Friday, January 7, 2011

we eat a lot of food ...

Over the past few weeks, I have received several emails asking about how we stay on budget when it comes to grocery shopping. And while I would like to say that I am super amazing and spend a minuscule amount of money each week, that would probably be a lie. I'm sure lots of people spend far less. Just as I am sure that lots of people spend much more.

Either way, I have decided to share what works for our family. Maybe someone will get something out of it. Or maybe you will all get a peek at the ENORMOUS amount of food my family consumes. Who knows.

1. Track your current spending habits. J and I use Quicken to track all of our expenses. By creating a report, we were able to determine how much we had spent on groceries and household goods over the last year. For us, this number was around $1,000 a month.

2. Based on your current spending habits, budget a number that is REALISTIC for your family. I knew that cutting our spending to $500 a month wasn't going to happen. Instead, we cut our budget to $800 and with smart spending, almost always have cash left over.

3. Know what is in your pantry and freezer. Having a good idea of what you already have on hand will help keep you from buying things you don't need. I have found that I can "fill the holes" when I go shopping and have very well rounded meals. Also, knowing what you have and then using it in a timely fashion helps to minimize food waste and saves money. Here's how I keep track of what we have on hand:

4. Join a wholesale club. J and I do much of our shopping at a wholesale club, which is especially good for items that your family uses in high frequency. We have found that the biggest money savers at stores like this (except if there are HUGE sales at your grocery store) are cereal, hummus, tortillas, diapers, wipes, assorted household goods, lunch meat, cheese, yogurt and proteins. (Note: buying in bulk only works if you do your research and if you use the products. Just because it comes in a big box doesn't mean it's any cheaper than buying a bunch of little boxes. And if you throw half of it away, well, that's just wasted money.)

5. Use coupons. And shop somewhere that doubles them. Some people are coupon crazy and that's cool. It's just not my thing. We clip coupons for the items we use from the Sunday paper and try to match them to sales at our grocery store. The only time I use a coupon on an item that is not already on sale is if we really NEED it or if we will eventually use the item and the coupon is about to expire.

6. Shop the per ounce price. Most stores label their shelves with the per ounce or per 100 price. When there are packages of varying prices/brands, I almost always go with the one that is cheapest per ounce.

7. Make a list and stick to it. A well-planned shopping trip can keep you from spending money on items you don't need. I have the rule that if it's not on the list before we enter the store, it can't be bought until the next shopping trip. (J is more lenient with this rule.)

8. Shop once a week. J gets paid twice a month, so we look at our food budget as $400 for 15 days and we break apart our shopping as follows.

Week One: Stock up on items to last the full two weeks. Purchase more costly items like diapers and meats.

Week Two: Restock perishables (milk, fruits, veggies) and "fill the holes" in our pantry.

9. Shop the sales. 10 for $10 sales are awesome. Especially if you can match them up with a coupon. When the items we consistently use are on sale, we stock up (as long as we don't already have a bunch on hand).

10. Eat like a vegetarian. I've switched to a pescatarian diet and J and the girls only eat meat (usually turkey or chicken) about twice a week.

How do you save money on food?

24 comments:

(Just) Trying is for Little Girls said...

Love your list! I don't have the patience to do that. However, I do stick to a budget at the store. I track the $ I'm spending, not exact, but rounding up, and once I hit $100 on my tally, I know I'm done. I've even put food back on the shelf if I'm over.
And starting this year, I'm shopping the outer part of the store first, changing my "path". Hopefully, I'll end up skipping the chips aisle.
I think we can do $100/week since we don't have really little kids. Can you imagine how much you'll save when you don't buy diapers?

Anabela (Bela) Neves said...

Wow you are organized. I have more of a mental note of what I already have on hand and I do look at the flyers and whichever store has items I need on sale they are the one that I will shop at. I love fresh foods so I shop twice a week and we spend approx $160 a week if I am not buying dog food. Okay now I want to know what your weekly menu planning is. Will you share?

Michelle said...

Those are some great tips. I buy a lot in bulk and if I see something on sale that I know we eat frequently that may not be on the list, I always pick it up.

Julie said...

I was surprised how much money I could save just by changing grocery stores. I would say without using coupons or anything, we started saving about 33% each shopping trip by moving from Safeway or Fred Meyer to Winco. I have to bag my own food, but for a 33% drop in cost, Ya! I'll do it!

amomontherun said...

It's hard to save money~ especially when the stores keep raising prices...
I do follow a hanful of coupon sites on facebook~ like Krazy Coupon Lady~ and when she posts a deal for something we'll use, I get it. This week we ended up with 2 free containers of Oatmeal~ stuff that will stay on the shelf.

JenniferLeah said...

to eat as healthy as possible and stick with a budget I have to make several stops at several places BUT the extra time is worth it to me.

I get a lot of produce at my local asian market-for exampole, organic apples and pears are usually close to $1/lb. vs. $3-4/lb at the grocery.

I shop at my local farm/dairy/butcher for things seasonally. Not only as I getting the freshest possible, I am helping my neighbor farmer.

We use the wholesale clubs for things like PB, razors (crazy expensive!!) and the such

Trader Joe's has lot of all natty stuff we love at better prices then the grocer.

