Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pinching Those Pennies - Groceries

In our home, I am responsible for keeping track of the budget, paying the bills, grocery shopping, and the like. I take this responsibility seriously. If Pat is out there working his hiney off to provide, it's my job to use what he's providing wisely.

With gas prices these days (they really are the cause of all our woes, aren't they?), it can be tough to make ends meet some months. I've been blessed with a best friend who is VERY wise in managing money, and she took the time to teach me a few tricks. Thanks, Christine!

Here's how to grocery shop on a dime (even for a large family)...

#1 - Establish your budget. How much do you have to spend on food? It's important to base this number on the reality of what you can afford to spend, not on how much you think you need/should spend, or on how much you've spent in the past. If you are on a particularly tight budget, it is realistic to spend $100-$150 per family member for the month. Really, you can do it!

#2 - Take that money out, in cash. I am notorious for spending twice what I planned to spend at the grocery store. It's easy to do with debit and credit cards. If you have only cash, and leave the cards at home, you have a fool-proof method to prevent overspending.

#3 - Make a meal plan! I know, the dreaded meal plan. I feel your pain. But without a plan, you are not in control of what you spend. (It may be helpful to do step five first, so you know what you've already got to work with when you plan.)

#4 - Create a detailed supply list from your meal plan. If you're making baking powder biscuits with dinner one night, you better make sure you've got all those ingredients on the list. It simply wouldn't do to be out of eggs, for example! Don't forget to note how much you'll need (for example, if you plan to serve frozen mixed veggies a lot, you'll want to write down that you need 2 bags).

#5 - Go through your pantry. Cross off items you've already got. That leaves you with your shopping list.

#6 - Price it out in advance. Go through the shopping list item by item jotting down the approximate price (it's always better to estimate a bit high - it would be embarrassing to estimate too low and not have enough money once you get to the cashier...been there, done that). Calculate it all out. Does it fit your budget? If yes, well - go shopping! (see step 8.) If not, go for step 7.

#7 - Go through flyers and coupons. Cut coupons for items you regularly buy (don't bother with those coupons that are 'a great deal' if they are for items you don't need - they'll just tempt you). Watch for sales. (Sometimes our stores will have 2-for-1 meat sales, where you can buy a pack of 3 pork roasts for $15-20 and you get the second pack of 3 for free. That's SIX roasts for $20 - for us, 3-4 meals worth of meat.) Some stores have certain discount days, such as 15% off on the first Tuesday of the month. There have been times where I've driven to four or five different stores to get all that I need for the month.

#8 - Shop slowly and carefully. Take your calculator and keep a running total. Shop ONLY from your list. Comparison shop - is the generic brand significantly cheaper? Maybe it's worth trying (though I don't recommend this for ketchup - Heinz really is better). I strongly suggest getting a sitter or leaving the kids home with hubs - children are distracting from this process and will cause you to make mistakes, and if they're anything like mine they'll be constantly badgering you to buy them items that are not on the list.

Have fun shopping on a budget! And take pride in it - rather than seeing it as a reflection of tight financial times, recognise that it is a skill and a talent and that you are giving a gift to your family (and your husband) by managing your resources wisely.

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies... She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar... She provides food for her family... She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness... Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." ~Proverbs 31:1, 14, 15b, 27-29


  1. Great ideas! Also, we make homemade things instead of buying convenience will save quite a bit. :D

  2. going through the pantry after you make the list is a great idea. i usually make a new pantry list every month then cross off as i make my meal plan.

  3. Thanks for sharing! This is something I really need to work on. Though right now I just hate shopping - I avoid it as much as possible so when I do go, I stock up and buy everything in sight.

  4. I actually do some of these things.
    I find that I am more careful with cash, and check my "head" if we can afford something that is on the list. Those items that are so-so, I let those in "need" know ahead of time it might not happen.
    How long can we go wtihout purchasing certain things like: ink for the pc or juiceboxes? It has been about 8 weeks, and still no real desire to change it.
    I find that we spend more on fresh, and less prepared. It is a good feeling to know that we do not need as much as we think.

  5. Great tips, thanks! And I'll agree with you on the Heinz ketchup...and I only buy Jif PB, too! :)

  6. Great tips - I posted about on my blog this week....

  7. Great tips...
    And you are so right about the Heinz ketchup!!

  8. I have a question. Do people really spend $100 - $150 PER person each month? I have seven people in my family....that would be $700 - $1,050 spent on food each month. I am just wondering, because my monthly budget is a little over $400 a month. I feel so guilty, because I can hardly stay within my budget. I would LOVE to be able to spend $700 a month!!!

  9. Thanks for sharing. I have been trying to cut back my grocery budget too.

  10. To sherry - you're right! I forgot to mention that. Cooking real meals from scratch is much more cost-efficient. (Though not so time-efficient, lol.)

    To mylifewithfivekids - Good question! Included in my $100 per person per month are the following items: baby food, diapers, wipes, cleaning supplies, pharmacy supplies, personal hygiene items, etc. Basically, the only thing not included is clothing, which gets its own space in my budget spreadsheet (and thanks to awesome grandparents is almost always at $0). But yeah, where I’m living at, my groceries cost me about $850 per month, and that’s when I’m following the guidelines I listed. You either live in an area with wonderfully inexpensive food, or you are ONE MIGHTY TALENTED WOMAN!!! Big props to you for sticking to that budget. How about you give me some tips on your blog?

  11. wonderful ideas! thanks for sharing!

  12. I wrote the wrong number. My budget is actually for a little under $400, but I just can't make it with that little money. After much thought, I realize that I actually spend a little over $500. I try SO hard not to spend anymore. We just don't have the extra to spend. I will post how we do it, but you will probably not want to do what we do.

  13. Thank you for all the great tips. I've starting clipping coupons again, every little bit helps these days.


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