I'm a mom of 10. Here are 10 ways I keep my grocery budget under $1,200 a month.

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I'm a mom of 10. Here are 10 ways I keep my grocery budget under $1,200 a month.
I try to do one big grocery run a month with a few smaller trips in between. Lisa Tanner
  • I have 10 kids, and I try to stick to a grocery budget of $1,200 a month for my family of 12.
  • No matter how good a deal is, if it's not something your family usually eats, it's probably a waste.
  • The fewer trips to the store you make, the less money you'll end up spending.

Buying food for a dozen people can get expensive. If I'm not careful, my grocery bills can easily creep to $2,000 a month, which is way more than the $1,200 I have budgeted.

Thankfully I've learned a few strategies over the years to help keep costs low.

Read on for my best tips for grocery shopping on a budget.

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Start by making a meal plan and breaking down what ingredients you'll need for it

Before I step foot in a grocery store, I plan what I'm going to cook in the coming days or weeks. This way I know that every ingredient I add to my cart has a purpose.

When you know you'll use everything you buy, you save money and also prevent waste.

Bring a shopping list with you to the store

I'm a mom of 10. Here are 10 ways I keep my grocery budget under $1,200 a month.
I like to make my list on a spreadsheet before printing it out. Corepics VOF/Shutterstock

You can make a master shopping list that you use over and over again or write a new one before each shopping adventure.

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While you're writing your list, go through your kitchen and check on the status of necessary spices and pantry staples. It's easy to assume that you have something basic on hand only to realize you're out once you start cooking.

After you write the list, it's also crucial that you remember to bring it with you to the store. Too often I write a shopping list but forget it and am stuck shopping from memory, which usually ends with me forgetting ingredients and buying things I don't actually need.

Create a shopping-list method that works for you, whether it's on paper or digital

There isn't one right way to make a shopping list, and if you find the process painful to create and use, you're not going to stick to it.

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I've tried several styles of shopping lists over the years. What works best for me in this season of life is creating my list in Microsoft Excel, printing it out, and bringing the hard copy with me. It's totally legible - unlike my quirky scrawled handwriting - and I can cross off items as I add them to the cart.

Plus, no matter what order I add things in, I can quickly sort them by store and category in Excel. This makes the actual shopping part much easier, as I'm not aimlessly wandering around each part of the store or having to backtrack.

When I'm shopping, I put my kids in charge of the list

I almost always take some of my kids with me to the grocery store, which I use to my advantage.

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I turn my list and a pen over to my middle-grade kids at the start of the shopping trip. They can read off each item to help make the shopping trip go more quickly.

Also, at this age, most of my kids take the job of list manager very seriously. If I add something to the cart that's not on the list, they ask me about it. This accountability helps me to decide whether it's something I need to buy or just an impulse purchase.

My kids will typically write the item in question on the list if I decide to buy it. This way, they can still cross it out, which is their favorite part.

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Know the prices of basic things you buy a lot

I'm a mom of 10. Here are 10 ways I keep my grocery budget under $1,200 a month.
I make note of the prices of things like milk and bread. Thomson Reuters

On every shopping list, I include the estimated price of each item I buy so I can stay on top of my budget before I even enter the store.

Having a general price point in mind also helps me spot bargains. If something is on sale, I can quickly compare it to see how much I'll save. It also allows me to compare prices between stores if I suspect one has a better price.

If the price changes drastically on an item I buy frequently, I take time to jot down the new one on my list while I'm in the store. Then the next time I open the master list on my computer, I can quickly update it.

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No matter how good the deal is, if you aren't going to use it, don't buy it

I like having food on hand so I know that my family will still have things to eat if something happens and we can't make it to the store for a while. But it's easy to take that attitude to the extreme.

I used to stock up on almost everything that was on sale because I liked keeping the pantry full and thought it was a frugal way to do it.

This was a mistake. I ended up with lots of food in my cupboards that no one in my family actually liked, and everything just sat around for years until it finally reached its expiration date and had to get tossed.

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Go to a couple of stores for all your list items

When I go grocery shopping, I almost always visit the same three or four stores. This allows me to take advantage of different products at each without getting burned out from going to too many places.

I typically hit Costco first because I buy bulk goods there, and they take up a lot of room in the van. I don't want to smash bags of food from another store by piling big boxes on top.

If you shop less often, you'll likely end up spending less money

I'm a mom of 10. Here are 10 ways I keep my grocery budget under $1,200 a month.
I have to drive over an hour to get to many of the stores I shop at. Morse Collection/Gado/Getty Images

I live smack in the middle of nowhere. The nearest grocery store is 15 miles away, and I have to drive almost an hour to get to a decent-sized town with more than one shopping option.

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I can't just quickly run to the grocery store if I forget something, which makes all my planning and list making even more important.

Even if you live close to the store, you can use this tip to help you save money. Each time you go into a store, you have the opportunity to spend more than you were planning. If you go less often, you can cut down on those purchases.

I go on a big shopping trip once a month so I can take advantage of the better pricing in the larger city. Then each week, I make a quick trip to the local store to pick up staples like milk, eggs, and produce.

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Extra beverages can jack up your grocery bill if you aren't careful

Things like juice, pop, and sports drinks can really add up.

In order to stick to the budget, I have my family drink water throughout the day, and that's often what I serve with meals. Occasionally we'll have iced tea or lemonade, but it's not the norm.

Most kids adjust pretty well, especially when you explain why you're making a change. You might have some complaints at first, but mine eventually learned to drink (and even enjoy) water.

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Cut out the middle man whenever you can

If you can, purchasing directly from a farmer can save a lot of money.

I used to raise my own livestock for meat, but when I stopped, I connected with another farmer. Since I have the freezer space and know it'll get used, I often buy a whole cow at a time, along with a whole hog and occasionally a sheep or two.

It's definitely a bigger initial expense, but I get steak and roasts for the same price per pound as hamburgers, so it actually saves me money in the long run.

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Meat isn't the only thing you can purchase from a farmer. Do a little research and see who grows what around you. For instance, you can typically find good prices on produce at local farms.

Just make sure you have a plan to preserve what you buy so it doesn't go to waste. Learn how to dehydrate, can, or freeze the extra so you can benefit from your savings all year long.

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