Saturday, December 28, 2013

The first steps in taming your grocery budget....

Hopefully you completed the first assignment in creating a first budget and have calculated how much you have spent on average for groceries and eating out in the past 6 months.  I'm not here to judge, remember, when I first did this, I was spending over $1000/month!  I asked you to make a realistic budget amount for your food budget based on your actual past spending.  You are doing amazing!

The biggest key to my success for taming your grocery budget is going to seem strange to most of you.  You are not going to think it will make much difference.  Do you know how I know what you are thinking?  Because when I found Dave Ramsey and he said this would be life changing, I laughed too!  The big secret?  Using CASH only to buy my groceries.  CASH, not a debit card, not a credit card I plan to pay off every month, COLD.... HARD..... CASH!  Stay with me here as I attempt to explain how this helps.  It's really a mind set and a concrete way to stay on budget.  I used to swipe my debit card for groceries, but I never really knew how much I'd already spent or even how much was in my cart!  There is a completely different feeling when you have cash in hand and it's easy to know when your grocery budget it gone because you are out of money!  

Every pay, I take $200 out of the bank for groceries and put it in a little zipper pouch in my purse.  All groceries, McDs, pizza, etc is going to come out of this little pouch.  I try to make it a game to see how much I can have left when the next pay rolls around.  I either roll that money over to the next month to help stock up on things, use it to buy a special meal we normally won't have, or put it in the vacation or gift fund.  Just the fact that you are paying with cash will help you stick to your list and will also make you much more aware of the cost of your cart!

Trust me!!  You must pinky promise me that if you go over your cash, you will NOT whip out a debit or credit card.. or even a check.  You must promise that IF you go over, you will put items back!  Knowing that you will go through the embarrassment of putting things back if you go over will help you pay attention to how much you have in your wallet AND in your cart!

The second biggest key to my success in the grocery area is making a plan and following it!  Think of all the times you have had a rough day and coming home, you have been clueless what you are having for dinner.  One of three things usually happen:
          1.  You hit the nearest drive though and spend a bunch of money on greasy, unhealthy food that is going to give you a belly ache later!  Don't get me wrong, I love McD's, but it doesn't love me!
         2.  You pull into the closest grocery store and just grab a handful of stuff.  Money is no object at this point!
         3.  You call the pizza guy to bring you dinner because you "deserve" it.

You ever been there?  I have been there more than I'd like to admit.  I really used to believe in #3.  Fact is, I didn't deserve it.. and neither do you.  I'm serious, do we DESERVE to spend $20+ on one meal to feed our family because we failed to plan?  Nope!  Now I am not saying you shouldn't eat pizza.  We order pizza, but the difference now is that it is planned for on the menu and also in the budget!  Think of the groceries that $20 would have bought!

How about those times that you've gone to the store without a plan and have grabbed $150 worth of food to make whatever meals you thought you'd eat this week, only to have a "bad" day and eat out or have those precious food items be shoved to the back of the fridge only to be found on the day we finally decide we MUST clean the fridge? Or you didn't get all the ingredients you needed to make a certain thing because you were "winging it" without a list?   How many dollars of food do you think you throw out in a week?

Are you starting to see how we waste food and money without meaning to?  This has to stop!  We work much to hard to be throwing all this money into the trash!  Are you mad?  Good!  Let's move on!

Your mission:

1.  Grab your handy, dandy notebook and head to the kitchen.  You are going to write down the ingredients you have on hand in your pantry, fridge and freezer.

2.  Look over your list.  Are there some meal ideas jumping out at you?  Good!  Write out a menu for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner for the next 7 days.  Try to use as many things on your list as you can!  This will reduce the number of items we need to buy at the store this week and save us money and waste!

3.  The next step is to look at your calendar to determine which meals are going to be cooked on which days.  In my house, I go for a crockpot meal if I know I won't be home to cook dinner at all or I'll go with something simple like spaghetti when I know I'm going to be exhausted from an especially long day.  Also look for days that the kids don't have school.  My normal plan only accounts for lunches for my husband and me, so the lunch plan changes a bit when the kids are home from school!  Days off school mean more snacks too!  Think cheap things like popcorn, homemade cookies, or fruit.

4.  Got holes in your menu?  Think outside the box!  Muffins and pancakes freeze really well and are cheap to make from scratch.  Put wax paper between your pancakes to keep them from sticking together.  Can you make breakfast for dinner?  Will there be enough leftovers from Monday's dinner to eat for Wednesday's lunch?  Think outside the box, but make sure you are planning things you and your family will eat.  I could save a ton making just beans and rice, but no one would eat it!  lol

***Now you should have a list containing 7 days worth of breakfast, lunches, snacks and dinners.  If you want to get fancy, there are many free printable forms online for menu planning, but then I'm wasting paper and ink, so I keep it old school, but to each their own!

5.  Now it's time to make our grocery list!  Go through each meal and write down any ingredients you need to purchase.  Don't assume you have ingredients.. go look!   Also take a peek at your trash bags, milk, toilet paper and toiletries.  Add anything else you NEED to the list.

We must talk about the actual physical act of grocery shopping.  I know most of us do not enjoy doing it, so we try to go in and out of one store just to get it done.  We must break you of doing this!  For some, this is going to seem way out there, but I insist, you MUST go to Aldi for your shopping trip!  I'm amazed by how many people have never shopped there.  Oh, am I referring to YOU?  Well, here is what you need to know about Aldi.

When going to Aldi, you need to bring a quarter to get a shopping cart.  Calm down!  You will get this quarter back when you return the cart.  They do this to minimize damage to cars in the parking lot and reduce thefts of carts.  Next, you will want to bring bags or totes to bring your groceries home.  They do have cardboard boxes you can take and they do sell bags there, but I'm sure you have several laying around.  I usually take my large reusable totes and a large cooler bag with me.  Also, Aldi does not accept credit cards.  They take cash, debit and Ohio Direction.

Aldi has very good quality items.  I actually think their produce is better than Walmart, Buehler's or Baker's and the prices are way lower.  You will NOT be able to buy absolutely everything in Aldi.  You will more than likely need to go to another store to finish out your list.  I do NOT want you to chicken out over this step.  I know it's not convenient!  I know it's cold outside!  I know you don't wanna!  BUT you must!  Suck it up cupcake!  Grab your list, your bags and your quarter.. you are going to Aldi!

6.  Hit the bank to get your CASH money! Only take out your weekly or biweekly budget amount.  (Meaning if you get paid every week, it may be easier to break your monthly budget into 4 so you don't spend it all in the first week.  We get paid every 2 weeks, so I take out 2 weeks worth of grocery money when I go.)

7.  Once inside Aldi, we are going to purchase everything on our list that is available at Aldi.  We are ONLY buying what is on our list!  We are NOT adding anything to that cart that isn't on the list.  (And no, you may NOT add to your list once you are in the store!)

8.  Go to your secondary store.  Depending on how many things I need, I usually run over to Walmart.  However, if I only need a few things, I might go to Buehler's because with the cost of gas.

9.  Once you are home, put away your items (leaving out any dry goods for today's dinner!) and post your menu on the fridge so everyone can see it.

Congrats!  You have officially planned and shopped for your first planned menu week!  Now, all you have to do is follow it!!

PLEASE, in the comments below, tell me how much you had to spend and also what you thought of the process!