Several ladies on the TOG Loose Threads yahoo group are working on trying to lower their food bills. We have decided to challenge ourselves to spend only $100 per week on groceries.
I used to have a much better handle on my food budget. Lately I haven't been paying much attention to the amount I spend. I believe I spend less than most, especially after conversations among this group. I think what helps is menu planning and organization. I have to admit that I have an advantage over most in that I can shop at military commissaries. Since they sell food at cost, plus 5% to cover administrative costs, all the food is generally cheaper than any grocery store.
Menu planning is a great way of keeping control over your food budget. I do it a little differently than most. I look at my calendar each pay period, see how many meals to plan, and make a list, but I do not strictly assign certain meals to certain days. I like flexibility. Most days I will not decide what to make until that morning; sometimes I don't decide until 5 pm. Of course I do make some meals that require more advance planning, and some meals I plan need to be eaten early in the pay period because certain foods go bad more quickly than others.
I also stock up on some things that I call "pantry meals." These are meals where all of the ingredients can be kept for a long period in the pantry and freezer, and can be made anytime, in case I don't plan enough meals on my menu, or something puts my plans in a fritz. These are things like chili and cornbread, spaghetti, and frozen pizza. I keep track of these items and keep them stocked and ready.
I've added back in some of the things that help keep my budget under control while menu planning. One is perusing the sales lists. I keep all the sale flyers from the local stores, so I will know about any great deals that come up. I must admit that most of the deep sales prices at regular stores still don't beat the commissary, but sometimes I'll get lucky. If you don't have the flyers handy, many stores post them online. The commissary has a list of sale items on their website. It helps reduce the budget when I can plan my meals around what's on sale.
I also get out my coupons while doing this planning. Now, I have some major cautions with coupon use - only use coupons for products you would buy already. I made this mistake as a young mom and ended up spending far more in groceries because I bought all these unnecessary items. Sometimes the coupon inserts won't have any coupons for me; other times there will be several. Another source for coupons is in the stores themselves. Have you ever seen those shelf coupons right next to the items? There is no rule that says you have to buy that item right now to use that coupon; many times that coupon has an expiration date months down the line. I'll grab several copies of these coupons for use later.
Sometimes I get very lucky and find that an item I have a coupon for is also on sale. This is a great time to stock up on nonperishable or freezable goods. I'm hoping to get a chest freezer soon to take even greater advantage of these deals.
Going back to these methods really paid off this payday. For 15 days worth of groceries I spent $186.59. I saved $8.35 in coupons. This also leaves me room later in the payday to get more milk and bananas.
This amount includes several items that I stocked up on for later, such as Cheez It crackers for $1.50/box, chicken breasts on sale for $1.19/pound, and canned chicken broth for $.50/can. This will work into greater savings down the line when I plan meals using these items that I already have.
So, will you join me in this challenge? How do you save on your grocery bill?