And yet…I think make some shrewd decisions concerning our groceries.
A couple of months ago, I would have said that we spend too much on our groceries. I hate how much of our household budget goes to groceries.
But then, sometime in December, in a mom’s group forum, someone asked how much everyone spent on groceries.
As responses poured in, I started to realize that we were on the low end of the spectrum. Now this group is a referral group, that some of my mom friends started as a way to ask mom-related (sometimes TMI, sometimes nosey) questions without blasting their thoughts all over Facebook. The original members live in my area, but they have invited friends from all over the country to be a part of it.
In other words, different demographics, different states, different families. And I was still spending less than most of them.
Now granted, I don’t have 4 teenage boys to feed. My daughter is a picky eater. So I’m basically feeding 2.5 people on my budget. But still? I think I’m pretty thrifty.
Here’s how I do it:
I don’t bother with coupons.
I didn’t really feel like I was saving enough money to make up for the time I spent clipping and organizing the coupons. Plenty of women are fabulous at making it work, it just wasn’t enough of success for me. I almost always ended up buying items I didn’t really want, and would save, like 50 cents on things I really needed.
I don’t shop at big warehouse stores.
This is a very individual decision. (I’m making it sound like the gyno…) What I mean is, I tend to overspend at these places. Some of you may love the warehouse grocery stores, particularly if you have a larger family. For me, I always felt defeated when the total came up at the check-out lane, and buying items in bulk doesn’t really save me money. The food ends up going to waste– we don’t eat it fast enough or I forget that I have it. I never felt like I was saving money. If I were to go the bulk-buying route again, I would use subscribe & save from Amazon, and get it shipped to my door. Holla.
I get what I can at Aldi.
Ok, this one just sounds like an ad. But, in all honesty, it has been one of the most money-saving changes I have made. Is it cute inside? No. But it’s clean (enough), well-organized, and I can efficiently find items at a good price. I do not enjoy grocery shopping, so I like to get in and out as quickly as possible. This I can do at Aldi. Typically, I’ll have a list of items that our family eats from Aldi, and I’ll buy the more name brands items (pull-ups, contact solution) at the Jewel about a block away. I do both stores in one trip, and it takes me as long as if I only shopped at Jewel. In my opinion, the Aldi brand, for most things (esp snack foods and dairy), is better than the Jewel generic brand.
For more tips on shopping at Aldi, see: ALDI: Hits & Misses and 10 Things You Will Love About Shopping at ALDI
I menu plan and I write a grocery list.
The number one tip I always see on these types of blog posts/articles/tip lists is to make a grocery list and stick to it. Honestly? I must have no imagination whatsoever, because I can’t even picture shopping without a list. I would probably leave the store with milk, a magazine, and wine. For those of you who can wing it at the grocery store, I highly recommend using a menu plan to budget. I print out a blank monthly calendar and fill it in. Even better? Write out how much meal costs, so you have an estimate of how much the trip will cost you. I aim for one pricier meal a week, and try to make the rest budget-friendly.
I avoid buying expensive meats.
My husband loves steak, so every once in a while he’ll drive down to a specialty meat shop in town and get a giant steak to grill. My daughter and I aren’t big meat-eaters, so we usually eat something else that night.
I often buy cheap cuts of meat and throw it in the slow cooker. I have a list of budget-friendly meals (like, lasagna) that are inexpensive to make and last for days. I consult the list whenever the budget is tight that month. Another cheap meal? Buy salad ingredients and grab some soup from the soup station at your grocery store. Tasty, healthy, inexpensive.
I try to think a week at a time. (And go to the store on schedule)
I’ve noticed that if I stick to a week schedule, that I can track my spending better. It keeps me from running to the store to grab milk because of poor planning. Running to the store is a budget-buster for me. Wastes gas, time, and I always end up buying items I didn’t really need. Like, BBQ PopChips.
I plan for fresher meals at the beginning of the grocery week.
I hate buying perishable groceries (herbs, salad, etc.) only to have them go bad before I can cook them. I cook those meals right after grocery day and save a couple of meals with say, canned ingredients for the end of the week.
I thoughtfully plan out items for parties.
Another challenge to my grocery budget is party-planning. You buy items that are out of the ordinary, like 3 containers of guacamole. Or a case of wine. Obviously, if you’re hosting, you plan for the expense and enjoy the party with your guests. If you’re bringing an item to a party, you have a few options for sticking to your budget. Chips & salsa, frozen appetizers, and cheesy dips are all good, inexpensive ideas for a party.
I don’t buy many beverages.
We’re big water drinkers in this house. I don’t like to drink my calories, and my husband thinks soda is unhealthy. (It is, but also tasty) We save a ton of money by simply drinking water, milk, coffee, and juice (the real stuff). If we’re having guests, we’ll get soda and adult beverages, but on the regular, we stick to water.
I make a lot of snacks, like homemade salsa and cookie dough.
When my husband started tearing through salsa like it was free, I realized I had to try the Homemade route. And guys? It is sooo much tastier. Even with canned tomatoes in the winter. I make a batch in my Ninja blender, and it lasts for a week or two. My Eggless Cookie Dough is another time (no baking!) and money-saver. Other snacks we buy, we can get pretty cheap at Aldi.
I buy the full head of romaine lettuce instead of those bags of salad.
Ever notice that those bags of salad go bad real fast? Probably because they are chopped up. I bought a bag of romaine hearts one time and was shocked at how long they lasted. It’s cheaper too!
I substitute ingredients as needed.
I used to think that you had to follow a recipe to the letter. Buy cheaper ingredients (as long as it doesn’t drastically alter the dish) or use up ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Decide which part of the meal matters to you, and cut corners where you and your family won’t notice.
I grow my own herbs.
During the warmer months, I have a few pots on my deck. Eventually, when the kids get older, I’d love to plant fruits and vegetables.
Things I don’t do: (budget ideas that don’t work for my family)
I’ve tried this a couple of times, and the meals never really tasted that great to me. Sometimes I freeze meatballs, but not really any full meals of food.
Never eat take-out
Sean and I don’t go out to dinner much (need babysitter, expensive), but we do take out about 3 times a month. Sometimes pizza, sometimes something casual, occasionally an expensive sushi dinner. It’s nice to sit in your own house and enjoy a meal that you didn’t cook yourself.
Never buy brand name items
Let’s face it, you don’t want to take chances on some stuff. Like razors, for example. Or shampoo. Don’t mess with my shampoo. You have to decide where you can cut back and rely on generics. We love Tide Pods in our house, but don’t mind generic cereal. I tried buying bargain brand paper towels and found that we were using more paper towels than the brand name ones. Yep, just like the ad says.
So what works for you?? And tips and tricks to share?