My family’s weekly budget at the grocery store is $100 a week. Over the past few years, that figure has shot up quite a bit. Before we had kids, we got by on just $50 every seven days to feed me and my husband. Even after our daughter was born, we hesitated to raise our grocery budget; instead, we were meticulous about clipping coupons and taking advantage of in-store discounts to lower our expenses at the supermarket.
But when it comes to grocery shopping, most people I know fall into one of two camps: they either plan their weekly menu based on which store discounts, deals, and coupons are available at the time, or they look for those discounts after they’ve planned their menu. And this week, I’m asking you:

What comes first in your household – the menu or the discounts?

For my family, especially during the lean months when we were really living paycheck to paycheck, we were a discount-driven family. This way of life applied to more than just our grocery budget; it applied to everything from food to gas to diapers. We didn’t buy anything unless it was on sale. So, it goes without saying that I waited to plan my weekly menu and shopping list until I got the weekly circulars for the local grocery stores.

These days, I’ve switched things around. No longer living paycheck to paycheck, there’s more wiggle room in our grocery budget. We could buy all our necessities for less than $100 a week, but we keep our budget a little higher simply so we can indulge in some luxuries – things like a bottle of wine – every now and then without feeling like we went overboard. I plan my weekly menu when it’s convenient to me – on Sunday nights – even though the weekly ad circulars for my favorite grocery stores don’t hit the web until early Wednesday morning. Sure, once I get to the store I may swap out ground turkey for ground beef if one is on sale (even if the other was on my shopping list), but for the most part, my family’s meal plan for the week is driven by what we’re in the mood to eat, not what Kroger’s is trying to move off its store shelves.

There are pros to each method. The biggest pro of shopping based on coupons and store discounts is that you save money. On the other hand, I’ve found that we tend to eat more consciously – and, perhaps, more healthfully – when we let our shopping list be dictated by our tastes instead of our wallets.

Reader, what are your motivations when grocery shopping? Do you shop based on your budget, or based on your tastes?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke