More and more people these days are diligently trying to save money. Some are getting second jobs, some are removing cable from their home and some are even having yard sales to get rid of clutter and make some side cash. One the biggest questions I have seen asked over the last year is " How can I save money on my grocery bill ? ". You would be surprised at how many people ask this question or have a statement of " My grocery bill is absurd ". I am in agreement with both of those comments|question.
Our home is a family of four. I knew our grocery bill was outrageous especially with two teenagers at home, but I wasn't really sure what to do about it or how to reduce the cost. When my grocery receipt started to look like a CVS receipt, I knew I had to do something, not to mention I felt like I was wasting food. And, I was right. I was buying too much at one time and was later finding that fruits and veggies were rotting, meats were getting freezer burnt and 5 bags of the same potato chips were opened and stale.
One day I was cleaning out my purse and came across a handbag stuffed with receipts. As I began to open them and look at them I realized over the last month many of my receipts had the same exact items on them. So, I went to the fridge, the pantry and the freezer. For the love of all that's holy - why do I need 5 bottles of ranch dressing, and that realization went on for many items. $hit, I am a hoarder. I hoard food. And, then I realized I can't even give half of it away or donate it because some have expired ( this is where I insert a heavy face palm ).
Subconsciously I hated going to the grocery store and my mindset already went to that very dark hole of " Here goes a couple hundred bucks ", " I guess nothing is going into savings this week ". I vowed to change how much I spent on food, how much our family wasted food, and my mindset around grocery shopping\money when it came to shopping.
Today, I am going to share with you my no BS way of saving money at the grocery store and my monthly budget. Let's get started :
- First thing, plan your meals for two weeks in advance.
- Set one day aside to commit to meal prep ( it works )
- Keep a list with you ( on your phone or on paper and put in your purse ) of everything you still have left in your freezer. I cannot tell you how many times I have purchased the same thing over and over again.
- Set a realistic goal/budget for food shopping.Withdraw that amount in cash ( do not use credit card / bank card for this. Leave card at home - reason is knowing you have extra $$ at your disposal WILL result in impulse buying - like Oh, Gee that cake looks fab )
FOODS THAT GO A LONG WAY TO ADD TO YOUR LIST :
Beans, Potatoes, Rice, Oatmeal, Eggs, Whole Chicken, Pork Roast, Peel and Eat Shrimp ( frozen bags ), Pot Roast, Whole Turkey, Ground Beef, Pasta. The goal here is to get as many meals as possible out of the items on your list.
SPLIT YOUR SHOPPING DAYS :
One of the most helpful things I have found is alternating shopping weeks. It has not only saved money, but it has also saved on a lot of waste especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
SHOPPING LOOKS LIKE THIS :
Week One ( if you still have meats in your freezer ) shop for all of your side items. This consists of your fruits and veggies, pasta sauces, etc and if you have a farmers market or produce vendor go there. Refer to your menu for your choices.
Week Two - Shop for meats. If you can go in the morning this is the best time because you find a lot of reduced meats. Grab your turkey ( whole ), chicken, etc for whatever is on your menu.
Week Three - This is your replenish week. If you are out of a meat, buy it, out of a fruit, milk, etc, purchase it. Only purchase that in which is on your list.
Now, by week 3 I am generally under my budget by about $20 or more from each week. NOTE : My budget is $100 a week ( still a little more than I like but I have 2 teenagers, 1 who plays football and is an eating machine, plus he has hypothyroidism and a metabolism that is off the chain ). In this week I take my roll over money ( generally around $40 , but keep in mind I still have a $100 bill stashed because my budget is $100 a week X4 weeks which gives me $400 ) and here is where I purchase some extras like flour, chocolate chips, brown sugar, all the little things I can use at home to MAKE my own desserts. Remember the apples you purchased from a week ago that aren't eaten yet, they make a great apple pie, they are amazing in a slow cooker with some cinnamon and brown sugar to top your oatmeal or pork chops and so on. Now, there is ZERO waste on anything you purchased and by making your own cookies and other desserts ( you can also shop up extra fruit and freeze it for smoothies, bananas etc ). We make our own ice cream A LOT because it's cheaper and healthier by using frozen bananas, coconut or almond milk and vanilla extract, you can also add cocoa powder etc ).
As you can see I generally have an extra $80 to $100 a month left because I am under budget. Listen, there is something psychological that happens here. First, no-one wants to get to check out and be over the amount you actually have ( so you really use a calculator to ensure this doesn't happen ) and for some reason ( at least for me ) since I don't carry a lot of cash ( or didn't ) I don't want to spend it, so I FIND ways to hoard it ( LOL ). Mix this level of thinking and budgeting with some coupons and you've got a huge handle on groceries.
Some of you are asking well, " What do you do with the extra you didn't spend " ? I have a Jar at home. Every cent that wasn't used, change and all, goes in the jar. Walk away, forget about it. This is my " Oh, $hit Fund ". This can end up paying for Christmas, car repairs ( unexpected ) school activities ( shoot me now it's my son's Senior year and when the heck did PROM tickets cost $100 a ticket and Senior Photos over $600) and even help pay down some debt at the end of the year. Dedicate a specific month you are allowed to withdraw ( unless you get hit with something unexpected ) or allow yourself 2 times a year to do it. If you don't need to, roll it over.
SOME MEAL IDEAS on how you can get more than one meal :
Turkey or Chicken - Regular meal with sides. Day Two - Sandwiches with side of fruit or homemade french fries from potatoes. Freeze extra by day 3 - and split it up into freezer bags for other meals like turkey and rice with gravy, soup, more sandwiches or to top salad.
Ground Beef ( I purchase big rolls of it ) separate into freezer bags. Spaghetti, Meatloaf, Meatballs ( to make sandwiches ) burgers, Salisbury steak, Goulash ( meat, elbow mac, diced tomatoes and seasoning ) etc
Make Breakfast for Dinner
Overnight Oats ( top with fruit ) - a great meal on nights when there is football practice, soccer games or chorus concerts. It's great for lazy days as well.
Pot Roast - Regular meal with potatoes and veggies. Open faced sandwiches, vegetable barley soup, served over egg noodles with gravy. Freeze excess like with turkey and chicken and re-use for later meals )
Get creative. Get on Pinterest. The goal is to always try and stash some money in your jar ( hey, even $5 adds up ) and be under budget. You will feel really accomplished and when you know you have a stash fund your mentality around money changes from " Never enough " or " I hate groceries because it takes all my money " etc. Mindset plays a huge roll in EVERYTHING.
I hope this helps someone !