I was at a family gathering a few weeks ago when my sister in-law asked me this. We were discussing grocery shopping and how much we spend each week. My sister in-law gasped when I told her how much I spend; she said she spends twice as much, with my other sister in-laws confirming that they did the same.
“Seriously, how can you only spend that much? There is no way.”
I felt that the need to justify myself. I felt ashamed. . . did I feed my kids? They looked pretty nurtured and healthy to me.
I answered back: Yes, I do feed my kids. Yes, I even buy junk food, but not an excessive amount. Yes, some weeks I spend more, especially if I am buying a lot of cleaning supplies or toiletries.
The truth is saving money on my groceries has become a game to me. I claim personal victory when I can come home with a week’s worth of groceries at a bargain price.
I will share what I told my sister in-laws (with additional detail).
My husband and I have a family budget that keeps us financially-focused. Our savings, mortgage and other bills, summer camps, vacations, gas, and groceries are all accounted for in this budget. The 2008 Recession prompted our diligent budgeting.
That Recession had a detrimental effect on our family’s finances. It is a time in history that I never want to live through again—a time that could have made us crumble as a family. Fortunately, it made our marriage even stronger. Together, through a lot of communicating, my husband and I were able to get through it and is something neither of us will ever take for granted.
This simple system (take out cash in the amount of your allotted budget) makes it so much easier to stick to a budget. Seriously — there is something about SEEING the cash and knowing how much you have left that allows you to stay conscientious in your spending.
We tried keeping to our food budget without the cash system, but it was too easy to lose track of our spending without it. All those little trips to Starbucks, the fast-food drive-in when you are running late, or eating out ADD UP. You don’t realize (or we didn’t at least) just how much you can spend without really knowing it.
The Cash System is also a good motivator for our children when they ask, “Can I have? Can we get?” I show them the money and say: “This is what we have left.” I want them to see that money does not grow on trees; that you need to HAVE money in order to spend money. As my youngest would say, “Just go to the bank.” Umm, no son, it does not work that way.
Planning out my meals for the week is probably one of the largest contributors to how I save money when grocery shopping. The reason is simple: I buy what I need and only what I need. I used to go to the grocery store without a plan–I’d stroll along each aisle and just throw in what looked good or what seemed to have the potential as dinner. I didn’t know what I was making for dinner and I certainly didn’t know how much I was spending until the cashier provided me with my total. . .Oh my gosh! No!
Now, I PLAN using the above Weekly Dinners printable. Click here to download a free copy. As for dinner inspiration, I use a couple of methods:
For the most part, I always sit down and plan out my grocery list before heading out to the store. My planning includes several tactics:
When many people think of using coupons, they envision someone scouring the newspapers for coupons and clipping them. Today’s technology makes this process a little easier. Here are some of my Go-Tos for instant coupons or future rebates.
The use of an in-store scanner is THE thing that definitely keeps my shopping intact. I realize that not all grocery stores have this option, but if they do, I highly recommend taking advantage of it.
With this handy device, I know EXACTLY what I am spending. I almost have it down to a science and can estimate how much I will spend in each department. Another added benefit: I can go in the 10 and Below aisle regardless of how many items I have since the items are already scanned.
Check to see if your grocery store has partnered up with a gas station to provide rewards. My store partners with Shell Gas Station and provides discounts on gallons of gas. Often my grocery store mails flyers with coupons including ones for extra bonus gas points. To me this is free money. On this very rainy morning, there was a bright spot—I received a .60 cents per gallon discount, which equated to over $7.20 in savings.
Please do not be intimidated! If I can do this anyone can—it really is NOT time-consuming. In fact, planning ahead of time saves me a lot of time (and MONEY!) in the end. Make grocery planning a game and be competitive with yourself. Make it your personal victory to save, save, save!