Over the past few weeks, I have received several emails asking about how we stay on budget when it comes to grocery shopping. And while I would like to say that I am super amazing and spend a minuscule amount of money each week, that would probably be a lie. I'm sure lots of people spend far less. Just as I am sure that lots of people spend much more.
Either way, I have decided to share what works for our family. Maybe someone will get something out of it. Or maybe you will all get a peek at the ENORMOUS amount of food my family consumes. Who knows.
1. Track your current spending habits. J and I use Quicken to track all of our expenses. By creating a report, we were able to determine how much we had spent on groceries and household goods over the last year. For us, this number was around $1,000 a month.
2. Based on your current spending habits, budget a number that is REALISTIC for your family. I knew that cutting our spending to $500 a month wasn't going to happen. Instead, we cut our budget to $800 and with smart spending, almost always have cash left over.
3. Know what is in your pantry and freezer. Having a good idea of what you already have on hand will help keep you from buying things you don't need. I have found that I can "fill the holes" when I go shopping and have very well rounded meals. Also, knowing what you have and then using it in a timely fashion helps to minimize food waste and saves money. Here's how I keep track of what we have on hand:
4. Join a wholesale club. J and I do much of our shopping at a wholesale club, which is especially good for items that your family uses in high frequency. We have found that the biggest money savers at stores like this (except if there are HUGE sales at your grocery store) are cereal, hummus, tortillas, diapers, wipes, assorted household goods, lunch meat, cheese, yogurt and proteins. (Note: buying in bulk only works if you do your research and if you use the products. Just because it comes in a big box doesn't mean it's any cheaper than buying a bunch of little boxes. And if you throw half of it away, well, that's just wasted money.)
5. Use coupons. And shop somewhere that doubles them. Some people are coupon crazy and that's cool. It's just not my thing. We clip coupons for the items we use from the Sunday paper and try to match them to sales at our grocery store. The only time I use a coupon on an item that is not already on sale is if we really NEED it or if we will eventually use the item and the coupon is about to expire.
6. Shop the per ounce price. Most stores label their shelves with the per ounce or per 100 price. When there are packages of varying prices/brands, I almost always go with the one that is cheapest per ounce.
7. Make a list and stick to it. A well-planned shopping trip can keep you from spending money on items you don't need. I have the rule that if it's not on the list before we enter the store, it can't be bought until the next shopping trip. (J is more lenient with this rule.)
8. Shop once a week. J gets paid twice a month, so we look at our food budget as $400 for 15 days and we break apart our shopping as follows.
Week One: Stock up on items to last the full two weeks. Purchase more costly items like diapers and meats.
Week Two: Restock perishables (milk, fruits, veggies) and "fill the holes" in our pantry.
9. Shop the sales. 10 for $10 sales are awesome. Especially if you can match them up with a coupon. When the items we consistently use are on sale, we stock up (as long as we don't already have a bunch on hand).
10. Eat like a vegetarian. I've switched to a pescatarian diet and J and the girls only eat meat (usually turkey or chicken) about twice a week.
How do you save money on food?