Can you believe it's already July??? I feel like the summer is already halfway over & just going way too fast!
With the start of a new month I went grocery shopping last week & stocked my kitchen with all of the food we will be needing for the next two weeks. While preparing to go to the grocery store, I got an idea to write a post about how I grocery shop on a budget. As much as I love to cook, I HAVE to go into the store fully prepared or else I'll get way too excited and get way too many ideas and just buy way too much food! ;)
I happen to love grocery shopping and I really enjoy the challenge of using cash only and having to stay under a set dollar amount. (I won't share the exact amount, but it is a good portion under $100.) When I first got married I was so excited about buying groceries and making delicious meals that I overspent on several grocery trips (by a nice chunk too) and unfortunately wasted some food since I had bought more than two people could eat before it went bad! It didn't take me long to learn my lesson. I've learned that there are two key things when shopping on a budget: 1 - a meal plan & 2 - a detailed list.
I go grocery shopping every two weeks when I get my paycheck. During the two weeks, I keep a list on the fridge that I add regularly used items to as we run out of them. Also, during that time I begin jotting down meal ideas. I like to make sure I have enough meals to cover 14-16 suppers, taking into consideration any nights that we will not be eating at home (i.e. family dinners, date night, etc.). I use a lot of "old trusty" recipes, but I also like to look through cookbooks & websites to find new recipes to try. It's also helpful to take a look at what's already in your pantry and "build" meals with that. My meal planning system is far from fancy and once I've chosen the meals we'll be eating for the next two weeks my "menu plan" usually looks something like this:
As I said, not fancy. ;)
Also, we have sides/veggies with the meals, but they're usually basic, so I don't bother writing them into my meal plan, I just add them to my grocery list if they're not already in the pantry/fridge.
Once I've gotten my list of meals and my list of items we have run out of, I start compiling my grocery list. I like to separate items based on what part of the store they are located in so that I don't end up going in circles and wasting time. My grocery list always looks like this. :)
I keep it on a clipboard while shopping as it's easier to jot down prices beside each item when I have something hard to write on. Plus, I can take in the whole list at once instead of having to unfold and then refold every time I want to skim the whole list.
**Side-note: On the backside of my grocery list, I have two more categories - "toiletries" & "household" items. I buy them on the same day as my groceries, however I have separate cash envelopes that I use for them.**
One more thing I like to take advantage of in order to stay on my budget is coupons. I'm not a crazy coupon lady or anything, but I do like to use them if they are for an item that is already on my grocery list. If you have a Kroger card, they will periodically send you coupons based on items you regularly buy at the store. I had 5 good ones I was able to use this past time which you will see below. Some of the items were completely free! :)
Finally, armed with my grocery list, coupons, pen, cash envelopes, & calculator I head to the store! I use the calculator to add up my items at the end and make sure I am within my budget. If not, some items have to go back.
This might seem time-consuming and overwhelming, but actually making my meal plan & list from start to finish takes maybe an hour of my time spread out over two weeks. And once I'm at the store, my list is so detailed, I'm in and out in about 30 -45 minutes. By taking just a portion of my time I'm able to stay within my budget every time and never feel like money is tight because I've overspent at the grocery store. Also, since I only plan for enough meals to last two weeks, we're not wasting food anymore. It makes me feel so much better and it makes grocery shopping a breeze rather than a chore! And I kept the $ amount for the groceries far enough under my budget this time around that I was able to "splurge" and buy some yummy ice cream that I originally didn't think we'd have enough $ leftover for! :)
Here are the groceries + toiletries + household items I bought this time:
I split my shopping between two stores this time. These are the items I was able to get at Kroger with my coupons.