local market, pick up 3 newspapers and spend most of my Sunday clipping coupons and checking the store ads. I thought I was saving so much money! But in reality, I was buying things I didn’t really need just to save money on it.

Many of the local stores stopped doubling coupons and made it impossible for you to use more than 3 like coupons in a single transaction which meant more work for me (since I was forced to divide my purchases up into several transactions) for less savings.

I weighed out the pros and cons of couponing and decided it was time to try something else.

I’m saving more money now, I have my Sundays back and I’m not eating expired cans of soup. (But they were only .25 cents a can!!!)

Something I learned from super couponing: two year old cans of soup taste like the can they’ve been stored in, you will not eat 64 boxes of cereal before it gets stale and old shampoo loses it’s fragrance.

So how do I do it?

It’s a simple formula, really.

The first thing you’ll want to do is make a list of the things your family needs. Then, look at your list and cross off the things you can live without-put those items on a separate list…these are your “extras.” Also add items to your "extras" list that you need, but don't need to buy frequently like shampoo, toothpaste, trash bags and laundry soap.

Once you have your list of necessities, make a list of the items you need to buy weekly, then items you need to buy every other week, then maybe items you need to buy monthly.  

The first week you’re going to double up on some things, so initially you will spend a little more to get you going because your goal is to save money and slowly build a stockpile of things you actually use.

I label my lists as A-weekly, B-biweekly, C-monthly.

The first week you will double list A, and also buy everything on Lists B and C minus anything that will spoil/rot/expire within two weeks (fresh fruits and veggies, milk, etc.)

For the second week, you’ll buy lists A and B.

Third week: only list A

Fourth week: lists A, B and C

Fifth week: list A

Sixth week: lists A and B

You get the idea….after a few weeks you’ll begin to have an inventory of some items.

Do not skip anything on your list until you have a month’s worth of that item stocked up…then you can skip buying that item for one week and buy double of something else…and so on and so on. After a while, you’ll find that you’ve stocked up a month’s worth of several items and can get some special extras here and there…these are the weeks when I’ll buy steaks, treats that my kids love or specialty items like sesame oil-you know, I can make fried rice without sesame oil, but it tastes so much better with it, but it’s expensive!

Another reason you'll want to keep a small stockpile is you'll avoid having to buy something full price.  You're going to be looking at your monthly grocery budget as a whole, even though you'll be shopping weekly-maybe this week you're suppose to buy paper towels, but no stores are offering them on won't be a problem if you're stocked up on paper towels. Skip buying them now and you'll be able to get them next week when you can find them on sale.

Here are my lists…every family is different, this is what works for us. I bake a lot, so I stay stocked up on butter, sugar and flour.


List A=Weekly=$77.00

4 gallons of Milk=10.00

Bread=(store brand) 3.00 (sometimes it’s on sale for .99 per loaf so I buy 3 loaves and freeze the extra)

Butter=(store brand) 3.00


Fruits/Veggies=15.00 (frozen veggies are a huge money saver!)


Extras=13.00 (remember that list you made of “extras”?-this is where you will buy some of those items)


List B=Bi-Weekly=$27.00



Toilet paper=12.00 (total of 24 double rolls-I never pay more than .50 per roll)

Paper Towels=6.00


List C=Monthly=$13.00


Bar soap=2.00

Contact solution=8.00

Staying on track brings my monthly grocery budget in at about $375.00 pre-tax for a family of four. Sometimes I have time to download digital store coupons to my shoppers rewards cards or I’ll get a catalina (register coupons that spit out at checkout) with my receipt which saves me even more…and I use the money I saved toward doubling up on an item next week!

I’m fortunate to have three grocery stores within 5 miles of each other. I check all of their weekly sales circulars and match up the sale items to the things on my lists. Sometimes I go to all three, sometimes only one depending on their sales. You can easily customize this plan to fit your family’s needs. Depending on the size of your family and the area you live in your expenses may be higher or lower than mine. Your grocery budget is the only variable monthly expense you can significantly alter if you take some time to prepare. Good luck and happy saving!


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