January 18, 2013

New Year, New Old Habits


Last year gave us a financial smack down that we will be recovering from for awhile. Around the time we bought this house, we also gave up our budget, good spending habits and a good chunk of our savings. Then of course, thanks to a jump in Social Security taxes and the amount of money going into our medical spending account (yay braces!), our income is a couple of hundred dollars lighter each month.

Now is the time to reclaim those old good habits, I think. Actually last year would have been a better time, but I'd rather be late to the party than not show up at all. I'm back on the cash plan and trying to cut back where I can. Grocery spending kills me. I love to cook and bake. And eat. One of us in this house has a pretty hefty beverage habit: coffee, beer and soda.

My plan is to be better at menu planning and list making to minimize my trips to the store which in turn minimizes running in for corn and coming out with $40 worth of stuff I didn't even know I needed. One of my biggest grocery shopping weapons is keeping a tab going in my head of what I've spent which keeps me more controlled about what goes in my cart.


My last two trips to the store I've actually felt like I got a good amount for my money which is harder and harder to do these days with the climbing cost of groceries.

I'm curious how much you spend a month on groceries and how large your family is? What are your money saving secrets? My goal is to spend $500 per month for our family of 3 plus a big girl that eats at home a few nights a week. That will include pet supplies, cleaning supplies and any other household item we would need. Ambitious or insane? I'll report back.

33 comments:

  1. Boy we've noticed the crunch in my husband's pay too. Surprise, surprise! Wasn't expecting that much each week to be taken out! I am also trying to cut back at the grocery store. My guy loves to cook and we do eat well. Cutting back is going to have to almost be a total mind change as well. We'll get there! Your home is coming along beautifully!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this post! I have really noticed the difference in my paycheck as well. We have two little girls, 3 and 5 plus my husband and I seem to be spending between $120-150 a week plus going in for one item and spending $40 like you on items I didn't know that I needed. I live in Massachusetts and our income taxes might be going up which will also decrease my teacher's paycheck! I only wish eating healthy didn't cost so much! I need to tighten up my grocery bill as well!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd say we're at the $500/month range for 2 adults who cook at home, from scratch, almost every night. I don't see that going down all that much now that I've discovered several of my health problems are the result of food intolerances, meaning trips to the specialty stores for certain safe-for-me ingredients on a regular basis. But I don't begrudge our grocery budget it's due--food is one of the simplest things we can choose to directly affect our day-to-day life.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My daughter and I eat a vegan diet and buy very little that is processed. Most of what you will see in our cart is produce, grains, and legumes. Because we buy organic whenever possible, our grocery bill can get quite high, but we do it on about $100 per week (not always including cleaning/health/beauty). I think that if you plan and organize, however, you should be able to do it on what you have budgeted.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Without a doubt groceries are our biggest expense. I'm trying really hard to watch what's on sale and for us to eat at home. Menu planning, sales, and coupons here and there for me. Here's something for ya...at Christmas we ate ham so many times that I swore we wouldn't eat it again for months. Well when I grocery shopped this week honey baked/spiral cut hams were on sale for 99 cents per pound. I bought one and my hubby nearly choked when he saw it. :) It will go in the freezer for awhile.

    There are always slips...last night we went out for mexican food. I ordered fajitas and honestly, could have made them better myself.

    For the cost, it would be more fun to cook at home and have friends over.

    I have three men in the house here and there are months that I spend $750+. Ugh. Must do better.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh Jan, I just noticed that you groceries were from Target. That's where I got the ham. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. What do you think,is the Redcard a good card to have? We've been debating...

