Is An Extreme Grocery Budget Actually Possible?

The YouTube rabbit hole struck again. Last time I talked about the YouTube rabbit hole it was in cleaning motivation videos that I watch pretty frequently. This time I’m talking about extreme grocery budget videos.

An extreme grocery budget is when you are shopping on an extremely small amount of money each week, say $35 for example. These videos are extremely interesting but I wondered if my little family of 3 could actually do it.

Short answer was no. I will fully admit it’s only no because there are things my family and I refuse to budge on and that’s a privilege. This does not mean it’s out of the realm of possibility for you.

I did learn a lot of valuable shopping tips that actually will save me money in the long run and I’m going to share them with you too. You can use these tips to help your family stick to an extreme grocery budget or just save a little bit of extra money.

produce section of a grocery store with people shopping

The Reasons Why We Don’t Do The Extreme Grocery Budget Challenge

Before I dive into the savings I do want to explain a few of the reasons why we don’t and aren’t able to stick to an extreme grocery budget.

Understand that just because these reasons affect our ability to stick to the extreme grocery budget it doesn’t mean they also will affect you.

Beware the Picky Eater

Our 6 year old is a picky eater, and we do not battle it. Why? Well, because this is not a hill I’m willing to die on and fight over several times a day. That’s exhausting and horrible for all our mental health.

We try to make food time super encouraging instead of a constant battle, the older he gets the more food he tries and likes, the less and less picky he will be. It just takes time and we are not there yet.

To prove my point, have you ever met a 6 year old who won’t eat french fries? That’s my kid. He won’t even try them. All the typical kid friendly foods are off the table with him and he won’t even try them though we offer them often. 

Having a picky eater means we have to shop at stores that regularly carry the products he likes, or prepare for a battle, or him not eating a well balanced diet.

As far as the extreme budget goes though, his picky eating does put a bit of a kink in the works. Now could I make it work, probably, but it would basically put me in the kitchen cooking all day long and doing nothing else with my day. 

For those who are interested, here are a few things I could do instead to help provide my kid with nutritious meals on an extreme grocery budget.

While he loves his Ego cinnamon toast waffles I could easily switch that up to provide him chocolate chip pancakes instead. Likewise, I could make zucchini chocolate chip muffins, or other baked breakfast goods that he would love and just gobble up.

My son loves my homemade mac and cheese. I can make a large pot of it to separate out a few portions for L while also being able to create a cheesy chili mac the next night for the husband and I for dinner. L also likes and will eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese but not the generic brand that’s cheaper.

He only eats Yoplait! whips yogurt and, like his father, his body doesn’t like regular milk. This is how I get calcium in him. He eats bananas, but every other fruit, and veggie for that matter, needs to be blended into a smoothie for him to even get those healthy items in his diet. 

Having a picky eater can cause a bit of kink in the extreme grocery budget challenge, but if you are creative with your substitutes you may be able to make it work.

We Like Having Deli Meat

In any given week I will spend at least $35 on deli meat alone. These make for easy lunches and snacks for my husband and I. Wanting deli meat for easy meals is a privilege that we get to take advantage of. 

For many families deli meat is just not something that is affordable. In these cases it helps to use up leftovers for lunches. Beans and rice make a great filling lunch idea and can be made easily in an instant pot. 

Ramen is also a cheap, easy, and filling lunch. You can add onion, thin sliced pork or diced bacon, and a couple of eggs to two packages of ramen to make the meal more filling.

We Had To Live On A Extreme Grocery Budget For Years

Years ago I had told my job I was pregnant and a week later I found myself unemployed. This was the start of about 2 years of needing to live on an extreme grocery budget so we could keep a roof over our head.

If you need to live on an extreme grocery budget it’s helpful to visit your local food bank or food pantry and get your box of food then shop to finish out that box of food. So if you get plenty of canned veggies and boxed pasta you can easily pick up cheap meats at Aldi to create meals using those items.

I’ll have a few more filling tips a little later in this post that can help you with your extreme grocery budget challenge.

Since we had to live on an extreme grocery budget for so long we are already pretty mindful of the amount of money we spend on groceries and still shop on a budget. However, we have the privilege of not needing to do it to an extreme anymore. 

grocery store aisle with bulk product dispensers

Making An Extreme Grocery Budget Work

There are a few themes among all the extreme grocery budget vloggers that I want to go over because these tips will help you to make this type of budget work better for you.

Things all extreme grocery budget vloggers have in common:

  • They keep a stock pile of things that can be used together easily.
  • They shop several different stores and sales to get the best prices.
  • They use coupons only where it makes sense.
  • They watch the ads and prices in the stores.

I’m going to go over each of these and explain how you can use these same tactics to save yourself loads of money, even if you shop like I do with a picky eater and conscientious decisions.

Keep Stock Of What You Have

When following an extreme grocery budget you will need to keep stock of what you have. For instance if you have most of the ingredients for Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup, you may only need to actually buy carrots and celery in your shopping trip.

