Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Works for me Wednesday - finding grocery budget busters

We have reduced our grocery budget by over 25 percent in the last year and a half, even in the face of rising costs. From $800 to less than $600 a month, and often now I spend closer to $500 (for our family of 7)! That's a lot more money for the offering and college funds.

A lot of little changes have made the difference, but one key principle was identifying and changing our budget busters.

I'll demonstrate with a few areas that made a good chunk of that difference (obviously, individual results may vary):

- Snacks -- My meals generally fit our budget goals, but all the nuts, pretzels, cheese, crackers, and fruit consumed between meals really added up. We made three changes in the snacking department:

  1. We started eating a lot of popcorn (made on the stove, not in the microwave). Even eating it a few times a week we only go through about $1.50 worth of popcorn each month. I used to spend close to that each day on snacks. That one change has saved us over $15 each month.
  2. Leftovers. I almost consider this free food. When I serve leftovers for a meal it meets with a less than enthusiastic response, but somehow half a cheeseburger for a snack is really cool.
  3. Reduce the more costly snacks to once every week or two. Nuts and cheese and healthy crackers are not cheap, so we don't have them as often any more. Plain and simple.

- Bread -- Garlic Bread, pizza crust, waffles, cinnamon rolls, sandwich bread all took a huge dent out of our grocery budget. I now make garlic bread less frequently, and make our bread from scratch as much as possible. And, we only have sandwiches about once a week. Healthier, and it has saved us over $30 each month.

- Stocking up -- I always thought I stocked up. When something I used went on sale, I bought a couple. Now I stock pile. When an item we use regularly appears on sale for that magic price, I buy enough to last me a couple months (more or less depending on how perishable the item). This has made an especially big different in the meat department, and my freezer is rarely lacking something for dinner. Just on meat this has saved me about $30 a month.

Other little changes helped as well (coupons, shopping sales, avoiding waste, etc.), and I keep my focus on saving a little bit more as time goes by. The continual progress is exciting.

More Kitchen Tips.
More WFMW, the frugal edition.
More Frugal Friday.

Check out more of my all time favorite frugal tips.

And, some of my adventures in baking from scratch (cinnamon rolls, pancakes, bread).


~M said...

I live in the Chicagoland area too! Which grocery stores do you usually shop at?

5intow said...

~M, welcome! I generally shop Meijer for most regular items, but Costco has grown to be a new favorite (only about once a month to stock up). I shop other stores sporadically, but those two get the bulk of my grocery dollars.

Do you have stores you prefer over others? I tend to shop what I know.

~M said...

I'm not sure where there is a Meijer near me. I keep a grocery store spreadsheet so I buy some things at Costco, Amazon grocery, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and occasionally, Jewel or another store.

Wifeof1Momof4 said...

Yes, snacks drive me crazy! Especially with three boys, but I make sure I keep them in the car so we do not stop for these items when we have our long days.

I also keep a cooler in the car for water and juice.

Gotta love REAL popcorn! Not that fake stuff in the micro. :)

moofam@hotmail.com said...

POpcorn is our FAVORITE snack:) I also find that carrots and celery and even cucumbers are gobbled up if they are cut up and ready to go. Sometimes I will find a bag of cukes or even pears one time that are marked down because they are ready to be eaten. Because there are seven of us we can easily eat these quickly.

5intow said...

Wifeof1Momof4 -- great idea to keep snacks handy on the go. Those vending machines or quick stops to grab a bite while out are major leaks in so many pockets.

moofam -- I have to agree, having healthy stuff on hand, already in consumable form encourages the kids to eat it. I haven't had a lot of luck finding marked down produce, but it is a benefit to have lots of mouths to munch on it when we do come across it! :-)

Tracey said...

I like the idea of stockpiling more - like you, I buy a couple of something when it's on a good sale, but should probably try to stock up even more. Great ideas!

Mom2fur said...

Stocking up is by far the best thing you can do to reduce your food budget!
And popcorn on the stovetop is soooo much better than the microwave kind! It doesn't take that much more time, and at least you know what's in it, LOL!

Jennifer said...

Snacks really do add up. I was feeling so happy this morning because I used a bunch of coupons to get snacks pretty cheap at Target. If only my kids would eat popcorn more.