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Why We More Than Doubled Our Grocery Budget

It’s taken me weeks to work up the courage to write this post. But I finally decided the day had come… and I’m going to press publish on this, even if it means that some people don’t understand or are disappointed with me.

You see, for years, our family has been known by the fact that we have a really, really low grocery budget. In fact, this site started as an outgrowth of people’s interest in how we’ve kept our grocery budget so, so low.

The Lean Law School Years

I will never forget our lean law school years when we didn’t have more than $17 to $30 per week to spend on groceries, when we had to just drum up the best meals we could with what was on a great sale and what I could get for pennies with coupons, when we had many meatless meals because we couldn’t afford to purchase more than a pound or two of meat each week, when we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every single day for lunch for weeks and weeks on end.

It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it.

Those short-term sacrifices eventually paid off into many long-term benefits. One of which was putting us in a position where we had the wiggle room to raise our grocery budget.

After my husband finished law school and our income had significantly increased, we toyed a lot with raising our grocery budget. And we did raise it a little — first to $40 per week and then, a little while later, up to $50 per week.

I Just Couldn’t Bring Myself to Spend More Than $50

I just couldn’t bring myself to spend more than $50 per week for groceries, though. {Note: The $50/week number was a little ambiguous because we do get free samples, review products, and high-value coupons from companies on a fairly regular basis because I’m a blogger. It was also a bit skewed because we buy some of our groceries with Amazon credit from Swagbucks. But for the past few years, we only spent $50 cash at the grocery store each week.}

After we moved to TN and we made the transition to Jesse being home full-time, I began noticing that $50 per week just didn’t seem to be cutting it. Not only has our family significantly changed our eating habits, but Jesse is no longer eating out each day for lunch. Plus, he is doing intense workouts three time per week and our kids are growing and have sports activities multiple times each week. Needless to say, we just seem to be going through a lot more food.

As Jesse has become a lot more interested in health and fitness, he’s also been doing a lot more of the cooking and he’s been loving trying out new and healthful recipes. He started wanting to spend more at the grocery store to purchase ingredients for different recipes he wanted to try.

Why I Was So Stubborn

In all honesty, I really didn’t want to raise our grocery budget any more. Why? Well, mostly because I felt like I owed it to you all for us to keep our grocery budget really, really low. I felt like I was being a fraud if I have a site called “December212012.info” but didn’t also have some insanely low grocery budget.

So I kept saying “No, let’s just try to make $50 work.” I tried to get more creative. I tried to really look for bulk deals and local sales. I tried to think of new ways to stretch that money further.

It wasn’t working, but I kept being stubborn about it for a few more weeks. I didn’t want to let you all down. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. And, to be perfectly honest, I know there was a part of me that prided myself in the low, low grocery budget we’ve kept for so long.

But I finally realized how silly I was being. In the name of not letting my readers down, I was making life difficult for my husband and kids.

Family Comes First — Or Do They?

I’ve always said that my family comes first. That all blogging decisions will be made first and foremost on what is best for my family. That I won’t let the blog trump my family.

Clearly, I was forgetting this mantra. And I finally woke up and realized I just needed to let go of my arrogance and stubbornness, admit that it was time for a change, and be free from guilt over it.

While this was happening with me, Jesse had been researching different meal plans online and he came across a site called that offers meal planning specifically for people who want to eat healthfully and live a fit lifestyle. I was really reluctant to pay for this service. It seemed extravagant, costly, and nothing that was in line with my usually frugal ways.

Handing Over the Grocery Budget

At the same time, though, I could tell that Jesse really, really loved the idea. So I did something very uncharacteristic: I handed the grocery budget over to my husband and told him he could decide on what amount seemed best.

We paid for a short-term subscription to and shopped almost entirely according to their weekly grocery lists. I thought that eating according to the menu plan was going to massively increase our grocery budget, but I knew that we’d recently trimmed our budget in some other areas by at least $90, so I was willing to try it out and just see what would happen if we shopped and cooked according to the MealFit plan.

It was really hard for me for the first few weeks, but I could tell that Jesse was loving it and I enjoyed almost every single one of the MealFit recipes. They are packed with flavor and nutrition and there have only been a few duds or ones that we didn’t love.

Why We More Than Doubled Our Grocery Bill

Yes, We More Than Doubled Our Grocery Budget

After about 4 weeks of experimenting, we realized that, yes, shopping and cooking according to the MealFit menu plan did increase our budget — but not to a crazy high number like I was expecting. We’re averaging around $130 per week now for groceries for the five of us, including the cost of the MealFit subscription.