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think that's just about right. We've got the 2 of us and we live in a ridiculously expensive part of the country and that's just about my budget max, too. I do bake a lot and send stuff in care packages often.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm in rural Nova Scotia where prices are slightly higher than the city. I feel my family of 3 (plus an occasional extra) on about $400 a month. We eat a lot of soups and a lot of small meat dishes (Asian foods). And I think we eat well on $400 a month. But I'm dreading the increase!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jennifer,

    I am right there with you friend! Ouch on the paycheck! Totally requires a budget re-set for us. I spend about $120 a week at the grocery store for our family of 4 - very similar to yours. I meal plan on Sunday evening and usually shop on Monday's. I can get most everything with a combination of shopping at Trader Joe's and Target. I feel like both offer great prices - Trader Joe's on produce/meats/snacks and Target on all the package goods like cereal and stuff. Am I guilty of going to the grocery store for corn mid-week and spending $40.....yes! I also get a bee in my bonnet to make something not on the menu plan which also throws us off. I am cooking more with the goal of having leftovers or buying a turkey breast to roast or grill with the mindset that it will be great for dinner and then make sandwiches for the next day.....
    Great post!
    xo~Jill

    ReplyDelete
  11. I live in WA state where the prices are very high. It is just me and my husband, but we have pets (2 big dogs - 2 cats and a bird). I cook from scratch every night and we very rarely go out to eat. I spend about $1000 a month, but that includes everything - pet food, beauty and health, etc. I would like to cut that down and if you have any tips, please share! xx

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm a household of one, and I probably average about $50 a week on groceries/toiletries. That's for staples and cooking dinner at home at night.
    I've had to quit "buying just to be buying" because I waste a lot that way.
    I fix one thing, eat it 4-5 days, and then fix something else.
    I try to buy sugar, flour and some canned products when I have a coupon combined with a Publix sale.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Family of 4, $100 a week. And yes, that includes toiletries and cleaning supplies. We did it on $80 a week for years and I finally convinced my husband that grocery costs have gone up, our kids are older and eat more, so PLEASE up our grocery budget. =) Couldn't do it without clipping some coupons (not extreme like the show, but it does help) and shopping the circulars. Every Sunday afternoon I sit on my bed watching a movie, with my circulars, weekly menu, scissors, sharpie, and notespad spread all over. It's a finely honed system that I've come to love because I get all afternoon to myself to get the job done.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Do you have a cheaper place to shop for groceries besides Target? Don't know what's in your area. Here in northern IL, Meijer, Wal-Mart, and Aldi are the least expensive places to get groceries with Jewel and Dominicks being the most expensive.

    Funny you should mention this topic too, because I'm in the middle of outlining an article for publication on this very subject.

    A couple of quick hints: cut down on your meat consumption. Incorporate more beans, eggs, and pasta dishes into your dinner plans.

    We don't drink any soda or beer, so that's a big money saver too. We don't buy bottled water; we use a PUR pitcher and keep it in the fridge.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Another quick tip that has really helped us. I cook 3 big meals on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. We eat leftovers on Thursday and Friday (or sometimes we'll get takeout on Friday if we've run out), and Saturday is always pizza night (homemade and CHEAP). Sundays we usually have sandwiches but I try to make it fun by trying lots of different varieties like panini, a lot of different kinds of chicken salad, etc. My family loves sandwiches because you can do almost anything with them. =)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great subject Jen. We are a family of four and my budget is $120.00 a week. I am really trying to avoid the grocery store as much as possible so I do one big shopping day once a month for cans and meat etc. and go (with a list in hand)the other three weeks for milk and produce. I am hoping not being the store will equal less spent. I'll let you know how it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  17. We have a teenage boy, who equals three adults ~ LOL ~ and a preteen girl. Between the four of us, two cats and one medium sized dog, living in a 3400sf house with four bathrooms (cleaning supplies), I spend about 200 per week. I need, no I MUST trim that down somehow. I love the impulse purchases too much, like lox or the cute dishtowel, the roast that looks so so good, the bakery item I could make for 50 cents but am too lazy to, so I spend 5 dollars buying it premade.
    I think I can get away with 125 per week if I'm really careful and just shop the sales.
    Thankfully, we are good cooks and not at all picky when it comes to eating. So, I can take the sale items and make something yummy out of them. If I could just make two meals at once and fridge, not freeze, tomorrow's dinner, I would probably do better with my budget. Also, Aldi is a good place to buy everything (except their flour is NOT bakeworthy! Gummy junk.)

