When you have children, budgeting is a must. There are so many added expenses sometimes my head spins. We do simple things that save us money, cloth diapering, hand me downs, garage sales and second hand stores. Unfortunitaly there are not garage sales for grocery stores, and we cannot eat second hand food. We try to save as much money in this department as we can, but lets face it. We WILL have to spend money on food.
I have put together a list of my tricks that have helped my save money over the course of the past five years, so that my Hubby and I can put together a college fund for the kids and easily afford birthdays and Christmas with our savings. It has become a habit for me, I fly through it without thinking each week. But at the beginning it was a struggle and hard to figure out. What does the little print on the coupon mean or buying in bulk is always cheaper. Debunking the myths of grocery shopping can become a full time job. But as parents, we do not have the time. I think that is why it took me five years!
Here are some of the things that I live by while shopping -
1. Make a list and STICK TO IT! I cannot say that one a lot. There have been times when I forget my list, and feel like I am lost in the jungle. I end up over spending, then at home with nothing I actually needed!
2. Plan your weekly meals based on weekly circulars. Stop by Safeway on your way home and see which meat or veggies are on sale. Plan around this instead of going with what you always do. Or stock up on what is on sale, then you will have extra for next week.
3. USE COUPONS ALONG WITH SALES! The current coupon craze has everyone on their toes and scoping out the best deals. While we will never end up like those extreme couponer's * I for one do not have that many hours to spend in a week * we can still do our best to pinch pennies.
4. Avoid out of season produce. Just because the store has strawberries, does not mean they are in season. In fact, they will be less tasty and more expensive.
5. Use the farmers market! Buy local! Not only is it a great way to boost your local economy, but if you show up at the end of the day you are likely to score some AMAZING deals.
6. Buy in bulk. But beware. Some of it is more expensive. Compare the cost per ounce or cost per unit prices on the bottom of the price tag to see what is a better deal. *This also works for bigger packages vs. little packages. Sometimes, it is cheaper to buy little. *
7. A lot of dollar stores accept manufacture coupons! Buy boxed or canned food at these places and along with coupons, you will be spending close to nothing!
8. Buy generic. Even organic. I have peeled the labels off and done side by side taste tests and cannot tell the difference with most of them. There are even a few I refuse to buy like Mac & Cheese or coffee, but it is personal choice. Some people can handle it all.
9. Plan ahead. Spend an hour or two preparing for the big grocery trip, and it will turn out pretty smoothly. Get your coupons, list and meal plan together, double check with coupons.com or any other coupon website and head out!
10. Some grocery stores have special gift card promotions. Last month for example, Safeway ran a buy a gift card for 100$ and get an extra 20$. I was going to spend the cash anyways, so why not make an extra twenty dollars in the process!
11. For the love of cheesus, DON'T SHOP HUNGRY! This is when you will buy things that will either go quick, or are seriously bad for you! Soda, chips, ice cream and candy bars. Not cool!
12. Budget, budget, BUDGET!! This goes hand in hand with meal planning and list making. Make sure it fits into your budget. When making you shopping lists, do a rough run through and round up. If something costs 1.89, add it as two dollars. Prices change constantly, this is only a rough estimate but has never failed me and I am always pleasantly surprised at check out.
13. This one is for people who have the time. Keep your receipts and make your own virtual store AKA - spread sheet. This will help you with budgeting and list making. When I enter prices, I use before sale and club card prices. This way, you are going in with actual cost.
14. Keep a "fridge list" handy. As soon as you run out of something, write it down. If you are on your second to last roll of toilet paper, write it down. This will not only save you from running out, but on gas money and time. No more 'one item' trips!
15. Keep a pantry checklist. So I don't actually have a pantry * I would love to * but I keep a list of everything in my cupboards, and how much of each item I have. It makes shopping list making a lot easier. You check off as you use, and then compare notes.
16. Buy frozen veggies. They are not as delicious are fresh ones, but are less expensive and keep for a long time.
17. Pack your own lunches. Burger King will hate you. Your wallet will not.
18. Meat is expensive! We splurge on organic, free range beef and chicken, so we substitute with things like chili or make casseroles or stews that will help stretch our meat further. You can also use certain beans or other protein filled foods as a substitute. But you may want your hubby sleeping on the couch if you go that route.
19. Have a cooking day set aside once a month. Cook to freeze it. Casseroles and mixed dishes freeze great! Spaghetti and tuna casserole are some favorites at our house.
20. Freeze your leftovers! My mom used to lecture me on how many children are starving in Africa because I would not finish my dinner. All logic aside, she has a point. A lot of food is wasted because children simply will not eat it, or have been served entirely too much. Serve your young one a little less than you think they will actually eat. They can go back for seconds. If they refuse to eat meat, and only potatoes - serve them a only a small portion of meat and once they are finished they get to choose what they eat. This way, un-wanted food can get frozen for what we call 'left-over' day. Everyone gets to pick out there favorite, it gets nuked and ta-da! The quickest meal of the week!
21. Lastly - Only use coupons for the things you where already going to purchase. Just because you find an AMAZING deal on mustard, does not mean you should buy the store out of it. Especially when your husband does not like it. * You all know what I am talking about! *
Am I forgetting anything? Or do you have some wonderful tips you would like to share with me? Let me know!