Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: The Big G

 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 . . .

  1. We make our menu plan 2 weeks out (we prefer to go grocery shopping every other week instead of each week). 
  2. Once we have our menu planned, we scour our stockpile, pantry and fridge for the items we have on hand to make our meals. 
  3. If we don’t have a certain item, we put that on our “to buy” list. 
  4. 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!

7 comments:

  1. Way to go - I think so many times we just spend money and we don't even know where it all goes. I'm so proud of ya'll for keeping a budget!

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  2. Love it! We're about in the same place -- 200 a month, and we've been coming in below it too while still eating well. I do think a huge player in that is meal planning :)

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  3. Rachel, you are so adorable. When I come to your blog I always smile. I think you are doing life right! I love how you are finding ways to save your hard earned money. Very very refreshing!
    I pray that God blesses all of your efforts and work.
    I feel like a proud Aunt!
    Blessings,
    Yvonne

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  4. Great post! I menu plan most of the time and then sometimes we just wing it. I dread grocery shopping - maybe I need to get be more organized. Great tips!

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  5. Love it! Great Idea. Just checking out what great things your up to.
    I have a free directory you can enter your link into if you like, as well as a free e-report about growing a blog you can read.

    Today I have a post about hot buttons to push for more blogging and business success if your interested.

    http://bloggerchixdesigns.blogspot.com

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  6. We have $75 a week, and great when it goes under, but a few weeks ago it was almost $100, and we seemed to have bought less then when we spend $75 - Corey budgets like crazy but I will have him check out mint.com, and we tried couponing too - there were hardly ever coupons for things we ACTUALLY use...

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  7. Hi Rachel,

    I am back for a visit and noticed you were looking for some recipes. I have tried the dish soap, but it wasn't successful. I found it was cheaper to combine coupons and sales. Furniture polish is 1 part vinegar or lemon to 2 parts olive oil. If you use lemon juice you'll need to refrigerate it. The recipe is on my blog. There you'll also find a recipe for laundry detergent.
    http://thewanderingcottage.blogspot.com/
    Paige

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Rachel