The biggest challenge we face each week to staying within our $150 kitty budget is our grocery bill. At the beginning of the week we go to the grocery store and hope, hope, hope that we spend far less than $150 so that there’s a nice amount of kitty money left for the rest of the week.
Here are some ways we’re trying to keep that nasty grocery bill in check:
- Prepare a menu for the week and make a shopping list from the menu. I give some thought to inexpensive meals I can make, preferably ones that will give us plenty of leftovers, and write out the week’s menu. From the menu, I make the grocery list. I also check what we already have in the refrigerator or the cupboards and try to incorporate ingredients I have into the menu. Then I post the menu on the refrigerator so I don’t have to give a single thought to what I’m making for dinner when I come home from work.
- Always bring a shopping list to the grocery store. Even if you’re not interested in planning out your entire week’s menu like I do — and boy, do I understand that because the other day I really, really, really wanted to eat a reuben sandwich and the menu called for tuna fish — it’s still a good idea to give a little thought to all the things you need from the grocery store before you walk into it. You’re less likely to be swayed by whatever looks yummy to you in the moment. And, uh, bringing a list to the grocery store only really works as a money saving tip if you don’t add to the list once you get there. Yup, we struggle with that every time we set foot in the store.
- Check out sales before going to the store. One of our local grocery chains posts all of their weekly promotions online. They even have a tool where you can make your shopping list right from the promotions postings. Even if your grocery store doesn’t offer this feature online, virtually all grocery stores — even our local co-op — run print ads featuring their weekly or monthly sale items. I’ve found that if I don’t know about the sales before going into the grocery store, then I’m easily swayed by sale items while I’m shopping. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the 3-for-$10 sale on Ben & Jerry’s?
- Be buy-one-get-one-free savvy. For a long, long time I believed that when our grocery store listed a sale item as buy-one-get-one-free, they meant that I had to buy two items. Nope. Turns out that the item is just half price whether you buy one or thirty. Do you know how many times I’ve bought TWO of something because I believed that was the only way to take advantage of the sale?
- Don’t take your kids to the grocery store. This is a tough one for us because Charlie LOVES the grocery store so if one of us goes without him he’s sort of miffed. But, the problem is that if Charlie comes to the store, he sees things he wants and when Charlie sees things he wants, well, let’s face it, he usually gets them. He is an only child, after all. Another problem we have when Charlie comes to the grocery store is that we’re often so busy deflecting his reaching for things on the shelf that 1. we don’t always know what he’s managed to put into the shopping cart, and 2. we don’t have time to really read price tags, so comparison shopping among brands is virtually impossible. The final problem with taking Charlie to the grocery store is that he can be distracting to the point where we don’t get everything on the carefully planned list. Case in point, yesterday the three of us went to the grocery store. When we got home we unpacked our bags and discovered that we’d come home with FOUR bags of goldfish crackers. Four. That’s three more than we’d intended to get. And, then we realized that we’d forgotten three other items on the list.