April 27, 2009

Budget Realities

We here in the Kershner house are always looking for ways to save money. I looked at our grocery spending and saw room for improvement. This is a tough one for me because, while on the one hand, I hate spending hundreds of dollars every month and having nothing to show for it (except unwanted inches), I also love to cook and entertain and try new things. Those things don't really lend themselves to budget friendly shopping trips.

I have set my budget at $600 per month for this family of 4 humans and 3 pets and I that includes all food, beverage and cleaning supplies. Here are 15 tips on what I'm doing to make this work for me and how it might work for you:

1) CUT COUPONS- but only the ones for products you would really use anyway.
2) Don't be afraid of store brands. Many of them are just as good if not better than the "real" brand.
3) Learn where items are cheapest that you regularly buy & stock up on them at that store.
4) If it's on sale and you use it regularly, buy it even if you don't need it right now and hey go ahead and buy an extra and if it's on sale and you have a coupon, you better not even think twice about it.
5) Give yourself permission to buy the splurge items that you just can't live without. For me: Kashi Go Lean Waffles, fresh produce & organic milk and eggs.
6) Compare prices on different sizes of the same item and buy the one that is a better deal in the long run. P.S. It's not always the biggest.
7) Buy your produce at a wholesale club. We buy apples, kiwi, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries regularly at Costco.
8) Sometimes shopping a store you really don't like ( for me: Walmart) can be worth the sacrifice. The prices really are lower on the majority of the items, they match other stores sale ads and they don't have all the cute clothes and home stuff that tempts me at Target.
9) Try to avoid frequent trips to the grocery store for 1 or 2 things. I will go in for milk and bread and end up spending $50 on stuff that wasn't even on my list. I do a big shop twice a month with a small trip on the off weeks for whatever small items that I need.
10) Menu plan. I make 2 weeks of menus at a time and then when I get up in the morning and can't decide what to make for dinner, I just look at the schedule. I allow myself the flexibility to switch meals around as needed.
11) When you go shopping, make a list and stick to it.
12) Cook and bake from scratch when time allows.
13) Always make sure you have ingredients around for simple meals for those nights that you don't feel like cooking a big dinner. That way you won't be tempted to pick up the phone and order pizza.
14) Plan so that you use everything that you buy without having to throw food away. If you need buttermilk for that cake, plan to make buttermilk mashed potatoes to use up the rest of it. Keep a bag in your freezer for bread that is stale and for the heels, they make great homemade croutons.
15) When making dinner, cook extra and have a leftover night. Who wants to cook every night? We call this "Every man for himself" night.

I hope this helps some of you to stretch your grocery dollars. I'd love to know, what is your grocery budget per month and how do you go about making that a reality in your house?

43 comments:

  1. These are really great tips! Thanks for putting them together in such a nice organized list. My favorite (& wish I could stick to it) is planning menus ahead. I often think I will but just don't get it done. I'm going to work on that!

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  2. Great tips! I especially think that the stockpiling works very well. We stay under $600 for a family of 6 people and one dog.

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  3. Great tips! My DH does the shopping. He sticks to the list.

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  4. Awesome Advice! Thank you for taking the time to write/ype it all down! Always looking for ways to save on groceries!

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  5. I keep our groceries under $300 for two adults and two preschoolers. That includes food storage.

    I do most of the things on your list. One other thing I do is to eat really simple food: brown rice/quinoa with black beans&onions (with some great spices) is really easy on the budget, but tasty and filling. We do a lot of rice and vegetables and eat meat sparingly.

    I cook/bake from scratch. Making bread at home is sooo much cheaper (and better!) than buying it.

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  6. Thanks for the great tips - especially menu planning for two weeks. What a great idea.

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  7. Thanks for the great tips! Great idea about planning meals for 2 weeks. I love the bag in the background! :) Connie

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  8. This is a very timely post for me! I was recently shocked to realize that we were spending over $750 per month (for a family of two adults and one preschooler) at the grocery store, and most of that excess was due to "quick trips" to buy one or two items. This month, I set the budget at $450 ($300 less than we had been spending), menu-planned, resisted the urge to run out to the store for late night cookies, and with just a few days to go in the month, we've managed to stay within this budget. Plus, I'm averaging about 10-20% savings per trip with coupons.... It pays to PAY ATTENTION!

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  9. Menu planning is huge! Besides making the day easier I always feel so good when I am not throwing away a bunch of unused food. I get a thrill when we are down to like one piece of bread and some mustard and realize we didn't waste a single thing.

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  10. That's a great plan! I completely agree with you on so many things on your list: meal planning, buying groceries at Walmart, setting a strict budget, making a list and sticking with it.

