Full-Time RVing Grocery Budget Impact

For a family of 6, living full-time in an RV there are some unique challenges with staying on budget with groceries.  In a camper, there is very little storage space and a very small refrigerator/freezer.  Today I’m going to share with you special considerations for our full-time RVing grocery budget.

A couple of things have changed since we moved into the camper.  Basically, we shop more often and don’t stock up on deals we come across.  Below is a simple breakdown of what we do for our family.  (And by we, I mean I)

Full-Time RVing Grocery Budget

Mark gets paid every 2 weeks and we promptly take out money for our groceries for that 2-week period.  (at the time of this writing – we used $400/2 weeks). This covers all toiletries, puppy expenses, groceries, cleaning products, diapers, etc.  This is slightly higher than when we lived in a traditional home.

1. Zero Coupons

We mostly try to stay away from prepackaged and processed foods.  Many coupons are for those convenience items so the bulk of coupons are not applicable to our eating style.

There are coupons out there that I would totally use.  I really would.  But I ALWAYS forget to use them.  It never fails.  So I *almost* avoid coupons.  Sounds silly I’m sure but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten something just because I had a coupon.  I’ve been burned and I have now developed an aversion to coupons.  I used to coupon all the time when I had 2 kids but it’s true what they say, you lose brain cells when you are pregnant and I’ve had 4 kids people!!

2. Cash System

I pay for ALL of our household needs using cash.  I was tempted to get a credit card for all my purchases because we get pretty sweet rewards through our bank.  Yeah, we could earn points/$ but the temptation to overspend or stretch into the next pay period was too great.  In the end, we decided the negatives outweighed the benefits.

Let me just be real and tell you that I don’t really like this part of our plan, the cash ONLY system.  There are times I want to purchase coconut oil off Amazon or buy some herbs/supplements online.  It takes some preplanning and conversing with the hubsters, (like that’s a bad thing right?).  I have misplaced money before and that just STINKS.  Still, it’s the best option for me and if I don’t have the cash I don’t get it.  This brings me to…

3. Strict Budget

I use to be all prideful and ashamed to tell a cashier I needed to put something back.

Try it.

Just once.

But don’t you dare explain to him/her that you have money in your bank account just not “grocery” money for that item you need to put back.  Not that I’ve ever done that before.

At first, I was embarrassed but I decided to get over my “image”, whatever that is/was. And why I even cared what my friendly cashier thought about my money situation is beyond me!

4. Weekly Meal Planning

I plan all the meals out weekly.  I can’t say I like this part of the deal either but I have NOT planned the meals out in the past and it is beyond frustrating figuring out what we are going to eat for din-din.  If I wing it, inevitably forget something from the store or some obscure ingredient.  Then I have to go to the store again and buy even more extras we didn’t really need.  I went far more into meal planning so check that out if you’re interested in digging deeper.

5. Weekly Shopping

I use to shop for 2 weeks at a time, but I actually prefer going weekly.  It’s like spa time going to the store and I can readjust the meal plan if we ended up not needing all the groceries I had gotten the previous week.  It seems as though we are wasting less and really only buying what we are going to use in that 1-week time frame.

6. Minimal Pantry

We obviously have limited space in the camper, though admittedly, as far as campers go, we have tons of space. Still, I keep a few things on hand and just buy the canned goods as needed.  Some staples I keep on hand besides baking and cooking supplies are crackers, tuna, coconut milk, peanut butter, marshmallows, and any bulk items I’ve purchased from Azure Standard.

7. Freezer Space

Friends are letting us store our grass-fed beef in their freezer since we order it once a month.  I’m hoping to squeeze it into our freezer but we’ll see.

Other than beef, we just pretty much stay on top of what is in the freezer.  We buy it, we eat it.  Pretty simple.

Final Thoughts – Full-Time RVing Grocery Budget

So that’s what I do.  Somethings we’ve been doing for years…the limited space and weekly shopping is a new thing.  I use to stock up when something was on sale, now that is not an option.  We keep as little as possible on hand and try to only buy what we need for any given week.  We’re not perfect about it but I think it’s something you just learn and get accustomed to as you go.

Do you have any tips to share to stay on budget?  Do you have a grocery budget?

7 thoughts on “Full-Time RVing Grocery Budget Impact”

  1. I have always wanted to do the envelope budget thingy (you set aside money for groceries, gas, and family fun) but I am not disciplined enough. Perhaps someday:-) This is encouraging!

    • I think the envelopes makes you disciplined. Just my encouragement to you friend. It’s harder to spend cash than swipe the card for sure.

  2. No tips to share, just an embarrassing story… 🙂 Once I was at a garage sale looking at a really pretty “hippie” dress. The price was “pretty high,” and the seller saw me looking at it. I said, “Oh, I don’t have that much money,” so she came down on the price. I went to Steve and he handed me cash–a large bill that would have covered the cost of the original price. I paid, got my change, and went away happy….until later at home I realized I must have come across as a big, fat liar!!! I could not believe what I had done. She probably thought I was being manipulative, because obviously Steve had the money right there. But what I TOTALLY meant was, “I don’t have that much money TO SPEND ON CLOTHING.” Sigh. If I had thought of it, I might have gone back to the garage sale and apologized. Oh, well, live and learn.

    It IS harder to do when you can’t stock up on deals. Your tips on grocery budget are great!!!

  3. I don’t like to carry cash, but I do a version of this. I have a certain percent of my paycheck put in to a separate acct each week (I get paid weekly with my current job) and use that card for gas and groceries. When I see that the gas tank is getting close to low, I make sure I stock up on what I know I will need for the next week – mostly yogurt, juice, and organic TV dinners, since I am terrible at cooking for just myself – I end up wasting too much food. Then the next week I fill up my car and just buy yogurt at the store. On the other weeks I buy the things like TP and paper towels, etc. About once a month I buy chocolate. 🙂 Luckily, where I am right now I only have to fill up my tank about every six weeks. And I always carry a calculator at the grocery store and round up, just to be safe!

    • Smart tips! 🙂 Since posting this, we switched to using our reward’s credit card…just have to make sure we don’t overspend and we always pay the balance off…actually several times a month. I do love YNAB (You Need A Budget) as it really helps us track our spending. Again, we have to watch our spending and track it to stay on budget.


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