Friday, January 18, 2013

Groceries on a Budget (Part 2)

$75.84 worth of groceries for $53.12

You can find Part 1 here.

I spent a total of $53.12. I saved $22.72, without using any coupons!

I was surprised to go over $50. And didn't figure out how I went over until I got home and started pulling everything out my bags. See that blue Birdseye Voila bag on the left? Yeah, that wasn't mine. My groceries must have started to close to the lady's in front of me, and the cashier thought it went with my order. Oh well, at least it's something we'll eat. If that hadn't happened, my total would have been $49.13, 0.07 cents under budget.

In Part 1, I laid out three rules that you must be willing to follow, in this post I'll go into detail rule by rule. This is truly, how I make a $50/week grocery budget work.

1. You can't get to the store and be easily enticed by items not on your list.
Generally, I don't allow myself to purchase anything that isn't on my grocery list. It's a carefully planned list (see rule 2) and doesn't usually have much wiggle room. However, like any rule, there are exceptions.
For instance, yesterday I picked up 2 packages of English Muffins. They weren't on my list, but were on a pretty good sale—they're usually close to $2.40 a pack, and they were on sale for 0.99 cents. It was a pretty good deal, and I had a few dollars worth of wiggle room this week, so I went ahead and picked them up.
Another example from yesterday, I had a bag of frozen boneless skinless chicken breast on my list. They were in the sale ad for just under $8.00. When I got to the store, I was able to find a package of Meijer Fresh chicken breast with rib meat, and skin for $5.96. So, I picked those up in stead and gave my self a couple extra bucks to spend and was able to get some pineapple.
2. You have to take the time to prepare and plan before you go.
This probably should have been rule 1, oh well.
A couple days before I plan on going grocery shopping, I make a list of the things I HAVE to get. For me, that list is usually pretty short, because there aren't really many things I think we HAVE TO HAVE. This week it was bread, tortillas, vanilla and toilet paper.
Once I know my must haves, I open up the Meijer sale ad—right now I only shop Meijer, but I'm thinking of shopping Walgreens too, once I start adding coupons to my grocery routine—flip through it and check out what's on sale. This is the most important step because—aside from my must haves—I TRY TO ONLY BUY THINGS THAT ARE IN THE SALE AD. I very rarely will purchase something that's not on sale. Even produce and my must have items.
After going through the ad once, I go back through page by page and write down the items I think we'll need/use that week. Or if there is a particularly good sale on a toiletry or cleaning item, I'll add that to the list. Now, I know many people tout meal planning as the best way to control what you spend at the store. I used to do that, but I found myself picking meals where the ingredients weren't on sale, so it didn't really help me much. Unless there is a meal that myself or Tim really want that week, I usually just buy stuff I know is used in a lot of the recipes we like to eat. For example, I'm always stocked up on black beans, cheese, tortillas and taco seasoning, because we love tacos, and I have a ton of recipes that are different takes on them. I also always have pasta and pasta sauce on hand, as a back up to my back up meal. We don't love spaghetti, but it's cheap and easy to keep on hand. As I'm writing down what I want to pick up, I add up how much it costs. This is important because it lets me know how much wiggle room I have when I get to the store.
An important tip is to account for produce that is sold per pound. Like, yesterday apples and pears were on sale for $1.18 per pound, I went in knowing I wanted to buy 3lbs of each, which would put me at about $3.50 each. I figured that out before going to the store, and then weighed my apples and pears to make sure I was as close to 3lbs.
3. You have to be willing to give up some of what I call luxury items.
If you look closely at the photo of my groceries, you'll see that almost everything is the Meijer store brand. I honestly haven't noticed much of a difference in taste in anything. Also, I don't buy treats. Tim and I don't get cookies, Little Debbie cakes, or other things like that. Stella doesn't get Gold Fish crackers (unless they're on super sale) or gummies. If Tim or I want pop or alcohol that comes out of our personal fun money for the month.
A couple disclaimers:
I don't have to buy beef, this Summer we went in with my parents and the Schrocks and we have a quarter of a steer in our freezer. I do however typically buy some kind of chicken or pork weekly.
The quantity of groceries I get each week varies greatly. There have been weeks when we need bathroom cleaner, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, coffee, plus other must items, that I come home with very few groceries. That's when having your back up meals is key, and you also get a chance to use up some of the stuff that's been sitting around. This week was a particular good week, Meijer is having their 10 for 10 get the 11th item free sale. When I see that in the ad, I get super excited, because I know I'm going to be able to stock up on a few things. 

If you have any specific questions, I'd love to answer them! You can ask them in the comments or on the Twenty Something Mamas Facebook page

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