That soup will give your family a full dinner and a couple of lunch servings and you didn’t spend loads of money that week to make it. 

Always take a look in your cabinets before shopping so you can fill out recipes and meals for the entire week using what you currently have.

Shop The Sales

Use big sales to stock up on your most used items. So for instance if you notice noodles are at their lowest price you can stock up on 10 or more boxes to last through till the next time noodles are on sale. 

Using sales to stock up on your regularly purchased items helps you to save loads of money in the long run. Sales typically happen on certain products every 4-8 weeks. It does take a bit of research and watching sales in order to see when you can get the best prices.

I’ll be explaining how you can track sales and plan your shopping trips more in a little bit.

Use Coupons Only Where It Makes Sense

Coupons are good but sometimes it’s just not worth it to use them. Let’s take spaghetti for a minute. Barilla has a coupon for $0.50 off on 5 boxes, but the coupon can be coupled with other coupons, so you have two of these coupons. 

You wait to use this coupon till it’s on sale for $1.00 a box. So you get 5 boxes for $4. It’s like getting a box of pasta for free.

Except when you notice that if you wait a week the store brand pasta will be $0.69 on sale. You can get 5 boxes of that for $3.45 saving you $0.55. 

So clip coupons that you might be able to use but watch the prices on the generic over the brand name. Oftentimes you will save more money with the generic. Also check with your stores coupon policies, some stores will accept brand name coupons on store brand products saving you even more money.

Watch All Your Local Stores

Now this part of the extreme grocery budget plan is a bit more tedious. It requires a bit of research so that you can understand how to plan your shopping trips.

I started a spreadsheet that tracks the prices of 5 different stores in my area. I found that two of the stores actually have the best prices on products consistently. My local grocery chain, Giant Eagle, and Aldi. 

In each week’s sheet I have a list of our families most used items. For 8 weeks I tracked each of these items to figure out when they went on sale and how often they went on sale. This would help me to plan when I would most likely be able to purchase items to stock up on when they are their lowest price.

Surprisingly, there are a few items that are actually cheaper at my local grocery chain than at Aldi. Plus there are some specialty brand name items that I cannot get at Aldi while Giant Eagle does have those. 

So when I plan my shopping I plan to pick up a month’s worth of supplies on the brand name items we need along with whatever items are cheaper at Giant Eagle. Then I do the remaining of my shopping on cheaper items at Aldi.

overhead view of the produce section of a grocery store

Cooking On An Extreme Grocery Budget

The real trick to an extreme grocery budget comes in when you are actually cooking your meals. Using good portions, lots of seasoning, and spreading out your ingredients over several meals helps you to cook good meals on an extreme budget.

A whole chicken could help you to create 3-4 different meals. You can have fried chicken with the thighs and legs, roasted chicken the next night, then shred the leftovers for a casserole or two. 

Making an easy crusty bread, french bread, or biscuits can help make a meal more filling. You can use leftover crusty bread for paninis, leftover french bread for french toast, and biscuits to make breakfast sandwiches the next day.

Soups use up loads of frozen or fresh produce while giving you possibly two days worth of dinner depending on your family. If you cook noodles in your soup the noodles could soak up the rest of the broth in the fridge overnight. Simply bake those leftovers with some shredded cheese and you have a fantastic casserole with the potential for additional leftovers.

Breakfast for dinner is another popular dish with most of the extreme grocery budget videos too. You can easily whip up hash browns, eggs, and pancakes for a filling dinner.

Use pasta, potatoes, and rice to make dinners more filling. One box of pasta can work as a side dish for two full nights with a family of 4. A 5lbs bag of potatoes can give you up to 10 different types of side dishes. Rice can be used plain as a side dish and then made into the main dish with fried rice the next night too.

Extreme Grocery Budgets

Be it you need to live on an extreme grocery budget in an emergency, or if you just want to save a bunch of money, there are tips here that can help you accomplish your savings goals.

The long term health effects of such an extreme grocery budget could be harmful and the fact that so many people do not have a choice but to live on this type of budget is a shame. 

If you want to help families in these situations I highly recommend donating to your local food bank or pantry. There are also programs like Lasagna Love which help to feed families in your area.

I hope these tips help you to save money on your groceries. Which tips are you most excited to try? Let us know in the comments below. Follow us on Pinterest for more like this and pin this to your favorite save money boards.

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Can You Live On An Extreme Grocery Budget - Extreme Grocery Budget Tactics To Use - Saving Money On Grocery Shopping

Crystal Lynn

Crystal is the founder & CEO of MommyThrives and also full-time mom to a very active little guy. She’s passionate about cooking, cleaning, and organizing and turns her experiences into actionable systems to make mom-life simpler. When she’s not busy, you can find her reading, painting, or even on occasion indulging herself shooting bandits in Borderlands on her PC.

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