This isn’t a blog about saving every last cent you possibly can on anything but I do believe that being frugal in some areas can translate into having more freedom to be extravagant elsewhere. As in, you may actually be able to retire someday or leave the job you hate for something you love but pays less, etc. Grocery savings is a good place to start.
If you are like me, then you have over spent on groceries at least once, and probably every stinkin’ month you’ve done this. We’ve done it for so long I would probably cry if I went back and added it all up. I recall when I first started tracking our food expenses for the month finding that we were spending over $800 per month for groceries for the 2 of us PLUS spending almost the same amount eating out! What an eye opener!! I was making more than I do now and I was working full time so often we would shop but then I’d bee too tired to cook so we would go out to eat. There was a lot of wasted food in our fridge and a lot of wasted money that could have gone to savings or retirement.
We started budgeting a certain amount and usually went over but were doing much better until I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I had started couponing and saving a lot but now, I couldn’t use the products any longer. They don’t give coupons for as many GF options as they do the “regular” kind and I didn’t really like the GF options very much at that point anyway. We also had to make our whole kitchen gluten free because I was getting sick from eating in my own house due to contamination. We even had to replace all of our wooden and plastic cooking utensils along with all of my stoneware. We threw in a new set of pots and pans for good measure (thank you Pampered Chef for your hostess program!). I had been learning to cook things from scratch before this and it really came in handy since I now had to abandon any prepackaged foods we had been eating and either find a GF alternative or do without. Mostly I did without in the beginning.
As I grew more confident with my cooking skills I also wanted an upgrade on my ingredients and felt that since I was cooking at home, I “deserved” only the best. Our grocery bill grew and grew until we were spending nearly $1000 a month on groceries!! Sometimes more! At least we weren’t dining out.
Fast forward and we have the “come to Jesus” budget fiasco in January and now we are on a cash only basis for groceries and being forced to stay under $200 per week for groceries and really doing fairly well. I am trying to stick to $600 total for the month for the 4 of us. I know this may sound like a lot to many of you but I still need to buy some gluten free items that I have either tried to make at home and have failed or that I just can’t make at home. They are almost always 2-4 times as expensive as their glutinous counterparts.
So I have given up coupons for the most part. I only use them at Bed Bath and Beyond for Tassimo coffee pods (they don’t make reusable ones) and occasionally on a dairy product if I can find one. For the most part I don’t even bother to look. It costs more in time than I can save by using coupons.
Instead I am now shopping for 80% of my groceries at Aldi. I buy eggs at my local shop that sells truly free range eggs from a local producer. There are a couple of items I can only get at Wegmans or I can get cheaper there surprisingly. One of them is grassfed organic ground beef and pork as well as some bulk dairy products, like the giant tub of sour cream we use frequently. I have also been shopping at Walmart and find their prices a close second to Aldi. They have a brand of yogurt I eat every day at work and they have large containers of real cream for my coffee.
I have been able to buy grassed meats, free range eggs, full fat dairy products and some specialty products as well as my 85% dark chocolate and lots of organic produce all while staying within our budget and not needing to stress about coupons. I am not eating Depression Era food or generic hot dogs and beans. I am eating really good food and lots of veggies without breaking the bank. I am in no way deprived.
I will say though, that we also have leftover bulk purchases that we have been using up during this time although not nearly as much as we could (we have an inordinate amount of canned tomatoes from Aldi and a LOT of tuna fish). Going forward, I don’t think I will be buying so much in bulk ahead of time unless it’s something we use every week, its an excellent deal and it won’t go bad.
It is certainly much easier to track what you are spending when you use cash and it really makes you think about what you are buying. Not having your debit or credit card to fall back on has also been very helpful.
By the end of the month we will be back on track and the money we are saving by operating on a cash basis for groceries and paying attention to other areas of spending and we will be starting our focus on paying off our “driveway” loan. We will be keeping our cash only policy for groceries because I would much rather have the luxury of being debt free in a couple of years than the “luxury” of being able to spend whatever I want on food!
May your wallet always be full.