    Be thankful you are not feeding a teenaged boy. Seriously, can I hear an Amen? They are refrigerator vacuum cleaners.
    Good luck, and I'm anxious to hear if you find any good ideas or suggestions!
    ~Kate

    ReplyDelete
  18. It is just my husband and me. We keep a tight budget of $175 for groceries and $75 for Walmart. The key is sales and NO snacks or cokes. We live in Texas and have kept this budget for our entire 14 year marriage. If we don't need it, we don't buy it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. We are a family of four with two boys- preteen and teen boy each and that means there are no college savings, only food. We do about $600 a month, but that does not include any household supplies other than vitamins and red wine (wine is a basic need) ;) The big reason our budget is so large though is because we eat all organic non-processed food due to my digestive disorder. This is also our medical insurance, since we don't have anything else. And it works too- in the six years we've been doing it, our frequency of getting sick at all has been cut by 90%- and I have not had a flare up of my condition in all that time either. Groceries will always come first in our household regardless of the cost- we just cut other things- we don't eat out, go see movies or do anything that costs money. We don't vacation either. Wish we could, but it's better than loosing my colon which was the likley alternative!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am a family of one with my one cat,retired on a very limited income. I learned frugality from my Mom who raised 3 kids as a widow by herself. She taught me great shopping habits and how to make food stretch. I spend 150 a month on grocries and household items. The cat items are seperate and cost me 120 a month for her food and supplies as she is elderly and has special needs.
    I am a organic vegatarian so I do not buy meat, processed foods or soda-sugar junk at all. I have a Brita at home and make my own purified water and drink tea. It helps that my cart is full of only healthy foods. I eat only 2 meals a day always at home-breakfast and dinner. I do not buy food out unless its a special occasion. I eat a piece of fruit or some nuts if I get hungry during the day but I just do not. I make 2 seperate trips to the store a month for fruit and fresh veggies. Our prices here in California are so outragous for grocries you would not believe it. We are over 20% increase in prices EVERY month on everything. I shop local health food stores only for sale items and then grocery items at Safeway or Save Mart for sustainable legumes and beans. I do not buy any prepared foods and stay away from the Deli. I buy bread at a local discount bakery and eggs at Trader Joe's as they are organic and cheaper. I do not eat Dairy so that cuts out a lot of cost. I buy only what is on sale, if I want something that is not on sale, to bad. I go without. I am very healthy and never sick in 25 years due to a healthy diet so I justify it as everyone else in my family has had stomach cancer. You cannot put a price on your health. I cannot afford health insurance in Calfornia so I have to eat well. I believe eating healthy is a gift you give yourself and worth every penny. I cut back on everything else so I can eat well and stay healthy. Limit my driving and do not drive 3 days a week to save gas. One movie out a month at bargin day and no extra expenses help me stay on point. I utilize my local libraries for movies and books. I shop only at Thrift stores if I need something. This is helpful to read what everyone else does. Times are hard for everyone now.

