So, a few months ago, my friend, Shanna suggested that I do a blog for my budgeting and green living tips. I don't think I have enough to say for a whole blog (I know, shocker) but I've decided to share a weekly tip on Wednesday. I'm definitely not an expert, but after struggling on one income for four and a half years now, I think I've learned a few budget-friendly things that might work for your family too. So here goes tip one...
Meal plan. Meal plan. Meal plan. Did I mention meal planning? Seriously, this is probably the biggest money saver in our house. Every Sunday, I sit down with my coupon folder and my weekly grocery store ad. I go through the ad and write down on my shopping list anything that is on sale that we use. Then, I look at the list, take stock of any meat or poultry in my freezer, and then turn the list into meals. I do have to supplement the list with a few items that aren't in my weekly mailer but once I get to the store, I can always find a brand that's on sale, it just wasn't advertised or maybe isn't a great savings. Before going shopping, I go over my list and pull out any coupons that go with my purchases.
When meal planning, I also schedule any dining out for the week and if something comes up and we eat out unplanned (rarely happens), I redo my meal plan and bump everything back a day.
The biggest keys to meal planning are:
1) Shop weekly to take full advantage of the sales.
2) Learn to eat according to what's on sale, not what you're in the mood for.
3) Convert to a "leftovers" family - I almost always make a meal big enough for two night's worth of dinners.
4) Steer clear of convenience foods. My kids do eat crackers, granola bars, etc. but the main part of their snack is usually some kind of fruit which when bought in season and on sale, is much cheaper than convenience box items.
5) Learn to use your freezer. When broccoli is on sale for a killer deal, I stock up and freeze. We have the best locally grown strawberries so I buy fresh and freeze for smoothies in the winter.
I remember back when I was working, my fellow manager told me a story about when she was a newly single mom standing in the checkout line with her preschooler. Her daughter looked at the lady in front of her who was buying grapes and she said, "Mmmmm, I love grapes but my mommy says we can't afford grapes today." When she first told me this story, I didn't have kids and we were more than comfortable on our two incomes. I thought the story was so sad. Now I have a completely different perspective. I have no problem telling Bella that we can't afford something and that if it's not on sale or doesn't fit into our budget, we don't buy it. I'm proud that when she plays grocery store with Matea, they use coupons and talk about sales. I think she's learning the importance of need versus want.
Anyway, our monthly grocery budget is $400 for four people. We eat out 3-4 times per month so this $400 needs to cover almost all dinners, all lunches and breakfasts, and snacks. When I make my list, I try to stay under $85 and allow myself to buy only two non list items once I get to the store.
So here's my meal plan and shopping list for this week. I spent $83.80 and saved $74.59 (47%).
Wed-Eating out for Papa's birthday
Thur-Turkey dogs with corn on the cob
Fri-Friend's house for holiday, taking cupcakes
Mon-Tri tip, rice pilaf, corn
Wed-Crockpot chicken, potatoes, veggies from freezer
Thurs-Leftover chicken sandwiches and salad, make homemade bread
Granola Bars (2)
Paper plates for party (2)
Turkey Dogs (3)
Ground Turkey (2)
Kidney Beans (2)
Ranch Beans (2)
Cake Mix (2)