Well my friends, we’re finally at the end of my boot camp to whip that budget into shape! To re-cap all the hard work that’s been going on this month around here, so far I’ve disclosed my budgeting practices regarding:
Today I’ll wrap up with the last, and arguably the most complex, category of my budget: the grocery budget.
Just Me and My Grocery Budget
Based on the prolific amount of services out there devoted to helping people lower their grocery budgets, I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s a pretty hot topic for a lot of people these days. I wish I had some secret up my sleeve for lowering the grocery budget that involves minimal effort. Sorry, no secrets. If you want to save money, the grocery budget is a great place to start because there is typically a lot of wiggle room and potentially some big pay-offs, but it also takes a bit of elbow grease and sometimes even sacrifice. But hey, I’m no stranger to sacrifice these days.
Mike and I started out the year optimistically shooting for $115/month. Recently we’ve had to jump that to $140. I figure with Mike burning a ton of extra calories at work every day he pretty much counts as 1.5 people at least (although you couldn’t tell by looking at him). Plus Olivia has the appetite of a 13-year-old boy, sooo…
Anyway, $115 wasn’t cutting it. I still think it could cut it, but working part-time and running the house full-time plus trying to be as available as possible to my sweet daughter and husband just doesn’t lend itself to full-blown grocery money saving extravaganzas, although I do, actually, really enjoy grocery shopping.
That said, I do follow a few of the tricks of the grocery shopping pros, my favorite pros being:
Crystal at Money Saving Mom
Erin at Five Dollar Dinners
- Pay Cash- We take our grocery budget money out of the bank at the beginning of each month and that’s it for the month! I know for a fact paying cash has decreased my monthly grocery bill by about $60 since I have switched to cash from plastic. Hmm…
- Couponing– I cut ’em out of magazines, print them offline, cut them out of newspaper inserts, get them off of boxes, wherever. Don’t know where to find coupons? Money Saving Mom has a list of 10 great places to look. The above bloggers do a fabulous job rounding up deals and matching up coupons to those deals for specific stores each week. Half my work- done. Sometimes it feels like cheating, they make it so easy to find great deals at the grocery store.
- Menu Planning– I typically make my own meal plan at the beginning of each week. I’m somewhat of a “creative” cook. I make stuff up and experiment based on what I have and what I can get for cheap, and I have a husband who will pretty much eat anything I make him. But, if you are not so adventurous, Erin at Five Dollar Dinners is really good about putting out a weekly meal plan with a printable grocery list to carry to the store.
- Freezer Cooking- I’m working on this one. Actually I’m working on ALL of these, but I’ve just now started catching on to the idea of freezer cooking. I basically double batches of food I am making if it will freeze well and then, voila, I have an “instant” meal that is way more healthy and way cheaper than the frozen dinners at the store. In fact, next week we’re going to eat exclusively out of the freezer. Mama’s going on a little dinner making vacation!
- Freezer Stocking– And besides meals, I’ve been known to load my freezer up with butter, cheese, bread, meat, fruits, and vegetables that I find on super sale. Check out The National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website for a list of what you can freeze and how to do it.
- Gardening- This year I’m starting a garden! We eat a lot of produce around here, and it is pretty expensive, so I am excited to try out my green thumb a little. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully there is some extra to freeze for winter!
- Go in with friends on Co-ops and Farm Shares- Last year I want to Local Harvest and signed up to receive a box of fresh veggies from a local farm just up the road every week during the growing season (about 5 months). The cost break down was about $25/week, but we ended up splitting with some friends and it was definitely plenty! I have also found farms that sell organic meat (no hormones and chemicals added!), fruits, and eggs. Some friends of ours actually went in together and bought a whole cow’s worth of beef!
- Make It From Scratch– You know what I’ve discovered? You can make just about anything at home- even crackers and chips. It’s almost always cheaper, and it is pretty much guaranteed to be healthier for you because you don’t have all the added chemicals and preservatives. We save tons of money by not buying many packaged snacks, and I can make just about any type of snack using a fairly short list of ingredients I try to keep stocked in my pantry. Besides snacks, I make bread, tortillas, and desserts, and we rarely eat processed breakfast cereal anymore thanks to my baked goods. To save time- I typically take a couple of hours every Saturday to do a bunch of baking. We eat half of it that week, and the other half goes in the freezer for the weeks that just get too crazy.
- Don’t Buy Convenience- I know, I know. They say time is money. But guess what? I’m not getting paid to be a homemaker and we’ve gotta pay the grocery bill sooo… I don’t buy anything convenience. I don’t buy frozen meals. I don’t buy canned beans. I don’t buy baby carrots. It means a little more work and thought goes into my meals, but it definitely saves me money. What’s an extra 5 minutes spent chopping a bag of carrots?
How about you? Do you have any tricks for trimming the grocery budget? Do you make your own and/or grow your own food? If you haven’t tried any of the above tricks for trimming the grocery budget- pick one and try it!