Every year I rework out budget. Last year I realized that after our tithe and mortgage, our grocery budget was the biggest expense. With a family of four, I saw this as a challenge to cut our grocery budget by 25%.
Now I know all about those “crazy coupon people” who are one box of cereal away from being a hoarder. I honestly don’t have the time or energy to put those steps into practice. There had to be another way to cut our budget without resorting to that. I took note that the reason our grocery bill was so high was because I was making quick trips to the grocery store several times a week, just to pick up a few things. You know exactly what happens next, the cart is full and I’m walking out $100 lighter. I realized that with just a little planning I could change this habit.
I decided to go big and plan meals for an entire month and do one day of shopping. It sounds crazy and practically impossible, but it’s really pretty doable. I do still have to run to the store for produce, milk, eggs, and those kinds of things throughout the month, but I am able to stick to just those necessities. After implementing this strategy I didn’t cut our grocery bill by 25%, but by 40%! Let me show you how.
Get it all together: I found it easiest to buy a 3-ring binder and some top load sheet protectors. I made copies of a blank calendar and keep those in the binder. In the sheet protectors I put lists of entrees by meat type (beef, chicken, pork, etc), along with any recipe cards pertaining to those dishes.
Get some help: Once a month our family sits down and we all plan the menu. Everyone gets a say as to what they want to eat. Usually my kids will not vary from month to month with their requests so I try and throw in one or two new recipes each month.
Get it in writing: Fill in your blank calendar with the menu suggestions. Make sure that you also include on your calendar any days you know you will be out of town or have special events. After the menu is filled out, compile your grocery list. I do spend about 30 minutes looking through coupons to save even more, but I stick to coupons for things I need for the month.
Get a day off: Everyone needs a day off from cooking. In our house I don’t cook on Sunday nights, we implement something called open kitchen. That is the night where everyone raids the fridge and eats the leftovers from the previous week. No mess, no fuss.
Get going: Plan the day that works best with your schedule to do the shopping. It will take a while, but compared to all the little trips your save throughout the month, you more than come out ahead. Also, think about who to bring with you. I find it easiest to do the shopping alone and then enlist everyone’s help in bringing the load into the house.
When I came home from my very first monthly grocery shopping trip, I realized that I had forgotten one important factor. Where am I going to put everything? I found that the most challenging part of this practice is to find a place for everything to go. I had to get creative with where some of the non-perishables are stored, and I had to better organize the freezer, but after the first few months, I had a system in place to make room for everything.
I was really shocked at how much we have saved implementing this practice. It has also alleviated so many other stresses relating to food prep. I take out the meat from the freezer based on our meals for the week and I never have to spend my day wondering what I’m going to make after a busy day away. I don’t get in the rut of the same meals week after week as no meal is repeated during the month. And, because we save so much, I feel I can spend the extra for more locally grown and organic foods which was just too far out of our budget before.
Give it a try. The first month will seem a little challenging but you will quickly see how a little planning goes a long way in stretching your dollar and your time.
I love the line about the coupon people who are “one box of cereal away from being a hoarder!” Cracked me up. I’m with you, I don’t have time to do the couponing thing. Plus, the food I normally buy rarely has coupons. But, if I do find something I use often on sale I stock up. Great article, Mara! I just had this same revelation recently and love having food in the house!