    ReplyDelete
  21. You are a great cook and I know you can make the most of what you can afford. I am a Whole Foods and farmers market girl, so I can't offer any suggestions on couponing (too often for processed food!), but I can tell you there are some very good and inexpensive local places to buy produce-like the mexican grocery store with the restaurant (no impulse margaritas though!). And less meat is a great way to cut costs-dried beans and a little planning are so inexpensive. And (apologizing to the husband in advance) I made the choice a while back between soda, juice and beer. I choose beer :). Also cut out the cable (you can still watch Downton Abbey) and magazine subscriptions-good food it better than either!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I like this post you wrote-made me think that I spend too much for my family of 5 (3 sons and 5 dogs) for
    food. We can spend at least $200 a week on food. I remember when I spent half of that and I was shocked! Good, fresh food is expensive but so worth it! No beer, just wine and I don't drink it very often. Milk, water and the occasional soda for the boys.
    My husband likes organic coffee, too. But if he is buying it I don't complain. I think using coupons whenever possible helps and we go for the buy one, get one free items for whatever we use.
    I think going meat free a few times a week is great! Sometimes I barter for fresh veggies from someone's garden, I will sew in exchange for what they have to offer. It takes a lot of planning to save money at the Grocery store. I live in a small town with only two grocery stores so I go to both for whatever is on sale.
    All I can say is shop the sales!
    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I like this post you wrote-made me think that I spend too much for my family of 5 (3 sons and 5 dogs) for
    food. We can spend at least $200 a week on food. I remember when I spent half of that and I was shocked! Good, fresh food is expensive but so worth it! No beer, just wine and I don't drink it very often. Milk, water and the occasional soda for the boys.
    My husband likes organic coffee, too. But if he is buying it I don't complain. I think using coupons whenever possible helps and we go for the buy one, get one free items for whatever we use.
    I think going meat free a few times a week is great! Sometimes I barter for fresh veggies from someone's garden, I will sew in exchange for what they have to offer. It takes a lot of planning to save money at the Grocery store. I live in a small town with only two grocery stores so I go to both for whatever is on sale.
    All I can say is shop the sales!
    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  24. We are a family of 5 (teen daughter, almost teen son and a pre-schooler). We spend $175 or so a week on food. That includes coffee and wine. I know we should cut back but eating healthier is definitely not cheaper! I'm always shocked to see how much I really spent on apples and Brussell Sprouts and other foods that have to be weighed. I've tried introducing more beans into our diet so that we can eat less meat. Any tips you come up with would be greatly appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  25. It's tough out there, I know. We are feeling it too. Just bought a houe in December and, well, you know what happens with the budget. Anywho, we are back on the bandwagon too. My saving grace is that I no longer buy household cleaners. I make everything and it saves me tons. My laundry soap recipe washes over 60 loads for around 20 cents for the whole bottle. I make my own fabric softner, floor cleaner, dishwasher soap, and granite cleaner. It makes a huge difference in my grocery budget. Let me know if you want the recipes for any cleaners.

    ReplyDelete
  26. this is a great conversation jen, very timely!

    my husband & i had this discussion about this time last year. i resolved to be a better shopper in 2012. i'm not sure exactly how i did it, but, i managed to cut our grocery budget by $5,000 from 2011-2012. this included groceries, cleaning supplies, pet supplies (we have 4 cats..i know, gross!)

    i got a small notebook that would fit in my purse, made a list of our particular household items that i purchase most frequently--the staples. then, for about a month, i would record the price of said items from each store in our town. here, we have walmart, kroger, target, aldi, jc, kmart and a bunch of dollar stores, also included farmer's markets. prices do change, there are specials, but that gave me a good idea of which retailers routinely had the best prices. it also gave me a baseline in which to compare "sales & specials" that stores offer. (there are apps for these things, but they do not work so well for our small town).

    anyway, i got a great idea of which stores were the best for certain items.

    i learned that you will certainly pay more for fresh. i had to judge when fresh veggies would make a bigger impact than frozen. we eat a lot of fresh veggies and fruit. i only buy fresh fruit. sometimes the fruit in bags at the big stores is really good, sometimes not so much. it saves you money, you have to judge. also started baking the not-so-good, bruised fruit.

    i learned that aldi is a great place to buy nonbrand specific products. it is also a great place to purchase really inexpensive, prepackaged fresh produce such as those bags of mixed salad. no store can beat their price on milk.

    learned to buy meat in bulk when it's on sale and various ways to freeze it.

    aldi also has some really ok, everyday $2.97 wine. we consider wine an essential item around here. would never buy off brand beer there.:)

    there are some products that i will only purchase brand name. sometimes sam's has a great deal on them, sometimes you can get a good deal on newspaper coupons. sometimes you just buy them.

    i mostly only buy cosmetics that you can get at walmart. there are very often coupons for these.

