The $50 Grocery List

The grocery store is definitely one place where it’s easy to feel poor. There are so many delicious-looking items you want, but you have to say “no” to many of them so you can stay in budget. How can you have a balance of being responsible with your hard-earned money, but not feeling deprived at the store? If that’s something you’re struggling with, here’s my suggestion.

A bare-basics grocery list:

  • 1 box of cereal or oatmeal ($2)
  • 1/2 gallon milk ($2)
  • 12 eggs ($2)
  • 1 pound butter/ margarine ($2)
  • 1 loaf of bread ($2)
  • 1 jar jam ($2)
  • 1 jar peanut butter ($2)
  • 4 bananas ($1)
  • 3 apples ($2.50)
  • 1 pound baby-cut carrots ($1)
  • 5 yogurt cups ($3)
  • 2 cans tomato soup ($2)
  • 1 head broccoli ($1)
  • 1 green pepper ($2)
  • 2 onions ($2)
  • 15 oz canned tomatoes ($1)
  • 1 pound frozen corn ($1)
  • 1 pound chicken/ tofu ($3)
  • 1 pound pasta ($1)
  • 1 jar marinara sauce ($2)
  • 1 pound rice ($2)
  • 1 can beans ($1)

For $40 you’ve got cereal or eggs & toast for breakfast, PB&J sandwiches with soup, carrots, yogurt, and fruit for lunch and snacks, and dinners of pasta, rice & beans, or stir-fry. You’ve got all your major food groups represented, and you don’t have to live on ramen. This list allows for a lot of flexibility—switch out oranges for apples, skip the eggs and get more meat, buy bagged fresh spinach instead of the onion and pepper—it’s up to you. Be creative.

BUT (And here’s the fun part)! If your grocery budget is $200 a month, that means you’ve got $50 a week to spend on groceries. That’s $10 extra! So, you can get the above list, and then get ten dollars’ worth of whatever you want. If more meat/ vegetables/ beer/ salty snacks/ organics/ prepackaged foods/ sweets/ seasoning is what you need to be happy, you’ve got it! This goes for the weeks you need toiletries, too.

Keep in mind that your grocery list total is going to depend on which store you go to. I’ve recently added a post comparing the costs of different grocery stores in my region, and the same list of items can have a cost difference of $10, depending on where you’re shopping. The lower the cost of your bare basics, the more you can afford to spend on your little extras.

Congratulations! You can shop on  a budget and still get the little items you need to be happy—just make a list, stick to it, and make sure the extras stay in budget, too.