After housing, food is the most expensive category in the budget. It is also a place where most experts say you can cut back or “tweak”. I have ours at $350 a month for a family of four including two teenage boys. The Spending Freeze that is now in month 2 has me evaluating my grocery habits. Am I doing my best? Could I do better? Am I buying too many snacks? Am I buying too many vegetables? (giggle)
My top tip, the most important way to keep a grocery budget down is to meal plan. Plan, plan, plan!!! I am a planner. I must have a plan. I function poorly if a plan is not in place. So I sit down with my coffee and I make a plan. I get out a piece of paper and number it one to 14 (because I grocery shop every other Friday) and start listing my and my family’s favorite things for dinner. I incorporate 2-3 nights for leftovers. This hangs on the side of the refrigerator and is a guideline, only. It doesn’t have days attached to it. It’s just 11 meals that I know I have stuff on hand to make. There is always a box of soup or spaghetti in the cupboard if a plan is foiled. I have back up. Always have back up!
These could be simple meals like burgers and chips or complex meals like a new chicken recipe I saw on a vlog. It could be a pot roast with mashed potatoes and honey glazed carrots or a frozen pizza. Eleven options. With 2-3 leftover nights. Breakfast and lunch options are pretty standard. We all eat basically the same things each day. Salads, peanut butter sandwiches, leftovers, eggs, English muffins, cereal, yogurt, etc.
And then I create a list. Stick to the list.
I am a 75% organic shopper. I try to buy as much organic as my budget will allow. Someday, I hope to be in a position where I can buy all organic and then at that point, a Whole Foods or Trader Joes will pop up right next door! Those places are an hour away. So, I do the best I can with what I have.
My favorite stores are Aldi, BJ’s Warehouse, and Hannaford. Aldi has their own line of organic products which makes me really happy. It is by far the cheapest place to get organic milk!!! They have a small selection of organic fruits and veggies as well as organic chicken and organic ground beef. If there are things that I need and they don’t have them, I will swing by Hannaford right next door.
BJ’s is a blessing and a curse. I really need to figure out a way to improve and I feel like I spend too much here. I only go once a month and the month of January was over $130. Granted, it was membership renewal time (which I really need to put in the budget), but I think that it is too easy in there to drop a Benjamin like it’s hot!! Bad, bad, joke…leaving that right there.
I get the privilege of staying home and my babies are big. This means I have time. I have time to bake cookies instead of buying them, toasting my own granola instead of spending $6 a bag. I have time to run to 3 stores to get the best prices. Most people do not have that option. Spending half a day running around is not how one might want to spend a day off. With these new To-Go services, you don’t have to! You may spend a little more money but you will save time. Or, you might spend less money because you are not impulse buying as you walk up and down each aisle. And when you work outside the home, time for other things may be a priority. But, taking a few minutes to devise a plan before going online or swinging by after work to grab groceries is key to saving money.
How many of us have forgotten something and had to swing by the store to pick it up?How many times have you left the store with THAT ONE THING? I am not sure I ever have! All of a sudden you have 1,283 items in your arms and you are thinking, “I should have gotten a cart…for this corn that I needed for the chowder recipe…that I forgot on Saturday when I was here….and now I have enough food to feed my whole office three meals a day for 4 days!”
Make a plan. Work the plan.