    And every once in a while when I'm able to get out of the store with all of my items for the week and I'm UNDER my budget, I give myself permission to get a little treat...like a tiny little treasure at TJ Maxx or a small lunch out during the week. It makes it even more fun.

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  11. Great tips (that I,too,try to follow), mine favorites though are:
    1. I don't use kitchen paper, instead I make square cloths in different sizes out of old t-shirts.saves money AND some trees
    2. I make my own house cleaner detergents using white vinegar, baking soda, borax, lemons, essential oils and vegetable oil based soaps. You will never believe the freshness that my home smells after using these

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  12. We are lucky if we get away with $400 a month...thats for the two of us!!! I know...its crazy! Ive been working on getting it down but it is a serious challenge! Thanks for the tips!

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  13. great tips, Jen! unfortunately in our household, we don't so much have a "budget" as "what we have to spend after paying the bills", but I am so envious of those who do have, and stick to their budgets.

    what works for my family (3 humans, 1 dog, 2 cats) is to buy as much as we possibly can in bulk from Costco. we've learned what we go through and what gets wasted, so we don't buy that which will spoil before the bag is done. took a while to learn that lesson! but, we buy all paper products, diapers, formula, fruit, meat/poultry, bread, eggs, cheeses, soda, bacon, pain meds, saline solution ~ basically everything we can get at Costco, we get. what comes in multiple packages (bacon or bread, and obviously meat/poultry for example) gets frozen until needed.

    plus, and this is the kicker for me, Costco only takes "real money", not credit cards (we don't have amex), so it makes me really think about what we're buying, and keeps the credit card in the wallet.

    on my list of things to do (or get my husband to do since he does the cooking) is to get into meal planning because since Ellis was born, we have turned the daily grocery shopping trip into a major event. and my checking account does not like it. my idea is to have him peruse my collection of cookbooks for jumping-off-point ideas (he's not a recipe kinda guy), and plan a menu from there. it hasn't happened yet, but I'm hopeful!

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  14. its so funny, i'm such a planner and organizer yet when it comes to meals i can never stay ahead of the game. i love to think i'll plan my menu but i usually wing it...ugh...i do love to cook when i have all my wonderful ingredients and fresh gorgeous produce. i need to get with the program
    xo

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  15. Excellent ideas! If only I could get over the "too much chaos" in Walmart thing, I'd be right there with you. But having raised my children, I figure that splurge is worth it!
    Brenda
    http://cozylittlehouse.blogspot.com
    http://viewfromthepines.com

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  16. Awesome tips! I wish I could be so organised as to plan ahead with menus. One thing I do, having Italian in my blood, is to make a huge pot of pasta sauce each week. It's become quick and easy because most of the time is simmering time. I freeze containers of it and use it on other things like chicken parmigiana, or nachos too!

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  17. Fantastic tips! I learned a few years ago (Thanks Dave Ramsey!) that "Food" was one of the easiest ways to trim the budget. We have 4 humans and keep our food budget between $400 and $450 a month (I usually plan for the higher side if I know we're entertaining more than usual or if there's a holiday or birthday, etc...) I am a HUGE believe in planning the menu each week, making my list and then sticking to it. It takes the guess work out of "what's for dinner?" each night and saves me money. I also pre-plan a left-over night and I usually pick up a frozen pizza for "those" nights. :)Also, I take my food budget money out in cash each month and stick it in an envelope. When it's gone, it's gone. By the last couple of days of the month, we're kind of scrounging around, but that's a great opportunity to use some old pantry stuff!

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  18. You posted some great tips. Thank you!
    ~Michelle

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  19. I LOVE the every man for himself night!!!

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  20. Great tips lady! Thanks so much. I have set the same budget, but I don't even include the dogs, and we have one child. If you can do it- I better be able to do it!

    XO
    SimplyHeddyShea

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  21. Living this way has been such a blessing for us! As a family of 4,we went from $600-700 a month budget down to $300-400 a month. I never thought we could do it but after following a lot of the things you posted - we did :) The biggest change came when I took this gals grocery class - awesome!
    www.Faithfulprovsions.com
    Love your blog!

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  22. I use a lot of your methods in my household too. I ALWAYS plan our menus and shop accordingly to the menu plan. If I stick to the plan then sometimes I have money left over for me! Shhh don't tell!

