Hopefully, if you're hanging out with me this month, you've taken some time to sit down and really think about your budget. This means you know exactly what you need to set aside for your rent/mortgage, car payment, credit card payment, student loans, and any other debts you might have. If you're like me, you looked at what was left of your anticipated income and wondered what the heck you're supposed to do with that?
After we built up a nice little nest egg in our savings account, our goal was (and still is) to put as much money toward paying off our debt as possible. Tots jokingly refers to Dave Ramsey before I go grocery shopping and tells me to buy nothing but beans and rice. Since I'm dedicated to feeding my family as healthily as possible, that isn't really an option, but I'm not above buying store brand EVERYTHING and only buying things that are on sale. My goal is to spend $50 or less every week on groceries (food only). We have a separate budget for other necessities (toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.) that we call our "Walmart" budget (because we're not classy enough for Target), and so far it's our most flexible budget. I plan to tell you more about our white-trash-Walmart budget in a later post.
As far as groceries go, I can typically meet my $50-or-less goal when I sit down on Sunday afternoon and plan meals for the week based on the grocery ad. I should stop now and tell you that I'm really lucky when it comes to meat; my family raises cattle, so we buy our beef in bulk. We just bought 1/2 a cow. It was a LOT of money up front, but that means our grocery budget will be manageable for the year. It also means I know where my beef came from, what it ate, and who raised it, which is comforting. I've found it's a lot better than what I can buy in the store (less fatty, and better taste!), and when it all breaks down, it's significantly cheaper.
Ok, so back to grocery planning. I try to make sure every dinner at least has a protein and a veggie. Anything on top of that is a bonus :). I also try to make sure it doesn't come from a Hamburger Helper box or a soup can, but if those things are on sale, I'll buy a few to have on hand for our busy nights. I'll also buy a frozen pizza or two if they're on sale. By the time Friday gets here, I usually don't want to cook, so we do a supreme Freschetta pizza and a cheap bottle of wine (the whole healthy idea sort of goes out the window on Fridays).
I try to buy whatever is in season for vegetables, but my small town grocery store doesn't have a great selection (and more often than I'd like, what they do have is shriveled and gross), so I buy a LOT of frozen vegetables. This is great, because it's relatively cheap and I don't have to worry about using them up before they go bad. When I do find something fresh, I might buy a little more than I need and freeze it for later use.
For meat, we tend to eat a lot of beef when we have it on hand, but I also buy a lot of cheap frozen chicken breasts, and occasionally some frozen ground turkey.
I also try to always keep yogurt and peanut butter on hand, because those are snacks that O and I both enjoy. Breakfast for me and the little one (Tots is usually gone by the time we sit down to eat) usually is oatmeal, eggs, or applesauce, so we go through all of those items pretty regularly.
Maybe the trick to saving on groceries isn't so much what I buy, but what I don't buy. I try to stay away from things that aren't good for you anyway. This makes sense to me, because a lot of times, those foods are more expensive. I don't buy "healthy" fruit snacks for kids (also known as gummy artificially-colored sugar-laden tantrum bombs), cookies, chips (much to Tots' dismay), or any kind of beverages (besides milk and beer. O needs his milk and well, we like our beer). This includes sports drinks, pop, bottled water, Kool-Aid; the whole nine yards. I figure if we want something to drink, water is the best option.
There you have it! It's not rocket-science; it's not even hard, really. It's just about choosing need over want. How do you save on groceries?