Sunday, March 1, 2015

Groceries On A Budget

Groceries on a Budget

In today's economy, we often struggle to stretch our dollar even further. One of the biggest parts of every household budget is the grocery bill. You don't have to live off Ramen noodles and water to save money on food. You just need to make a plan and stick to it.

Before you ever step foot in the store, make a weekly plan. Decide what meals you will make and list all ingredients needed. Be sure to check your pantry for items you already have, so you don't buy things you don't need. Once you have a plan in place, set a budget and stick to it. This gets easier every week. I make a detailed list of everything we need, and the price for each item. If you don't know the exact price of every item, that's okay. You will learn a lot on your first trip, so be sure to bring a pen & paper, and a calculator. Write down the price of items your family buys regularly, like milk and eggs. This will help with your weekly budget.

Once you have your list, with prices, pick the right time to go to the store. Saturdays are usually over crowded, and you may feel rushed and tempted to break the budget. Sunday nights are usually “stocking nights” so many items will be out of stock while the attempt to re-stock everything. A weekday, if possible, is best. Leaving the kids at home will also help. It's hard enough to shop with kids distracting you, but it's even harder when comparison shopping.

You're off to the store, list in hand. Know what you need, get it and get out. Don't check the clearance aisle or wander about the store. You don't need temptation. Be sure to take your time looking for things. Stores know you're in a hurry when shopping, and often put the most expensive things at eye level. Check the top and bottom shelves for the best bargains. Don't just buy cookies because they are on sale. However, if something is on sale that is on your list regularly, you can stock up-within reason. Don't buy three gallons of ice cream if you know it will go bad before you use it. Canned vegetables, noodles, and other dry goods don't expire as quickly. If you know you make spaghetti every Thursday, and noodles are on sale, buy a few. This will cut some from next week's budget. Just don't go overboard.

Don't forget about that calculator! Price compare items you buy often. If it will save money to buy larger quantities, then buy more. Make sure you're getting a good deal. The smaller pack may be ten cents less, but if you get double the food in a larger pack, that's a better deal. Taking time to price compare and really think about what you need can save you lots of money. After a few weeks, you will know the best deals, what items you need, and you can spend half the time and still save money.

Think of it like this: you can spend $50 on a dinner out, or you can spend $10 for lasagna and salad at home.
You can save lots of money by eating in more and planning meals ahead. Convenience foods, such as prepackaged snacks and frozen dinners, may be easier but cost a lot more. You can buy a 5 pound log of ground beef and separate it at home into individual portions. By freezing items you buy in larger quantities you can save money and time. Instead of buying prepackaged snacks, buy a large box of crackers or other snack foods, and separate into plastic bags. The same works with pre-cut fruits and vegetable. They may be easier, but five minutes of cutting at home can save you big money. Convenience often costs more.

It is possible to live on a budget and still get everything you need. Money saved on groceries can be used to pay off debts, buy something nice, or put toward a family vacation. The savings add up. Just remember to be prepared. Plan your meals, make a list, and stick to your budget. You'll be surprised at how much you can save.