Back when Nandor and I first were married, we had no choice but to stick to a weekly grocery budget. We were broke as a joke and I can remember eating ramen a few nights a week just so we had enough money to keep diapers on our kiddos. I would plan our meals and make a list before heading to the store, and as I scratched off an item I would put the dollar amount next to it (rounding up to account for tax.) At the end of my shopping trip I would total it up before I ever went up to the cash register.
Thank the Lord for progress in life and finances! Also thank the Lord for memories like this so we can remember how much he has provided.
Fast forward 15 years and I no longer count every single item I buy at the store. We however are a debt free family and do not use credit cards for everyday purchases and needs. When I know we have a big purchase coming up, in this case fall clothing for the family, I take a look at where we can cut back financially in other areas. This drew me to evaluating how much money I am spending on groceries each month and as I totaled the transactions from various grocery stores I realized some months we spend more than our monthly mortgage payment on groceries!
I also found I had picked up some pretty bad habits by not budgeting. Not only was I buying items we didn't necessarily need to have in the house for daily consumption, I was throwing away produce because I wasn't fully aware of what I had to use in fridge.
Step 1. Take an inventory of what you already have.
I'm super guilty of adding an item to my grocery list without checking to see if I already have it. The result is 4 half used bottles of dijon mustard and 6 bags of frozen cauliflower rice. So before I made my grocery list I took an inventory of my refrigerator, pantry, and freezer. I made a note of the things I already had that could be used for lunches and dinners.
TIP: CLEAN OUT YOUR FRIDGE AND KEEP TWO SPACES EMPTY TO FILL WITH FRESH MEAT AND PRODUCE. DO YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST TO EMPTY THE DRAWERS COMPLETELY BEFORE GOING BACK TO THE STORE FOR MORE.
Step 2. Look for sales.
There are two stores I mainly shop and when I'm keeping to a grocery budget I go online and review their weekly sale ads. I look for two things:
1) who has the best prices on meat
2) who has the better BOGO sales
I look for items on sale I know I can use for the week to make meals for my family. I then start my list
TIP: LOOK FOR ADDITIONAL WAYS TO SAVE MONEY! FOR EXAMPLE MY KIDS TAKE CHIPS TO SCHOOL EVERY DAY. IF THE SMALL PORTIONED BAGS AREN'T ON SALE, SEE IF ANY LARGE BAGS OF CHIPS ARE AND YOU CAN SEPARATE INTO BAGGIES.
Step 3. Make a list.
Start with planning your meals for the week and use the items you found on sale to help you decide what to make. List out the days you are buying for and write down what you plan on making for breakfast, lunch and dinner on those days. After you have your meals planned, begin to list the ingredients broken down into columns of where to find in the grocery store. I've included a printable below to help you make your list, however you can use a scrap sheet of paper too.
TIP: PLAN MEALS THAT SHARE THE SAME INGREDIENTS AND THOSE ITEMS IN BULK TO SAVE MONEY.
Step 4. Shop ALONE.
Many a plan and grocery budget has been thwarted by a hungry husband and grabby kids. If you absolutely can't shop alone, shop online and do parking lot pick up. If this is an option for you either, then sister, stick to your guns, be quick, and godspeed.
Are you interested in seeing what meals I planned and how I spent my $100 (technically $106)? Check out my downloadable list below! PS - because I took inventory of my kitchen before I went to the store I didn't have to buy all ingredients needed to prepare the meals I planned. The items I did buy are in black, but I also included the items I didn't have to buy in blue just in case you would like to use this as a grocery shopping list.
I'll be making each of these meals on Instagram stories and IGTV this week so be sure to follow along!