One of the tools that my husband and I used to determine what our finances would look like if I stayed home was the Discover card website. A few months ago, we sat down to review the finances to see if we were on track.
I noticed that I was spending $600 each month on groceries. That did not include meat. We buy our beef and pork from local farms, and Discover was not categorizing them as grocery stores. I decided that I wanted to bring my grocery budget down to $400 a month. This was somewhat arbitrary, but I recall that my mom used to spend $100 each week when I was a kid.
Now, I’m spending about $70 each week. Here are some ofthe tools I discovered along the way.
The first thing I learned was to watch prices. I started a spreadsheet on my phone and started keeping track of prices. I found that while the prices in my grocery store were low, there was another grocery store that was even lower. So, I switched.
I read up on couponing. I discovered extreme couponing. People were getting stuff for free. I thought maybe I could do that. It is possible. If you can find a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon and that thing goes on sale, you can get stuff for free. I learned that if you are going to get stuff for free, I needed to do a few things.
- Buy newspapers
- Shop at multiple stores
- Study the circular
I did these things. I spent 3 hours making my grocery list. I spent 3 hours driving all over town. I wasn’t getting anything for free. I actually feel like I was spending more money. I felt like if I had a coupon, I had to buy the product. I felt like I had to get every deal or I was missing out. I also realized that they never had coupons for fish or produce. This really was not working with my diet. What works for me:
- Use a website that matches up coupons with Target and Whole Foods
- Print online coupons
- Round out my shopping with generic brands from Aldi
3. Meal Planning
The thought here is that if you know what to cook each night, you won’t be tempted to go out for dinner or run to the store for missing ingredients.
I learned how to reduce waste by using leftovers. I hate eating the same exact thing all week, but I do like the convenience of leftovers. Here’s some tricks that work for me:
- Cook a Roast at the beginning of the week with extra vegetables.
- Use meat for sandwiches
- Make a casserole with the extra vegetables and some leftover meat from the roast
- Make broth from the bones.
- Make a soup from leftover meat and vegetables
- Make palao from the soup. (Cook rice in the soup instead of using water)
- Have a “fresh” meal between the casserole and the soup.
- Eat leftovers for lunch
- Freeze the leftovers for later
5. Shopping for and from the Pantry
This is about getting food for the lowest price that that I can. Instead of planning meals around what I feel like eating and then buying those ingredients, I look at what I have on hand and make something from those ingredients. I buy things when they are on sale in a volume large enough to stock my pantry. I use what I have in the pantry. My budget is not super tight. If I need something that’s not in my pantry, I buy one of the item, and I buy the generic.