How to spend the last few dollars in your grocery budget

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Many of you use the envelope system to keep your grocery budget in check.  While our family doesn’t strictly adhere to a fixed limit each week, we have a budget in place and try to stick with it.  We’re working toward becoming debt free so it’s important to be aware of what we’re spending.  There are thin weeks when I feel like Old Mother Hubbard trying to find a bone in the cupboard, then there are weeks of abundance when we don’t even have to go to the store.  I find that the summer months tend to be leaner for us because we’re more tempted to eat out or spend more on entertainment.  Since I use coupons on most store trips, our grocery bill is usually reduced by $10 or so by the end.  That means there’s a little extra.  Sometimes I use that cushion to buy a gift card and save it for Christmas.  Last year that saved me when we had several gift cards already in an envelope, ready to give.    I’d like to give you another idea that will help keep the kids busy and also keep your pantry stocked!   Whether you have 50 cents or $5 extra, there’s something constructive to do with that money.

Staying within your Grocery Budget - how to spend those extra dollars  --

If you have:

50 cents — consider buying a packet of seeds.  I’ve often found that the seed packets at the grocery store are much less expensive than the specialty seeds at home improvement stores.  I’ve purchased seed packets for as little as 10-cents near the end of summer.  Most grocery stores have a small seed selection; choose something that your family will eat and something that you’d buy anyway.  I’d highly recommend getting a packet of salad greens.  Something like lettuce or spinach grows relatively quickly and without much fuss.  You can use the lettuce to top your sandwiches, fill out the burgers, or make a quick salad!  If you’re feeling ambitious, get something a bit more intensive like tomato seeds.  Get your kids involved in planting and watering; it can become a family project.  

Seeds are an inexpensive purchase that can stretch your grocery budget -

$1 — grab a local newspaper.  You can use this for projects at home that will keep your kids busy for hours!  Use the paper to create a scavenger hunt with words, numbers, or pictures. This educational activity makes learning fun!  You can also look through the classifieds for garage sales.  Ask your kids to find a few they’d like to visit; encourage them to look for quality used items rather than purchasing new.  If there are coupons in your paper, you might even make that $1 back by clipping them!

$2 – you’ve got the makings for family movie night!  Buy a bag of microwave popcorn (or get the kernels to pop your own).   Grab a packet of plain M&Ms at checkout.  On your way home, stop at Redbox and get a movie that the whole family will enjoy.  You might even be able to snag the movie FREE if you sign up for their newsletters; I get a free code every 2 weeks or so.  When the popcorn is still hot, mix in the M&Ms and they’ll get all melty and delicious.

$3 — buy a bag of flour.  By stashing ingredients for baking, you’ll have a delicious activity for a rainy day.   There have been many days when my kids asked to go somewhere and we didn’t have the funds to spend.  Instead, we baked a loaf of banana bread or some homemade cookies.   If you catch the flour on sale, even better!  You can also use the flour for creative projects such as paper mache.  

Stretch your grocery budget with a bag of flour --

Do you have a great way to stretch a small budget and make it into more than just food?



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  1. We save our change in a money jar if there’s any leftover and watch for buy one get one free specials.

  2. We garden and put up the fruits & vegetables for winter when prices are more expensive.

  3. Sherry Compton says:

    Saving a little each week is always good and useful. It really adds up. I just read about saving a dollar the first week, two the next, and so on. You have over $1000 by the end of the year. Of course, I don’t think we could do it always when it got up to $30 and more.

    Love the GC idea. That’s really neat. My daughter mixes M&Ms in her popcorn, and if you really want to splurge add some warm caramel syrup too.

  4. Mia Hicks says:

    This is brilliant! Thank your for sharing!

  5. Melissa S says:

    I love the idea of the gift cards, genius. I do include seeds in my grocery budget starting in the spring and plants in the earl summer. I also use any of the leftover grocery budget for canning supplies all year long and give food gifts for Christmas.

  6. shaunie says:

    I usually use the last cents to buy gum or sandwich bags

  7. Erin B. says:

    Great ideas! I never thought of those things. I especially like the idea of getting gift cards and having a Christmas gift stash.

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