Photo Credit: prevention.com
Today, I thought I’d delve into the most dreaded (at least in the Atwood home) thrifty topic—grocery shopping. I say dreaded because it’s taken us a while to get thrifty in this area, but we’ve finally mastered it! Before I share our system, however; here’s some background into how we used to do grocery shopping . . .
When Nathan and I first got married, we decided we’d do the coupon thing. In fact, we probably over-did the coupon thing. Our stockpile began to overflow, our pantry was busting open and our freezer seemed constantly cramped. We were using coupons and saving tons, but we somehow managed to go over our grocery budget each month. Granted, our grocery budget is only $200 a month, so it’s quite easy to go over if you’re not methodical about what and how much you buy. We were buying like we were a family of 4, just because we had the coupons for it. We quickly saw we needed to change something if we wanted to stay within our modest food budget.
We decided we’d cut out cleaning products from our budget, and start making our own. This has saved us a lot! The only cleaning products we still buy are dish soap, laundry detergent and furniture polish. (And if anyone has a great recipe for those last three, then please share!) To see the recipes for our homemade cleaning products, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of my experiment.
We stopped buying Health and Beauty products at grocery stores. Since Nathan works at Walgreens, we get quite a good deal on these products by using coupons and using his employee discount. Even if we didn’t get the discount, however; we’ve found that these products are tons cheaper at drugstores if you pair manufacture coupons with store coupons.
We also (thanks to Laura over at I'm an Organizing Junkie) decided we’d start menu planning. This has probably been the biggest lifesaver for our food budget. I decided I’d start posting our menu plan each week in order to keep us accountable. It’s worked like a charm. And since we’ve started our weekly menu plan, I’ve seen the biggest change in our food budget.
Here’s what we do . . .
- We make our menu plan 2 weeks out (we prefer to go grocery shopping every other week instead of each week).
- Once we have our menu planned, we scour our stockpile, pantry and fridge for the items we have on hand to make our meals.
- If we don’t have a certain item, we put that on our “to buy” list.
- We take our list (which usually contains some other staples like milk, bread, etc. on it) and sit down with all of our coupons. We only pull out the coupons for items that are on our list. Before, we were taking the entire coupon book to the store and buying “just because we had a coupon” or “just because it’s on sale.” Not to mention, it's frustrating digging through 100+ coupons! Now, I only use coupons for what’s on the list. This usually results in me taking only 15-20 coupons with me grocery shopping--much more manageable!
The best part is, I’ve managed to spend on average about $80 every two weeks at the store—resulting in me coming in under our food budget (and me doing a little happy dance when I leave the store).
Our system takes some time and planning, but it’s totally worth it in the end. We love seeing our little grocery number on our mint budget in the green! Which reminds me, if you haven’t checked out mint.com, do so! It’s the best budgeting tool we’ve found, and makes things super easy (even for a math hater like me).
So how do you grocery shop? Do you menu plan, or just wing it? What's your favorite budgeting tool? We’d love to hear!