Times are tough right now.
People are being laid off. Salaries are stagnant. And prices are going up everywhere, on everything. Two income homes are becoming one income homes and families are struggling with how to pay the bills, get gas, and buy groceries. It’s stressful and wallets are definitely hurting.
Our family became a one income family when I quit my job to stay home with our two children. Our income was cut in half. So we changed our lifestyle and re-prioritized. It was definitely an adjustment on our budget. The one area I felt I could help us financially was in our grocery budget. My mission, borderline obsession, became “buy more, spend less.”
That was nine years ago.
We are still a one income family but we have added four more kids. My husband makes more and we are blessed that he is able to get overtime when money gets a bit tight. But I still consider it my “job” to stretch our money, especially our grocery money, as far and as wide as it can go. Actually, it’s more than my job.
It is my super power.
While I am by no means a budget expert, I think I got this grocery thing down. We spend a strict $550 on groceries every two weeks. That includes pet supplies, diapers for three, formula, and eight people’s worth of food and toiletries. Throw in miscellaneous items, school supplies, and activity needs and that $550 begins to sound more and more amazing, magical even.
So how do we do it?
Get a pen and paper and take some notes (notice I didn’t say scissors; no coupon cutting here!). I am about to let you in on my grocery superpower secrets…..
GROCERIES ON A DIME….BUYING MORE, SPENDING LESS
Make groceries a bill. This has made the biggest impact on stretching our money when it comes to groceries. Before, I would spend a different amount every month, based on how much we had or what was on my list. Now, when we budget every paycheck our grocery money is taken out just like a bill. There is no wondering how much I will need for groceries. It’s the same every paycheck.
Make a list. This one is pretty obvious. And easy, in theory. It’s a bit harder once you get to the store and start shopping though. Treats start calling your name. Candy begins singing to you. And everything looks like a need. I need chips and guacamole dip. I need double stuffed Oreo cookies. Make a list and stick to it. Your wallet (and waistline) will thank you. My favorite list making tool is the Grocery iQ app. You can make a list of favorite items, including how much they cost. Then you simply add the favorites to your weekly grocery list and it keeps a running track of how much you will spend, have spent, and still need to spend. It is WONDERFUL.
Make your meal plan from your list, not your list from your meal plan. Besides a few specialty items here and there, my list is the same every time I shop. Every item is considered a staple item and from these staple items I make my meal plan for the next two weeks. We do adjust for seasonal items, such as produce, and for items on sale. But for the most part I buy the same items every two weeks, even if we don’t need it. There are no surprises to my grocery budget this way. And it makes making my grocery list waaaay simple. Plus, I build up our pantry so when a month comes that we do need a little extra money somewhere else or have an unexpected cost arise, I can take it from our grocery budget by eliminating items we have stocked in the pantry from my list.
Be flexible. This one requires a bit more prep and planning but is so key to saving money on food. I do not shop just one store. I shop 3, sometimes 4 and 5 stores every time I shop. This can vary depending on the season also. Inconvenient? Heck yes! Epecially with six kids in tow. Necessary? Absolutely. It may take several trips of “Ugh, I could have gotten that cheaper here!” to make your store specific list. But it will pay off. At the checkout line. And in your wallet.
Shop discount stores and buy generic. We buy the bulk of our groceries at Aldi, a new and unique grocery chain in our area. Many of the items we buy are $1, $2, and even $3 cheaper at Aldi, including the gluten free and dairy free items we have to buy for our intolerant children. I also buy generic whenever I can. In most cases generic is comparable or even better to their name brand counterpart. But if the generic brand tastes like cardboard covered in sugar, I will buy the name brand. But that is rare. Like shopping with a three year old who doesn’t have to potty every five minutes rare.
Keep it simple. It is very easy in this age of Pinterest to try to be a sous chef at a five star restaurant in your own kitchen. But you can eat healthy without all the stress of an elaborate four course meal. Stick to the basics. They are easier and cheaper. Save the blackened tilapia tacos with homemade avocado cream sauce and lime cilantro rice for a special occasion. Or better yet, order it when your honey takes you out. Less items on your grocery list means more money in your pocket. And, bonus, less dishes in your sink.
And last, leave your husband at home. If your husband is anything like mine, you know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s worse than the kids. I am guaranteed to spend twice as much and come home with less when he goes shopping with us. So give him a honey-do list, pour some sugar on his lips, then speed away. Fast. Before he has a chance to sneak Fritos and cheese dip onto your list.
And that’s it. You know my grocery superpower secrets now. So put on your capes and get shopping!
I want to hear from you! What are some of your best grocery budgeting tips?