This is more than double what we were budgeting before, but it’s nowhere near the $250 or so that I’d initially pictured it might be. More importantly, my family is eating healthfully and my husband is much happier. He’s made many, many hard sacrifices over the years to allow us to stay out of debt and save aggressively and I’m so happy that he can now reap some of the fruit of that sacrifice.

So there you have it: the completely honest truth on why we raised our grocery budget. I have a feeling some readers will be disappointed and upset with me. And that’s the hardest part about me writing and putting this kind of post out there. I don’t want to disappoint people, but I also want to be authentic.

No matter what you think of me after reading this post, I hope you know how much I appreciate you being on this journey with me. My heart hurts for you if you’re in a season where you don’t have any wiggle room in your budget. Please don’t give up! I truly believe that someday soon, those short-term sacrifices will pay off in big ways.

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505 Comments

  • Tiffany says:

    Hi Çrystal. This is only the second time I’ve replied to your posts. I feel that you and I have some similarities in personality and could feel your anxiety in this post. I wish we were friends in real life because I think we could be an encouragement to each other. I know you have been to me regarding my insecurities. It’s very hard for me to be vulnerable with others except my husband.

    I’ve always wondered how you managed to keep your grocery bill so low. And figured at some point you would have to raise it for 2 reasons. One grocery prices go up and your kiddos are going to grow up. My boys have required more food as they’ve aged and are so active. So thank you for for truthfulness regarding this. And I think it was great and very brave of you to let your husband take over the bill. Many blessing to you. Thank you for all you do to help us save $.

    • Christie Parker says:

      Good for you, Mama! Although misery loves company, those who truly care for you will be able to rejoice with you that the Lord has filled your empty basket.

  • Joni says:

    Hi Crystal, thank you so much for sharing this and everything on December212012. I think this post will help people see that short term sacrifice will be worth it in the end. Thank you for being you and sharing so honestly.

  • Mandy says:

    I am a late comer to December212012. However, after reading your blog for about a month I became determined to manage our grocery and eating out in a more frugal way. For the month of January we have done an eat-at-home challenge. Saturday I shopped for the final week. My husband is an accountant, and he has always said that our food spending is the hole in the bucket. Well, after he ran all the numbers on Saturday I was so excited. We averaged our spending for the previous 12 months and then compared that to this month’s spending. Not only did we save by not eating out, I also decreased our grocery spending. A savings of over $800! Can you believe that? Unbelievable!
    When I decided to take your advice and tackle our food budget I KNEW I would have to spend more than you did on groceries. I have 5 kiddos, 2 of which are teens. Honestly, its your strategies, recipes, and attitude that is most helpful. Some may get bogged down with the exact numbers, but most of us give you praise for your motivational support…we are not legalistic.
    Thank you so much for reaching out to women like me…I am grateful. Blessings to you and yours!

  • Becky says:

    I love you for writing this! For many people, $50 a month for groceries isn’t something that can even almost be done, so I admire how long you’ve been able to keep it up. We also had our lean graduate school years, but now that those days are over I can have a much larger food budget. I feel like we eat much more healthy now, so I feel that the extra expense is very justified. Don’t feel like you’re letting us down because there’s lots of other ways to be frugal other than with our grocery budget! Thanks for all of your efforts and work! 🙂

  • LB says:

    Eating healthy, growing kids, rising grocery costs…I am surprised it isn’t more than double!

  • says:

    Thanks for being so honest about it! I have four boys and work outside the home three days a week so I just try to get the groceries home and cooked! I love your blog for its honesty and encouragement. Plans change as life does. 🙂

  • Maleah says:

    As far as I’m concerned, being a money saving mom has nothing to do with some arbitrary number. It seems that you are still using the same tools and strategies to remaining mindful about how much you spend. There is nothing fraudulent in that whatsoever. Not to mention that you are probably percentage-wise still much lower in your groceries than most.

  • says:

    Thank you! For years of great tips that helped is get through our own lean times! I’ve always been frustrated by trying to eat healthy on a budget. We even try to grow some of our own veggies, with varied success, just to save some $$$. I can’t wait to see how you tackle this challenge!

  • Ann says:

    Good for you!!

