So I'm going to share a series of posts of how frugally we live, the tips and tricks I use to save a buck(s), and how we are constantly striving to be better stewards of our money.
I grew up in a very frugal home (oh the stories I could tell!) so it's pretty much ingrained in my DNA to not overspend. The few times we do overspend I tend to go into panic mode. That's really not a good reaction, especially if it's something that I spent a dollar for that was supposed to be 50 cents... ah hem...
On the flip side though, I've noticed there are a lot of people who were not raised like I was and that I'm definitely in the minority. Managing money is hard and I'm no master by a long shot, but the way we control our finances can really make us or break us. It should also not reign over our emotions, for example me freaking over spending an extra 50 cents.
Nothing is new that I'm sharing. It's simply things that work well for us. I have been asked how I get away with living the way we do. So if it helps someone else, yay! If not, no worries.
I'm going to write this in a series so I can go into more depth with each topic. First up- grocery shopping!
1. Make A Budget
Commit to weekly or monthly total that you will spend on groceries. If you're married, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and then hold each other accountable. For example, ours is $400 per month for a family of four. Sometimes we do go over, but that is usually during month when a store is having a killer meat sale and we stock up our deep freezer like it's the apocalypse. If you go slightly over, don't beat yourself up. Set a doable amount, then try to save an extra few dollars each month.
Oh yeah you read that right. Before you go off trying to search out the best food deals, make sure you're full! Otherwise your list, followed by your shopping cart, followed by your pantry will be full of overpriced ready-to-eat meals and junk food that sounded mouth-watering and will ultimately destroy your budget.
3. Make A List
This has some sub-categories. It sounds like you just write a bunch of items down that you're low on and you're set. Let's think deeper on this shall we?
-Find several recipes you usually cook or new ones that sound delicious. Pick maybe 3-5 for a start so you don't get overwhelmed, but you still have enough meals for a week or so. They don't have to be fancy at all but do make sure your family will at least try them. See what ingredients you have on hand FIRST then see what you're lacking. Put those items on your list. I will tell you cooking from scratch is probably my number one money-saver!
-Search the grocery store weekly sales. Most everyone gets the weekly circulars in the mail mid-week, or you can look them up on the store websites. I usually see what other bloggers have to say about what's a good deal and what's not. Now remember your ingredients you need? See if any of those match up with the store deals. Look at multiple stores too! For example, if you need ground beef and King Soopers has it for $3.99 a pound and Safeway has it for $4.25 a pound then you just saved yourself 26 cents a pound! Seriously, those pennies add up quick, and don't even get me started on the price of ground beef these days... I think raising a few cows may be cheaper... yeesh!
Anyway... back to what I was saying...
-Stick to your list! Don't impulse buy! Just say no! I definitely don't have a perfect track record with this, but if you want to get some serious control you will have to lay down the law about what you choose to spend your money on. Don't even go to the parts of the store that have the ready-to-eat food, candy, soda, etc. Put your blinders on, zero in on your list, and if you have to get out of that store as fast as you can! :)
Side Note: Stores usually put their best sales on the front page to draw you in, but you need to be careful because they will also put items that are a normal price up front too. I won't be able to give a full blown rock-bottom price list right now, so feel free to ask if something's a good deal or not or search out money-saving bloggers near you.
4. Hunt For Coupons
I used to get the Sunday newspaper for coupons. It worked quite well for a couple years and still recommend this, however for me personally the paper stopped paying for itself. It did work well for finding coupons for lots of different food items (and some restaurant and department stores as well). Coupon websites, money-saving blogs, and even Facebook have proven beneficial to being able to print coupons. I shop at King Soopers a lot and their e-coupons are usually pretty good, plus I get gas points to boot! Last I checked King Soopers and Safeway are the only stores that double coupons (up to a dollar) but make sure you know each store's coupon policy before shopping, which can be found on their websites. If you can match a great sale with coupons you can get lots of products for half price or even less!
5. Lower Your Standards
Remember how I complained about ground beef skyrocketing in price? We are starting to use more ground turkey instead. I have found ground beef to be around $4 a pound (and that's for the super fatty kind! Ugh!) and $2.50 a pound for Honeysuckle ground turkey at King Soopers. We really do prefer ground beef, and when it goes on sale we'll stock up, but to save us nearly half price I'm buying a different kind of meat.
This goes for almost every kind of food. Get the store brand versus the name brand- it will usually save you at least 33% if not more and truly there's not a big quality difference. Check the price per ounce on each item to see if it actually is a better deal. I've been surprised sometimes that brand names can be cheaper!
Find the parts of the store that say "Manager's Special" or "Markdown." Though beware on the "Manager's Special" on perishable items because 99% of the time they are items that are quite close to their expiration date. So either freeze or eat it immediately. I have found so many great deals in these sections on not just food but things like trash bags, diapers, toiletries, and even toys!
All this may seem like it's tedious, time-consuming, or downright confusing. It took me several MONTHS to get to a place where I felt competent deal shopping. Don't give up after a week. Getting control of what you buy at the store is going to take time, diligence, and discipline.
YOU CAN DO IT!
If you have questions, ask away in the comments. Or feel free to share any grocery saving tips you use!