Budgets Part 1 – Grocery Shopping

Piggy Bank

Last week I was chatting with a friend at work, saying that I’d been able to leave the grocery story with only a $47 bill for all our food for the week and she told me I needed to write a post about budgeting. And then, this weekend hanging with Kara and her sister, we also talked budgets. So I thought I’d post some thoughts to paper computer.

Now, that $47 bill was insane. Probably one of our cheapest bills in a long time. And I should also add that we bought all our protein (chicken and shrimp) at Costco the week before so that didn’t factor in. On average, our weekly grocery bill is around $65. Again, not including Costco which is probably $80-100 every couple weeks. I do find it a fun challenge to keep the bill as low as possible but still getting to eat the foods I like (and that are healthy). Here are some things I use that seem to help:

1. Meal plan. I sit every Sunday and plan out all our dinners for the week, Sunday – Friday. I leave Saturday out because that’s always a random night. Either a date night or going with friends or something. Unless Chris has a huge desire for something I usually make the meal plan and then run it by him. Sometimes we stick with my plan, sometimes we change it up. I then plan out what I need for lunch every week and then ask Chris was he needs for his lunches. After that I figure out if we need anything for our breakfast – usually just milk because we buy our blueberries at Costco.

2. Make a list. Using the meal plan, I write out a list over everything we’ll need. I’ll go through the cupboards and see what we have (do we have noodles, did we not eat all our apples?) and I’ll add on any non food items (toothpaste, soap etc). I never, ever, ever come to the grocery store without a list. I do not trust myself. I could wander around those aisles forever and probably walk out with a $200+ bill every time. For me, I need to be focused. It’s a task, just something to get crossed off the list (Chris has been good about helping me with this. He’s not a fan of going grocery shopping but there is never anything random bought when he’s there).

3. Only go to the store once a week. If you forget something to a recipe, too bad. Make whatever you have at the house work. Of course, go if you HAVE to (we mis budgeted the amount of milk last week and had to stop at the end of the week) but go with a list and just get those items. I’ve learned that when we’d go randomly mid week we’d always end up with at least a $20+ bill because we’d buy random things there.

4. Most of the time, store brands are just as good as the name brand. I get the Fred Meyer brand of all our canned goods, sour cream, yogurt etc. And the Kirkland/Costco brand for detergent, paper towels etc. I also just found at the Kirkland shampoo is the Pureology brand. That stuff is awesome. Definitely checking that out next time.

5. Buy in bulk for the staples. We’re ok about this. We use black beans and corn like crazy. It’s always in my lunch and at least once a week in dinner so we’ll buy the cases of the cans at Costco because it’s much cheaper than buying single cans each week. If our favorite noodles or ground turkey breast is on sale we’ll buy two. If you use it all the time, it makes sense to have a couple on hand. However (and I think we need to change this) we don’t do this for our protein – chicken and shrimp. I think it would make more sense to buy these in bulk while we’re at Costco and only go once a month but since they’re such big ticket items it’s hard to swallow the bigger bill. More to come on that decision.

6. Spend most of your time in the produce section. It’s healthier to be eating lots of veggies, plus the fresh ones are better than frozen. And usually it’s cheaper to buy fresh cilantro, yams, broccoli etc than having to pay for pre-packaged, processed versions of the same thing. It might be more work to wash and prep it yourself but it’s better for you and your wallet.

7. Buy organic when getting anything off the dirty dozen list but buy regular things for the rest.

8. Get an app. There are a lot of apps out there for coupons and sales. Check out ones for specific grocery story or coupons.com. It can help you make your meal plans based on what food is on sale or what bulk items you could stock up on.

I think that’s it for now. Those are the big things we stick to when heading to the grocery store. The one thing to note about our budget and shopping plans is that we never really have a lot of snacks in the house. Sometimes this gets really annoying like when I’m hungry and there’s nothing to eat. But, those times are few and far between. And I can always seem to round up something, even if it is random like tomato soup and a cheese quesadilla. The one benefit to not having a lot of snacks in our house is that I’m not munching on a lot of unnecessary calories. When we do have snacks in the house (like chips and salsa/humus) I tend to be a bit of a snack monster about it. I’ll come home from work and eat a bunch of chips when I’m not hungry which is no good. Better not to just have them around me.

I’ll work on another post later where I talk about our general home/shopping budgets.



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