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Monday Q&A | Grocery Questions + Decluttering

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Hi! I love your blog and found it via another blog. I have done the menu planning like you suggested and I’ve only managed to get spending to about $130. My problem is this, I have a husband that only eats meat and potatoes (literally) and my daughter is a huge meat eater. How can I spend less when the bulk of the problem is the meat and a picky eater? I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.


Well, it’s quite possible that a $130/week budget is the best that you can do for your particular family. $100/week works for my family of six, but none of us are large people, none of us have large appetites, and none of us are big meat eaters. I definitely am not of the opinion that $100/week is the ideal budget for every family!

If eating less meat is not an option for your family, then you could consider using less expensive meat (chuck roasts instead of steaks, chicken thighs instead of boneless breasts, etc.). Another option is to keep a close eye out for sales on the meats that you like. When you see a good sale on a cut your family loves, buy more than you need for that week and store it in the freezer. That way you won’t have to pay full price the next time you need meat.

You might also want to check and see if other stores in your area have better meat prices. A warehouse club might be good for you, or you may simply be able to shop the loss leader meat sales at traditional grocery stores (loss leaders are the front page sale items on your grocery store’s weekly circular).

I am new to your site and in reading this latest post, I am curious how to get away with an approx. $100 wk. grocery bill with a family of six? It is just me and my husband and I easily spend $130 a week on groceries. There are some things that are non-negotiable. For example, we only buy Honey Bunches of Oats – my husband refuses to eat anything else. I generally catch it on a sale and stock up. The only other thing in coffee, we prefer Dunkin Donuts brand, which is pricey. Other than that, I make my own pasta sauce and yogurt. I buy dried beans versus canned and we are not big on microwaveable food. We only drink milk, juice or tap water, so no soda.

Do you clip coupons? Where do you shop? I generally go to Meijers and maybe that is the problem.


As I said in my response to the previous question, I don’t at all think that everyone on the planet needs to operate on a $100/week grocery budget. $100 just might not work for you and your husband, and that’s ok.

It is definitely worth it to take a look at other stores in your area. I don’t have a Meijers here, but I know that some grocery stores are flat-out more expensive than others. If you’ve got an Aldi in your area, I highly, highly recommend giving them a try. I wrote a post about what and what not to buy at Aldi that might be helpful to you.

Soda is not a healthy drink by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s usually cheaper than milk and juice (I’d consider those beverages to be more of a budget buster than soda). So, if you really need to shrink your grocery budget, consider trading out the juice for water. Milk does at least have nutritional value, but bottled juice isn’t much more healthy than soda and it’s waaay more expensive than water! If you can’t bear to live without juice, maybe you could drink juice from frozen concentrate. This tends to be less expensive than bottled juice.

When it comes to lowering grocery budgets I usually recommend these 10 things (which are in no particular order):

1) Shopping at stores with good prices

2) Cooking from scratch when possible

3) Drinking (tap) water instead of other beverages

4) Stocking up when prices are lower

5) Eating leftovers

6) Avoiding food waste

7) Planning a menu, making a grocery list, and sticking to it

8 ) Eating less meat

9) Switching out expensive foods for semi-equivalent inexpensive foods (oatmeal instead of cold cereal, chicken salad sandwiches for lunch meat sandwiches)

10) Buying generics when possible (I know some generic groceries are pathetic, but some are really good, so don’t be afraid to try them!)

If you’re doing all of those things and are still spending $130/week, then I think you should conclude that you’ve gotten your budget as low as you can, and you should not stress about it any further. 🙂

I was just wondering what you do for organization purposes in your house. Your house always looks so clutter-free and peaceful that I was wondering what your secret was. Bins? Baskets? Furniture that you paint from Goodwill or Freecycle?


Hee. Well, my home is not always clutter-free and peaceful. 😉 I’d like it to be, and I work towards that end, but I am not ever perfectly successful, due in large part to the 4 children that inhabit my home. The last time my dwelling place was completely clutter free was 5 years ago (we had our townhouse on the market) and that took several weeks of focused effort!

That said, here are a few things that help me to keep clutter from taking over our home.

We don’t own tons of stuff. The less stuff you own, the easier it is to keep your house clean, so get rid of stuff you don’t need! Generally speaking, I’ve found that I can happily function with far fewer possessions than I think I can. If I’m on the fence about whether or not I need something, I usually get rid of it and I find that I don’t even miss it.

I have designated locations for stuff. Library books have a basket, the legos have a bin, the dress-up clothes have a chest, and dirty clothes have a hamper. These sorts of locations are simple enough for children to understand, which means that they can put things in the appropriate places (that doesn’t always mean they do, mind you!).

