Thursday, October 4, 2012

Grocery Budget

My brain is a mess!  I have seriously been sitting at a coffee shop waiting on my Friday 9am meeting to arrive.  Finally, I emailed her to make sure I had my schedule correct and she kindly reminded me it was only Thursday.  What can I do but laugh.  I honestly thought today was Friday!  In that case...I'll scratch the 34 weeks post and move right into what I promised for Thursday...a heavy dose of grocery budgeting! Here ya go!

A little over a month ago we were on the verge of expanding our grocery budget.  We just couldn't seem to make it work and always ran out of money each month.  By the end of the month we were scraping together grocery money from everywhere-counting change in the piggy bank, borrowing from other budget items and using savings.  Alas, I decided we ought to just budget accordingly and add more money.

Then I came across a couple sources on Pinterest for saving money while buying groceries.  These sites intrigued me because it didn't require intense couponing.  Coupons just aren't my thing.  And most products that we buy (fresh fruits and vegetables) don't offer coupons.  The tips I found were pretty common sense but gave me the motivation to tackle our budget without allocating more money.  So we stuck to our $300 a month budget and here are some of the tricks that we have been using to stick to it:
  • Plan Every.Single.Meal
  • Make a list and stick to it 100%
  • Use weekly ads for grocery stores to find the best deal
  • Price match at Wal-Mart (see here for details about price-matching)
  • Make our own bread
  • Stop eating expensive foods like cereals and chips
Alex and I typically avoid Wal-Mart like the plague.  So we started our endeavor in cutting our grocery bill by store hopping.  We would visit every different grocery store in town to catch every deal.  It wasn't so bad.  We have many different stores in our town and they are all very close together.  But it was still time consuming, and we still weren't getting the best prices.  Let's be honest, Wal-Mart really is the cheapest. 

So in a desperate attempt we hit up Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon (bad idea) with our list and price matches in hand.  We navigated the aisles slowly but surely and escaped with a bill of just $45!  We were blown away.  Our typical week would cost us close to $125 and we cut that by more than 50%.  Of course shopping at Wal-Mart was only part of it, planning our meals and sticking to our list were the most effective changes we made to our grocery trip.

Since we successfully stuck to our budget in September, I thought I would begin posting about our meal planning and grocery shopping adventures each week to see if we continue to stick to our new budget.  Remember, we allocate just $300 and this includes all food and toiletries for our home.  This does not include our eating out budget (which is $100 a month) or our own personal spending money (which is $100 a person each month).

Each month can typically be broken into 4 weeks, so our weekly budget is $75.  We plan Sunday to Saturday each week.  We begin with browsing our cookbooks and Pinterest for meal ideas that will use what we already have on hand and that will also create leftovers for lunches throughout the week.  To find recipes for most meals we make each week you can follow my "This Week" board on Pinterest.  Here is this week's meal plan:
In addition to planning our dinners, we also decide what we will eat for lunch and breakfast each day.  Breakfast is typically oatmeal, but I also try to make a batch of pancakes or muffins on Sunday night.  This week I made The Chic Life's Apple Muffins.  For lunch we will eat leftovers and Alex also will make Eggless Salad to take to work. 

After scanning our pantry, here is the grocery list we came up with:
You can see our three price match items on the list.  There were several others from the weekly ads at Harris Teeter and Food Lion, but the regular Wal-Mart prices wound up being even cheaper than the sales at the other stores.  Most weeks we have more price matches but this was it for this week.

We were able to buy everything we needed at Wal-Mart except the tempeh and seitan and spent a total of $76.20.  This is a little more than what we typically spend, but since we bought items like toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, and even new tweezers, I wasn't worried.  Additionally, we spent $10 on frozen veggies since they were on sale.  We knew it would help to stock the freezer, especially when the baby arrives.

I expect to spend about $10 more to buy tempeh and seitan at a different store, so our grand total for the week will come to approximately $85.  Just $10 over our weekly budget but I know we can make it up next week!

Some other fast notes about our budget and shopping:
  • We hardly every buy organic unless it is something like corn or soy that is typically genetically modified, and sometimes if it is on the dirty dozen list.
  • We do usually buy fruit for snacks, but since we went apple picking this week we didn't need to.
  • We do not have a well stocked pantry, so we have to buy most of what we need.  Our pantry consists of a little rice, a little millet, flour and some condiments.  

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