As a mom of three, when spending my days carting tiny tyrants back and forth to school, dance, soccer and play dates doesn't present enough of a challenge, I like to find other things to keep myself entertained. Last month, I thought it would be fun to slash my grocery budget clean in half for an entire month. Just to see if I could do it. That does sound like loads of fun, right? Right?
Our grocery budget for our family of five is $1,000 a month. And honestly, my twins don't really count because they don't eat real food yet. That means that we spend $1,000 a month feeding two adults and the aforementioned tiny tyrant, which is kind of crazy given that we eat most of our meals at home. We get paid once a month and rely on cash, so when payday finally rolled around, I divided our grocery budget into two envelopes; $500 to use for the month, and the other $500 as a backup because this was an experiment, and I needed to make sure I had the money there in case it was a total failure. It wasn't, and I picked up a few good habits. Here are five easy ways you can cut back on your grocery bills.
- Plan and prep your meals. I can't stress enough how important this is. There's no way around it; this part is time-consuming, but if you don't do it you're almost guaranteed to spend more money. I planned meals that I could make on Sunday and use throughout most of the week. For example, I'd buy a whole turkey and get at least four days' worth of meals. Think turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey chili, turkey salad, or, if you're fancy (I'm not), something like turkey tetrazini. By the end of the week, we were sick to death of turkey, but hey. It was part of the challenge. Get creative!
- Try new stores. I have an unhealthy obsession with Trader Joe's. So when I heard that Aldi is a sister company, I figured what better time than now to try it out? And seriously, I could not believe that I'd passed this store so many times and never bothered to try it. I was pleasantly surprised by their selection of organic foods and blown away by their prices. Trader Joe's will always be my first love, but Aldi is now a regular trip.
- Shop with a list, and only use cash. This is where I made major mistakes. If I didn't plan for the week, I'd end up running out to the store for something I was missing. That something would then turn into 10 somethings because, sales, and bam! I just spent $50 when I should have spent under $5. If you have to make an unplanned run to the store, make a list, stick to it, and only take as much cash as you'll need for whatever is on that list.
- Throw brand loyalty out the window. This one actually wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Buy whatever brand is on sale. This doesn't always work, because some brands really are just better than others. But in most instances, you won't regret it and your wallet will thank you.
Don't bother with coupons. Yes. I said don't bother with coupons. More times than not, I find that coupons make me buy things I don't actually need — i.e. I have five bottles of shampoo at home, but this one is on sale and I have a coupon! This is another mistake I made (more than once) while trying not to spend more money than I had to. Sorry, extreme couponers but stockpiling isn't my jam.
I went over my $500 budget, but still spent less than the $1,000 I had been spending previously so I consider the month a win. Try this challenge for yourself using these tips. Your wallet will thank you!