  • Danielle says:

    I realize you wrote this quite some time ago, but I still wanted to comment and encourage you on a good decision, and also note that you went from your husband BUYING lunch regularly, to having to buy groceries instead. That alone had to cover a lot of the difference. I am struggling with our grocery situation at the moment. We COULD have a larger grocery budget, but we are trying to make this one work. So far it hasn’t been too bad, and it in some ways has gotten better every month. This month feels like a flop to me though, because I am now 9 months pregnant, and some days we broke budget so I wouldn’t have to cook. We had food in the house, we have the ingredients to make things, but my energy level has been all over, and so have my emotions, and I just haven’t had the stamina. I have been trying to get meals prepared for after the baby comes, and am stubbornly refusing to use any of it! We have 4 kids currently, and I homeschool, so some days this is extra hard. We have been trying to avoid convenience foods since we moved 8 months ago, and that means just about everything gets made from scratch. A part of me desperately wants to increase the budget, or go back to buying fast food frequently like we did before the move, but that is just not in the cards for us right now! I know that after the first couple of weeks after the baby comes that I will be able to get back into the swing of things, it’s just been a year of major adjustments….and I will agree, having growing kids can wreak havoc on a budget! They are ALWAYS hungry! Anyway, thanks for sharing this, I know it was hard for you. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a break, and reassess our season in life!

  • says:

    I have also noticed our grocery budget increase over the years as our kids get bigger (we now have 3 active teens) we have been moving towards healthier food options which can cost more. It happens, and it’s OK! Actually, we are in Australia and there is no way we could survive on $50. I’m guessing the average grocery trip in our supermarkets and other markets would be about double what you are paying in the US, looking at your price breakdowns. We are sitting on a budget of about $250 a week at the moment, which I’m pretty happy with from a money perspective, and eating well is something we enjoy and prioritise. That budget still involves making a fair bit from scratch and having a meal plan to make the most of what we buy.

  • Robin says:

    Crystal- I just came across this post today. We had to increase our budget to about $110 a week when my boys starting eating like the teenagers they are! The number isn’t what is important- it’s the planning and purposeful budgeting. Your blog has been so helpful over the years to so many people and I can’t imaging people being disappointed with you for actually taking care of your family. Well done, you!! You are a huge encourager to so many people in so many areas. Thanks for your honesty!!

  • says:

    I struggle with wanting to keep my grocery budget as low as possible as well. With growing kids and a huge emphasis on organic and whole foods over processed foods, in my house, I agree that this is a worthwhile increase. I believe that eating healthy keeps other costs lower because our bodies receive the proper nutrition they need. I appreciate your honesty and respect your decision. Thanks for all you do to help us keep our budgets low.

  • Tiffany Farfan says:

    I have no issue with you increasing your budget. I am the oldest of six and I remember watching my brother grow. He is 6′ ft and still supper skinny. But I have watched him gulf down almost a whole box of pizza on his own and I know he could if he wanted too (what I would do for that metabolism) and get hungry an hour later. MY family is very active and when you are active you need to eat more. As a family we ate out almost never but ate every two to three hours because usually we worked out. I’m sure it helps though that your husband is no longer having to buy lunches. When I left my job I watched some of my savings do amazing things because I no longer needed that 4 dollar salad 5 days a week. Plus drinks. I think what is important is that you just stick to a budget.

  • Jessica says:

    I never knew you were known for a low grocery budget… I hope this experience leads you to see other areas of your life clearer and you find new ways to tweak them, too.

  • Lisa says:

    No matter what you do , there will be haters and those whom give you praise. You discover what was best for YOU and your family. In the end they are all that matter. ( Well maybe your sanity too, but that is another post.)

  • Melissa says:

    Great!!!!!!

  • Dawn says:

    I remember when we first got married (1988).. we had to budget in baby’s diapers, and my brother in law lived with us and had a cat, and we had to buy the cat food and litter since he didn’t buy it. I remember buying one roll of Scott toilet tissue a week… it used to be sold by the roll back then LOL. (And my husband would “borrow” a roll here and there from his work place).

    Every week we’d buy 1 bag of no name brand salty snack (i remember it’s white packaging with black letters) and one 2 liter of cheapo soda (“fruit punch”, a flavor we both enjoyed)… the rest of the week we drank koolaid, and sometimes we didn’t even have sugar for that. We bought one gallon of milk a week, and didn’t drink much of it, because we had to make sure kiddo had enough. Quite a few lunches were “toasted cheese sandwiches”.

    Once a month, I’d ask “Do you think it’s ok if I bought this Cosmo magazine?” (which back then was maybe $3 a month).

    Thank goodness things got better for us over the course of 30 years, but back then, things sure were tight! Too bad there wasn’t the internet back then, with money-saving websites like this! (Then again, we probably couldn’t have afforded the internet, if it was invented lol)

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