Groceries. The never ending bill! If you’re like me, then you love to eat. The only problem is that I love to eat what I want, when I want it, which can wreak havoc on a budget. Surprisingly though, I don’t enjoy fast food or eating out. After reading a few restaurant reports or seeing a few Gordon Ramsey shows like “To Hell and Back,” I gladly choose home cooked meals over local cuisine most days. That’s not to say I like to cook, because I don’t. I just like to eat. In either case, groceries are the largest portion of my discretionary spending each month and while mastering it takes great skill, it can be done.
A little background. When evaluating my budget and going through my debt snowball, I saw that as a family of 3 – one adult, a teenager, and a young child – I was spending $500-$600 per month on food. In fact, in February of 2016, I spent nearly $700 during the shortest month of the year! Really?!?
You may be wondering how in the world I spent so much. Easy. Daily trips to the grocery store. Failure to strategically plan meals. Giving in to cravings. Buying pricey foods like salmon, steak, gourmet cheese, and decadent desserts. It adds up quickly! Additionally, I’m not a couponing mom since most of the foods I buy don’t qualify and since time is so limited, I choose not to invest it in planning shopping routes, buying newspapers, and cross-referencing ads with manufacturer discounts. That’s just not me! So how did I reign in on my grocery spending? Well, I’ll tell you, it hasn’t been easy and I’m still learning to do better, but overall, the improvement is there and I look forward to pressing forward. Following are a few tips to master your grocery budget while still eating healthy. They have worked for me, so maybe they can help you:
- Set up a sinking fund for groceries based on your average monthly needs. Then decide how often you’ll take shopping trips – weekly, bi-weekly, daily, or as needed?
- Pay for groceries using only cash. That’s right, just cash! Once you run out, don’t buy anything else until the fund is replenished with your next check. This is essential!
- Try to create a grocery list and stick to it. I like to put little boxes next to each item so that I can check them off as I grab them. Also, estimate the cost of groceries by writing the price of the item next to it on the list. This allows you to prioritize and have an idea of how much you’ll spend.
- Avoid packaged foods. They are usually processed and not very healthy. Stick to things that occur naturally – either from a plant, animal, or both.
- Serve water as a drink. You can infuse it with fruit and veggies or drink it plain. This eliminates sugary drinks and cuts the cost of high calorie juices and sodas.
- Use leftovers to make new meals. If you like variety, this is important. If your kids like monotony, then serve leftover dinner for lunch the next day.
- Allot for a new item each trip. Some foods are seasonal so they are only available for a limited time. Its important to spice things up and allow your kids to have new experiences. This goes for food too, so make sure to try something new so that you want feel deprived or limited.
That’s it! Easy right? Got any more ideas? If so, do tell! What are some tips you use to stay healthy in body and wallet when you shop? Share your suggestions in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!
Happy saving! Live well!