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One of the biggest drains on our finances has always been food. We enjoy eating out. We always make sure we have a wide variety of food and snacks at home. We keep the pantry stocked but after reviewing our budget a few months ago and seeing that we spent over $1,000 on a food budget for two! It was insanity and we knew things had to change so we sat down and created a simple budget to help us manage our spending and reduce our grocery bill. I also made it clear to Brandon that as much as I wanted to reduce our grocery bill, I did not want to begin couponing.
Now, that’s not to say there’s anything bad about couponing. If you have the time and the desire to do it, go for it! Personally, I have neither the time nor the desire to understand the ins and outs of couponing and super savvy shopping. Fortunately, couponing isn’t the only way to save money and reduce your grocery bill.
This is exactly what I do to keep our grocery bill in check now that we know it can so easily become a big deal.
Shop in bulk and at farmer’s markets
I do a lot of my shopping in bulk when there are sales at the grocery store and freeze everything I have in excess. You can freeze virtually everything if you plan ahead and have the correct kitchen essentials. My freezing essentials are:
I have my freezer full of fruit, vegetables, vegetable stock, bread, jams, sauces, etc. because I bought it in bulk when it was on sale and saved it for a rainy day.
I also do a lot of shopping at the farmer’s market on the weekend. Shop carefully at farmer’s markets and you can get good deals, especially when you are following a dedicated meal plan.
Follow a meal plan (and use leftovers)
I have learned to love meal planning and I do it every Sunday night. I sit down with my planner (I love this one from Create 365) and I meal plan. I browse my favorite food bloggers (like Cookie + Kate) and I build a meal plan for the week. At first I did meal planning for two weeks or a month at a time but I found that meal planning for a week works much better for me. I meal plan on Sunday and I go grocery shopping on Sunday night to buy the ingredients I need.
I use all of my leftovers and repurpose them in the next meal. For example my meal plan may look like this:
Sunday Night – I’ll make our favorite vegetarian chili and cornbread
Monday Night – Leftovers
Tuesday Night – Sloppy Jose’s (I use Gardein Meatless Ground with taco seasoning and serve it over cornbread with shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc. It’s like a taco salad on cornbread).
Wednesday Night – Taco night!
Thursday Night – Broccoli rabe and black bean quesadillas
Friday Night – Veggie salad with leftover quesadillas
Saturday Night – Date Night!
This keeps me very focused on my menu plan which lets me create and adhere to a grocery list.
Keep the family in sync
We use the Cozi app to keep us synced with everything from our calendars to reminders to to-do lists. I keep a list in our Cozi account for ‘groceries’ and I check it while I’m at the store on Sunday. If it’s on the groceries list in Cozi then I’ll buy it. If it’s not, I don’t and I don’t go back to the store until the following Sunday.
I used to keep a running grocery list on our refrigerator but it would never fail that I would leave the house to go to the store and forget my list, #Facepalm. It happened all the dang time!
The Cozi app is easier because it updates in real-time and basically syncs our entire lives.
Shop with cash
It’s easier to spend money when you’re using your debit or credit card (research backs up that claim, Google it) so take cash with you to the grocery store. I started shopping for groceries as a cash-only trip a few years back and it’s done wonders for our budget! Knowing that you don’t have a debit or credit card to use as a backup if you go over budget prevents you from giving in to those impulse purchases or buying things that aren’t on your shopping list.
It’s basically the best way to stay accountable to your budget. I don’t even carry my card with me to the grocery store anymore so there is no temptation. If I don’t have enough cash to cover everything it just means I have to make choices. I’d rather put back those impulse purchases like sugary cereals, extra snacks, and other temptations than go over budget.
Do you struggle with your household food budget? Care to share any extra money-saving tips to help us hold on to our dollars at the grocery store?