We clean up nearly every day. Picking things up isn’t too hard if the mess is only what’s accumulated in a day. It’s when the mess is composed of 7+ day’s worth of living that it gets overwhelming. We try to clean up toys every day, do the dishes every day, sort the mail every day, sweep/vacuum the main floors every day, and do laundry every day. I know some people seem to function ok with a feast or famine cleaning method, but I’m much better off if I do a little bit every day.

I do deep decluttering semi-regularly. Even with daily or semi-daily picking up, a low-grade level of clutter does eventually build up in my house. So, during the summer or sometimes during the school year, I do deeper decluttering. This summer I’m systematically working through the rooms and closets in our house, getting rid of things we don’t need so that I can start the school year sort of clutter free.

If you don’t have a big block of time to declutter, though, you can accomplish quite a bit in small blocks of time. Try setting aside 15 minutes a day to declutter something small, like a single drawer, or a single shelf. You won’t get as much done as you would in 8 hours, but you’ll get more done than you would if you didn’t spent those 15 minutes getting rid of stuff.


Readers, do you have any good organization/anti-clutter tips for Bonnie? And of course, if you’ve got something to add to the grocery discussion, comment away. 🙂

Today’s 365 post: I hate it when bananas do this.

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Tuesday 17th of August 2010

My husband and I budget $50 a week for food. At first, I thought that this was going to be next to impossible since my husband is a BIG meat eater and really prefers to have meat with every meal. But it's gotten easier. During the summer we have a large garden. We make our own spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, dill pickles, and we can our own peaches, pears, apple sauce. We also freeze/can many of the veggies that we grow in our garden. Since we live in the country we are able raise chickens that we use for meat and eggs which saves us money but it's also healthier knowing that they are organic. ALDI is the main place we buy groceries and we try to support our local grocery store for fresh produce during the seasons we don't have our garden.


Monday 16th of August 2010

I have spent the last two (yes, two!) years de-cluttering my house. My main problem was relatives dropping off items they felt I "needed" (haha!) and then finding out I was pregnant (after already having a 13 year old) and having to re-buy baby items (and being gifted with many unwanted baby items).

So needless to say my house filled up in a handful of years, and one day I had enough. I started small, selling a desk in our office (which took up too much space). From there on it just snowballed. I would come home every night and work on something, whether a bag, box, corner, shelf, closet, drawer, room, you name it. I have had two (large) yard sales, not to mention I have freecycled, recycled, sold, ebay-ed, donated, bartered, given away, given back, and even set out on the curb with a sign that said FREE. Whatever it has taken to clear out the mess that formerly inhabited my home, I have done it.

And yes, it took two years to get my house in order. However now I feel I can really enjoy what I have. And as I have gone through the house I have been able to fix and clean things that had formerly been neglected. Now when I shop, I think about what I NEED, versus what I WANT that takes up space. The real payoff came when my mom came into my house and told me how great and clean it was - and for her to tell me that - I knew I was on the right path.

So, I still de-clutter my house at least once a week. I keep thinking I'm done, and then I find something else I realize I can live without. Its not perfect, but at least I can have company over and not be embarrassed. Also having less = much easier to clean!!!


Monday 16th of August 2010

I, too, am a big Honey Bunches of Oats lover. My husband brought home the Meijer brand the other day, called Oat and Honey Clusters (or something like that). It was a pretty close imitation, and cheaper too! :)


Monday 16th of August 2010

when buying generic brands, i look at the back of the can to see who makes/distributes the product. you will be suprised to see how many brand names are making private labels. also, check the canned goods/food stuffs at your local dollar/99c stores. alot of those items just have regional labels that you don't recoginize but are made by name brand companies. i buy a corn chowder at our local 99c store that is made by bird's eye. it's very yummy and only costs 99c a can. the name brand at our grocery store is $3.50 a can and doesn't even taste as good.

another example is Aldi. they have the best bread there for 69c a loaf. it is made by the same bakery that makes Sara Lee bread that sells at our local Albertson's for almost $3 a loaf. the milk at Aldi's is also supplied by the same people who supply borden. aldi milk is about $1.29 a gallon versus borden at almost $4 a gallon. the savings really add up.

thank you frugal girl. your site/blog has helped me to cut my food waste way down. and your totally awesome.


Monday 16th of August 2010

Two thoughts for Angela and Jackie: one, don't forget that you may live in more expensive places than Kristen does. Two, buying meat in bulk (half a pig, quarter or half a cow) is generally cheaper than buying cut by cut, if you can work with a wide variety of cuts. It's like stocking up when its cheap but more so.

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