Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guest Post: Grocery Budgeting

Hi there Grocery Cart Challenge readers! I'm thrilled that I get to share a couple of grocery budgeting tips today.

I wasn't always a frugal person. In fact back in the year 2000, I didn't even know what the word frugal meant. When I decided that I wanted to quit my full time job and stay at home with my babies, I knew something major had to change. At the time we spent at least $600-$800 every month on groceries AND went out to eat frequently. For the past eleven years I have read everything I could get my hands on about how to lower your grocery budget. Here are a few things that have worked well for our family.

Meal Planning
Spending money at the grocery store without a plan is like taking your hard earned money and literally throwing it in the garbage. My "plan" used to be this: walk up and down every aisle, put items in cart that looked good, when done with grocery shopping, stop a fast food place for supper because "we had nothing to eat".

I didn't realize the value in creating a grocery list based on a menu plan. I don't always WANT to create a menu plan, but I know I NEED to if I want to feed my family on a budget. My simplified menu plan: we always eat the same food at breakfast, eat leftovers for lunch and I always serve the same dinner every Wednesday night. Here is the basic menu planner that I use.

Stop Comparing
I had to stop comparing my grocery budget to others. Instead, I had to look at the steps they took to get their grocery budgets so low. A couple of years ago, I stumbled across Gayle's blog and thought "Wow!" this is exactly what I need. By following the steps that Gayle takes (menu plan, list, buy ONLY items needed for one week of meals) I was able to reduce our grocery budget from $450 per month to $260 per month. Although our grocery budget is higher than that now, I have found that when I try to deviate from these steps I struggle to keep my grocery budget low.

I spend more when I don't take cash. Even if I "only" spend an extra $1.00 per week, that's still $52.00 a year. It all adds up!!!

Some suggestions to make grocery budgeting work for you:
  • If you are new to grocery budgeting, create a very simple menu plan for a few days (a week if you aren't overwhelmed). Create a grocery list based on your plan - be sure to include all stores you plan to shop at as well as any fast food stops you plan make. The grand total of all grocery shopping and fast food stops must be less than your grocery budget amount.
  • If you have been budgeting for groceries for a while, but still feel like you are spending too much, buy food for one week and one week only. Don't buy anything that is on sale or is a "good deal" unless it's on your menu plan for that week. Right before you go to the grocery store, re-write your list so everything is fresh in your mind. By doing these two steps for several weeks, I was able to reduce our grocery budget even further.
  • If you are a master at frugality, analyze your spending based on nutrients. For example, at one point in time I refused to spend $1.50 on strawberries because I knew that they would go down to $1.00. However, in the same trip to the grocery store I spent $1.50 on Doritos because it was an excellent price. You might also be interested in reading about the process I used to break down our breakfast budget.

Check out ~ Real Food, Without Coupons, On a Budget for more grocery tips and trips.

Johnlyn has been a homemaker since 2002. When Johnlyn isn't writing homemaking tips at HummingbirdHomemaking, you will find this quirky gal spending time with her family, surfing the net, analyzing her budget, taking long walks along the creek or reading a book. She's been married to a very understanding spouse for nineteen years and she has two fun and funny kiddos.


cherie said...

I love this one- something I try to keep in mind, and sometimes fail LOL
"at one point in time I refused to spend $1.50 on strawberries because I knew that they would go down to $1.00. However, in the same trip to the grocery store I spent $1.50 on Doritos because it was an excellent price."
Good article!

Mary said...

I love this post! Comparing the nutrition on items with a similar price is a great tip. You get a lot more for your money when you're eating healthy food.