I buy my rice/dried beans/nuts/ herbs/spices/etc at my local healthy food shop in the bulk bins. HUGE savings!!

Allie said...

You're so organized! Mike and I need to take a page from you... we always forget what is in our pantry and we often go food shopping when hungry post-running. Big mistake!! We've found the gem that is Marc's in Ohio though for low-price produce. It's fantastic!

Amanda@runninghood said...

You are so organized and together! Wow. I'm lucky if I know what I'm cooking by 4 o'clock. We are awful with budgeting food. I just go to the store stock up on fresh produce and essentials and pay the price. But we could SAVE so much if I was more like this!

MCM Mama said...

Great tips! I tried so hard to keep a list, but I totally suck at it.

I get a lot of our vegetables and fruit from an organic delivery service. The cost is only a bit more than regular produce in the store and it's organic and usually fresher because they buy as locally as they can. Sometimes that means I have to learn how to use a new vegetable and I might be the only one eating it, but it really works for us.

Also, we do eat beef, so I get an eighth of a cow each year from a farm that raises grass fed, "organic" (ie, they follow organic practices but are not certified). The cost per pound works out to about the same as the cost of a pound of ground organic beef at the store, but half of mine is steaks/roasts.

Finally, around here anyways, Trader Joe's is a lot cheaper than the grocery stores, so if I don't need anything I know they don't carry, I hit there instead.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

First off if I spent half the time running and the other half doing this I would have a much better handle on things! I need HBBC to be over (I am waaay to competitive even when I know I won't win!!)

With that outta the way, I use Quick Books because I already use it at work. I don't have a freezer or pantry list and I think this weekend I will change that! This post might just be the motivation I need. I loooove this idea and the fact that you show that you are actually doing it. It helps me feel like "if you can find time to keep up with this then so can I." No more excuses for not doing it. thanks!!

As for the meat, my hubbs thinks that a meal has to center around a dead animal to actually be a meal. Whereas my meals center around fruits/veggies and then sometimes animal proteins. I wish for his health he would be able to change is mental position on what is a healthy diet.

wojoku said...

I started a budget spreadsheet in college to track my expenses. It really works amazingly to help save money.

And look at that handwriting! So neat!

Karen said...

I just have to say that I love your handwriting.

Julie @ Hotlegs Runner said...

You've been awarded! Check it out here: http://www.hotlegsrunner.com/2011/01/receiving-giving-awards.html =)

Marlene said...

We recently switched to a cash grocery budget when we realized we were spending WAAAY too much on food for two people. We are a lot more aware of what we are buying this way and it also encourages me to keep track of what we have that can be used up. (love your lists!!)

Heather -Momma Running Amok said...

WOW WOW WOW! You are the most organized lady I know. Do your kids always eat the same as you and J? That is my biggest issue is that my kids are NOT those that run to the table and wolf down their food, it is a process and a lot of threats and way more than I want to deal with at meal time. I have to say I love 10 for $10 (like when it is goldfish crackers!!!) Lucky for us in the South Publix does a ton of Buy 1 get ones...everything from super sized cheerios to catsup, mayo, bread, etc. Got to love a HUGE storage freezer!

The Hungry Runner Girl said...

SERIOUSLY.....I NEEDED THIS POST SO BAD!!! We are in desperate need to spend less on food! Loved the idea about writing down everything you have in your pantry etc because I bet I could get a lot of meals out of that stuff!! I need to get into coupons and that is so cool that some places double them. Great posts!!!
THANK YOU so much for answering my question, I value your opinion SO much and you are so right about the fatigued legs thing, thanks!! Have an amazing weekend!

Mamarunsbarefoot said...

Our food bill has gone up, I now have 2 teens and 5 kids total. I have switched away from processed foods so our pantry really doesn't have much. We live on fresh stuff and my milk is organic non homogonized so that costs more.

Lesley @ racingitoff.com said...

Using cash and keeping a list are the best keys for me. I get my meat delivered in 6 months installments, so that's separate. Most of my fresh fruit/veggies I get in a co-op every other weeks for $15. I couponed for awhile, but most coupons are for processed stuff, and I am trying to move away from processed. Too bad you can't get coupons for fresh produce!

Cynthia O'H said...

Great ideas, T! I'm really careful to only buy fruits and veggies that I know will disappear in a few days; otherwise, they end up being tossed in the compost and that drives me crazy. I hate wasting food.

Colleen said...

Great tips! I use cash for groceries, have a deep freezer in the basement, use coupons and always plan my weekly meals on Sunday. It all adds up!

Jesser said...

Thanks much for the post! It's always good to hear about how others managed these things ... gives you new ideas. I was also quite curious b/c most of the people who I see spend little eat (no offense, but) crap. We spend similar to you, maybe a shade more. Our biggest "sin" probably is the fact that we are not always excellent about using what we have ... either b/c we don't feel like it or b/c we don't know it's there.

A friend of mine does $250/month at Costco and then $65/wk at the local store. I like the idea and I think I may try to adopt a version of it for the new year.

Wifey said...

Love these tips! I'm sticking to a budget and I find that that helps. Knowing that I only have X amount of dollars in my pocket and CAN'T break out my debit card work wonders!

Thanks for sharing!

Winks & Smiles,
Wifey

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