Oh my goodness, am I excited to share this post?!?!?! YES, I AM!
During the month of March, I wanted to focus on being more intentional with our family’s finances. At the beginning of the month, I sat down with my husband, looked at our finances, and created a budget. Click here to read more about that. One of our biggest budget downfalls is food, so I made a pact with myself to REALLY focus on sticking to a budget in this category. I DONE GOOD, YALL.
How good you might ask?! Well, our grocery total for this month was a whopping 36% less than budgeted. And our restaurant total for this month was HALF than budgeted. This is AMAZING because if you go back and look at the data, we usually spend MORE than budgeted on both groceries and eating out. So it’s a BIG, BIG deal for me to spend considerably less than budgeted. And oddly enough, I didn’t use coupons or take into consideration whatever I earned through IBOTTA or with credit card rewards.
So how did I keep my grocery & restaurant bill down?!
I had a budget, and I knew what I wanted to spend during the month.
To get my budget for each shopping trip, I took my monthly budget and divided by the number of weekends in the month since I typically shop on Saturday or Sunday.
I kept track of my expenditures by writing down each expense the day that I made them.
I just used a piece of paper on my desk, and every time I went shopping, I jotted down the amount spent and any notes about it. This little list kept me accountable and let me know how I was doing with the budget.
I meal planned with costs in mind, made a list, and bought from my list.
Meal planning and having a list is seriously one of the best ways to save money!! I didn’t buy more than what I needed. Less food wasted means less money wasted. It also keeps us from eating food just because it is there. Honestly, I almost always think we need more food than we actually need. We need less than I typically buy, and meal planning ALL our meals helped me see that.
For example, we don’t need a giant bag of apples, a bag of oranges, 57 bananas, a box of kiwi, a giant container of grapes, a box of strawberries and a box of blueberries for our family of five each week. One big bunch of bananas, a box of strawberries and a bag of apples will be plenty for one week. To keep boredom at bay, I can buy different types of fruits each week.
I also stuck to my grocery list like glue. Often, I’ll buy extra stuff because we are getting low. However, I did not do that this month. For example, if we had a dozen eggs left, I didn’t buy more eggs. If we needed two onions for the meal plan, and we had two onions, then I wouldn’t buy more onions. This strategy was TOUGH mentally for me. I like to make sure we have lots of everything so that we don’t run out randomly. The beauty of the meal plan is that I knew exactly what we were going to eat so I knew we would be fine as long as we had everything on the list.
I made do with what we had.
Throughout the month, I desperately wanted to tell my husband to order a pizza more times than I’d like to admit. However, I stuck with the meal plan as best I could. If I deterred from the meal plan, I made something from what we had on hand. A few times I wanted to grab a snack for the children while I was out, but I forced them (and myself!) to wait until we made it back home. And contrary to what it may have seemed like at the time, no one actually starved in the short time it takes to drive home from town.
Speaking of snacks, another little meal planning money-saving tip is that I skipped out on snacks for the kids. No pretzels, goldfish, crackers, cookies, Pirate’s Booty, or Veggie Straws. All my girls still enjoy plain Cheerios, so that worked for us over the month. I’m trying to wean my children from thinking they need a snack all the time anyway. I’ve been packing a big lunch and letting them choose something from their lunch to eat as a snack if they get hungry before lunchtime.
And last, I got lucky.
We had a few meals that we did not pay for. Clearly that helped. 🙂
This month has been eye-opening for me. I made meals for two separate families that each recently had a second child, and we hosted a dinner for a family friend. Even with the extra meals, we still came in under budget. And we didn’t feel deprived during the month. All it took was a little planning and a little stubbornness to stick to the plan.
I’m already looking forward to seeing if I can continue the same savings through April. I’m keeping my paper system of tracking food expenses. And of course I’ll continue to meal plan and stubbornly shop from a list. If I continued the 36% reduction of our grocery budget for an entire year, we could save enough money to pay for a week-long family vacation. Kind of unbelievable, right?! I would have never guessed we could save this much money on groceries just by being intentional with our spending!