Slimmer you, fatter wallet


We are in full swing of Bump prep here in the Holmberg House.  And part of that means trying to shave the budget down in an effort to build a small savings.  And thanks to the Holmberg Minimal Spending Act of 2013 our grocery budget has been the main focus of said shaving.  I feel like we’ve done really well…but cutting the monthly budget from $500 to $400 hasn’t been enough.  I want that one area of our budget to be under $300, and I know that we can do it.

So I hunted for some more tips, and tricks to steer us in the right direction.  And founds some great ones!

The first 3 things we already do, and have been doing for a while.

1. Plan ahead to get ahead. Meal planning and shopping lists are crucial to keeping that budget under control.  I also shop my pantry before every shopping trip so that I know what I already have.  Make a menu for the week, and then list out all of the ingredients to make each dish.  Then shop your pantry and cross off any ingredient that you already have on hand.  Then I take that completed list to Excel…and type up my finished list.  Which leads me to…

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2. Seek out sales & coupons. Check out the store’s flyer prior to shopping, this will give you a good indication of sales before you hit the aisle.  Sites like target.com feature their weekly circular, daily deals and printable coupons on their site.  Not to mention their mobile coupons…and the new app Cartwheel, which offers an additional 5-15% off everything from meat to towels.  This can be the most time consuming part…but I love seeing that I saved $20-40 on a shopping trip each week!  That means I just got paid to pre-shop and get prepared.  I highly recommend this great site to help get you started learning to shop sales and coupon.  The next step in my shopping list process is to indicate what Items I have coupons for, and enter that amount into a column on the spreadsheet.  It helps me in 2 ways: I can calculate how much I will save, and I then can calculate how much the items should be when all is said and done.

3. Stockpile staples. I will warn you, starting this process will actually do the opposite of the end goal for a few weeks.  Seek out those great deals on things like canned soups, pasta, frozen veggies and meat.  We have a deep freezer, so we have the room to store those frozen foods, but our pantry is not the biggest.  But I cook in bulk 2x per month, so those stockpile items don’t sit in the pantry for long.  I love when Target has their MP pasta and sauce at 5 for $5, that box of pasta and jar of sauce can make 7-8 meals when paired with meat and veggies.  So those are the two things that I will stock up on every time.  Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.  Stocking up on staples and spending an extra $20 a week can save $10 off the budget for a few months once that stockpile is built.  Now, I am not talking extreme couponing stockpile proportions, but what your current pantry can hold.  In addition to this…if you are so inclined…keep an inventory of what you have on hand if you are stockpiling.

4. Divide your dollars. This may take some extra time, but when you find that your neighborhood market, farmers market, or Aldi has produce for much cheaper than the box store you normally shop at…think of it as getting paid to make that extra stop.  Not all Farmers Markets are cheaper mind you…often times some of the produce is a bit more expensive.  On a recent trip to my local Farmers Market I got some strawberries that turned out to be $2 more a pound than the current price at Target when I normal shop.  Bummer.  So, note to self: do your research and know what the vendors at the Farmers Market are charging.

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5. Shop solo. When you’ve got a crew in tow, you are more likely to make impulse purchases.  I don’t have tag-a-longs just yet.  So I shop on my own 100% of the time.  But I am my own worst enemy when it comes to impulse purchases.  Shopping with the Hubby generally has kept me sticking to the list.  But he’s a busy guy and doing the shopping is now part of my housewife duties.

6. If you forgot it, forget it. I am notorious for making 4 trips per week to the store to get one thing that we need that I forgot, or that we ran out of during the week, and then end up leaving spending an additional $30-50 because “oh that sounds good!”.  So, I have adapted this new strategy.  If I forgot it, it has to wait until next week.  The only exception to this is milk.  We never used to be big milk drinkers, but between coffee, cereal and cooking…we can kill 2 gallons a week easy.  But that is when I rope in the Hubby to stop on the way home.  He will stop, and bring home only milk.  I know I can’t be trusted to do that! 🙂

A few other tips that are great to adopt:

  • Buy in bulk.  Meat deals, dry pasta, beans, frozen veggies are great ways to get more bang for your buck.
  • Buy generic.  Often times these store brands are packaged in the same factory, by the same people as the brand names.  They are the same thing, for a little less.  And that little less can add up mighty fast.
  • Break up the bunch.  In the produce game, you often pay per pound, so if you know you may not eat the entire bunch of lettuce, bananas, or grapes before they go bad, take only what you need to save more and waste less.
  • Upsize.  Why pay over a dollar per serving for yogurt when you can pay around $.50?  Grab that big tub of yogurt and leave the cups.
  • Comparison shop.  Yes it takes time, but looking at the price per oz for frozen items vs. fresh can make a big impact in your budget.  If you are worried about spoilage go frozen, it’s better to spend the extra $.75 now and save the $3.00 in rotten food later.
  • Cash only.  If you are like me and fall prey to temptations and impulse buys, shop only with cash.  You’ll be more likely to stick to that list when you only have so much to work with.

I am hoping to add a membership to CostCo to our routine in an effort to buy meat and frozen goods in bulk to save even more.  especially since I am planning a “Before Baby Freezer Fill Up” cooking party to get ready for 12 weeks of NO COOKING.

How do you manage your grocery budget?

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