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  23. Jen, I would be interested in seeing some of your menu/meal plans.
    other tips from me: I buy homemade soaps. I believe they are cheaper and better. Also- I cut down on as little plastic/packaging as I can and help that out by buying refills rather than a new container. For me, the best way to save $$$ is to stay out of the store! Cause I'm gonna spend something if I go in there!
    hugs, Cheryl in B-town.
    Whosyergurl

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  24. We have a budget of $500 a month for a family of 6. That is tough as I cook almost exclusively with raw honey and try to use top-quality ingredients, organic when I can. We eat a LOT of oatmeal, rice, lentils and beans thrown into chilis/soups, bean burritos, that type of thing to cut the meat consumption.
    I also meal plan as you mention, but keep a close eye on leftovers in the fridge. I can often get 2 leftover nights or more into one week. Sometimes, there may not be quite enough leftovers for a full meal, so I will cook up some sweet potatoes to "round out" the meal. It is a real hodge-podge and not gourmet, but very healthy and filling.
    Tina

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  25. great tips jen...I need to stay on this kind of thing constantly and it's nice to know others try to also. :)

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  26. Good tips Jen. I find myself in the store more than I should (lack of planning). I have been thinking that I should devote a month just to what you mentioned. And really get a handle on what our true costs are.

    Timely post for me!

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  27. Love all your great tips, these are words to live by for sure! I try to buy organic produce as much as I can, taste is important to me. Another great way to save is to cut out all packaged products that contain white, bleached or unbleached flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and any food colorings. I love baking things from scratch and hiding veggies in there for the kids and they don't know it. Maple syrup is pricey but we use is for baking and cooking too, so I believe it's worth it. We also buy organic coffee from Starbucks by the pound, and don't buy cup drinks from them. That saves a bunch too!
    I have a sugar free healthy cake recipe on my blog that I posted today. Check it out!

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  28. Haha everyman for himself night...that's cute...and such a great way to describe it LOL. Thanks for all these tips! I tend to go over budget when I'm grocery shopping also.

    All the best,
    Allison

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  29. I definitely need to get with the program.........thanks for the inspiration.

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  30. I like your practical ideas. We are also a family of four with two dogs. $600 is a reasonable amount I would say - with effort. I know I'm spending a good bit more than that now. I was thinking this morning as I was clipping a coupon from a box of sausage biscuits that I'm such a nerd. :) That's ok.

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  31. Wow~ THanks for all the great tips! This is so hard for me to do. I am not a very planner type of person when it comes to grocerys and whats going to be cooking. Daisy~

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  32. I think buying produce is cheapest, tastiest, and best if it is bought at a local farmer's market from a local farmer. That way you have to eat what's in season. Yum!

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  33. hi jen,

    at my local market you can actually scan items as you shop. sometimes this can be eye-opening because i tend to just pack my cart with produce, not realizing how much a bunch of grapes actually weighs. it takes time during the shop but once finished you can just self check-out and bag your things up along the way (i have the same bags as you -- a whole cute collection from whole foods).

    i also find that pre-packaged snacks, which are a.m. timesavers are usually too pricey. i just fill ziploc bags and if i'm really feeling inspired, put a cute sticker on them for my boys.

    great tips!

    xo

    ps

    thank you again, so much, for my goodies! i love them!

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  34. Great tips Jen! My husband is in the car business (this is where people usually give me that oh, I'm sorry look) so we have really been tightening the budget!

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  35. I Couldnt agree more! love those tips.. and you are right.. we always end up with extra ruined food that goes to the trash! and there are millions of people in this world who suffer from hunger! it hurts! thats why I sometimes dont buy the Extra big sizes as it can go bad quicker even if it saves me a little money.. what do you think?

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  36. We do the "everyman for himself" but we call it "fend for yourself". I agree that some things are just worth the extra. I know that regular eggs are cheaper, even when I have a coupon for organic ones, but when you grow up on a farm, you KNOW what eggs are supposed to taste like. These are the closest I've had since I was a kid. I may eat them with generic brand bread, but they sure are good!

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  37. These are all such great tips! :)
    Lidy

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  38. These are wonderful! Coupons are a really great way to save and get discounts on products. Some stores also have days when they offer special discounts on certain items, so it would be a good idea to time your grocery shopping along those days. A list is absolutely necessary when grocery shopping, this will help you keep your focus and buy only the things that you need.

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  39. Great tips....my tips are to have "breakfast for dinner" (eggs, toast and fruit salad) and/or have at least one vegetarian dinner per week.

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  40. Great tips! I recently joined this blogging world and made my first post on saving money grocery shopping. Check it out if you get a chance

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  41. I have to be honest and say that this is actually one of our biggest problem area in our household. I'm always curious to see how people do it (experienced people) as I'm a newlywed and have lots to learn about household stuff like these. Great tips and insights.

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  42. Wonderful post. I also keep a grocery inventory spreadsheet -- I realize people don't always want more spreadsheets in their lives, but this is a fun one. :) Helps me keep track of what's in my cupboards, fridge, and freezer so I don't re-buy and also encourages me to make up creative meals with what I have on hand.

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Thank you for taking the time to say hello today! I always love to hear what you have to say.