    i'm a big gardener. i started most of my herbs, some of my veggies and my marigolds that i used for companion planting from seed last year, using plastic drink cups and soil that i dug up from my flower beds. this helped my walmart bill. the veggies i grew, helped my summer grocery bill.

    i tried really hard to stop making impulse, cute purchases and learned that all of those little $2.99 buys add up.

    i stopped taking out random extra cash when using the debit card.

    never used a credit card, only debit.

    this is way too long! feel free to delete. still struggling to live within a budget, thanks for the reminder post!







    one thing i cut out, was

    ReplyDelete
  27. Loved reading this post and comments-makes me feel better that a lot of us are in the same boat! I have a family of 4, have 2 teenage boys and our house is the hang-out house. My husbands job pays 1x a month...so the end of the month can be challenging-Sometimes I will challenge myself to make a meal with what we have on hand-get creative~usually turns out pretty good. I do most of my shopping @Target and Trader Joe's...not a fan of Walmart.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I hear ya! (As do many others, judging from the comments!)I'm trying to keep it down but its hard when you love to cook real, quality food!

    I shop at Aldi for these things: staples like flour & sugar, milk, eggs, cheese (they have REALLY good prices on cheese!), some produce, basic cereals like their brand of cheerios, tortillas, and some canned items like diced tomatoes. For those basic things, there is a considerable savings!

    Otherwise, I shop at Wegmans and Target. Wegmans (only on the east coast at the moment) is known for its gourmet items but actually has pretty decent prices on everyday items like chicken breasts. You can get pretty good deals at Target if you combine Target coupons (found on their website) with manufacturer's coupons. I'm not a huge couponer, but when I see a match-up, I take advantage of it.

    Please share any ideas that you come up with!

    ReplyDelete
  29. This is my first time posting on your blog, although I've been following and enjoying for a while. This post really resonated with me and I had to reach out and encourage you. You can do it! Your planned budget is reasonable. My secret is to cook as much from scratch as I can. I circle the outside isles of the grocery store and skip the inside rows. I buy local, in season produce as much as I can. It takes more planing and prep but it's worth it once you get into the swing of it. Make sure to keep us posted!
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  30. There are 4 of us in the house I try to keep it to $500, always have a list, I cook at least 5 times a week and buy fresh & local in season and have a plan. I also make extra for a second meal so if I make a roast I recreate it into something totally different also freeze whats left on the 2nd day especially soups. Oh and I love a good coupon!

    ReplyDelete
  31. I am with you girlfriend! And I HATE throwing food away! I go to the grocery store 2 times a month. Getting milk, eggs and cream delivered helps not make extra trips. I even have a "system" to how we eat so we eat almost everything and have no waste! I remake new meals out of leftovers (if there are any). And use my crock pot A LOT lately. I could talk for a LONG LONG time about this! One trip is to the grocery store that we always go to and the other is to BJ's. Although I don't always have to go to BJ's so it might be two trips to Hannaford. I buy a lot of organic items as well. I freeze A LOT too, bread, meat and etc. The freezer is your friend. Just have to get a lil creative :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Great post! I've noticed groceries going up and the paycheck went down. There are 3 of us (me, husband & 11yr old daughter)and I have tried all sorts of things. I was pretty consistently spending $100/week including dog food & cleaning/paper products. I've tried as low as $50 a week and that was pretty tight. I recently read somewhere that you should aim to spend $100 per month per person - so for us that's $300/month. I've been doing that since the beginning of the year - so far so good. I cook from scratch for the most part and we drink no soda and very little juice -- mostly water. And I don't buy store bought bake goods or chips very often.

    I think $500 seems reasonable for your family. I have found that menu planning is key but I'm also flexible about changing it if need be. I also plan for the whole month but shop every other week.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Debra's plan sounds good. I should try that when I get a kitchen.

    I don't care for Walmart, but I have a list of what is cheaper at Walmart than at the grocery store.

    So I go to Walmart, but then I go to Sprout's and Fry's.

    Shoot. We waste a lot with only three people and two of us are not big eaters.

    ReplyDelete