6 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

grocery receipts

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Groceries are expensive!  Really expensive!!!  So anything we can do to save money is a good thing.

Besides the normal techniques of shopping sales, using coupons, buying generics – there are a few other things that can make a big difference, too.

  1. Shop alone. We all know we spend more money when we take kids or spouses.
  1. Shop with someone. I know this is in direct contradiction to what I just said, but sometimes having someone with you DOES make you spend less.  When I go alone, I tend to add things to the cart that aren’t necessary or aren’t good for me.  When my husband is with me, he questions those types of purchases.  And I hate to admit this, but there are some things I don’t want to buy if he’s with me – like corn dogs.  So I don’t.
  1. Don’t shop when hungry. I’ve heard this one forever and it really is true.  When I’m hungry, I add all kinds of ridiculous things to my cart that I wouldn’t normally.  On the flip side, if I shop when I’m FULL, sometimes I don’t buy enough.
  1. Don’t dawdle. The longer you spend in the store, the more money you’ll spend.  Get in, get it and get out!!!
  1. Use cash and only take the amount you budgeted. You can’t overspend if you don’t have it.
  1. Have a detailed list and stick to it. My normal routine is to make my list, in detail, put prices by the items (rounding up to account for tax) and then add it up to be sure it matches my budget.  If it’s too low (which is never is!), good!  Then I have extra to use for something else.  If it’s too high, I have to figure out what I can do without.

I’ll confess that I don’t use coupons or shop sales.  I do stock up if there’s a really good sale but I don’t have the time or desire to spend a lot of time trying to save money at the store.  So for me, the six strategies above are my go-to’s for saving money on groceries.

Do you do any of these things?  How do you save money on groceries?

Planner Use: How to Use a Monthly Task List

Monthly Task List

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Many monthly calendars come with a back page for monthly tasks, including

Franklin Covey

Monthly Task List

Daytimer

Daytimer Monthly Task List

DIY Fish Life Mapping Inserts.

DIY Fish Life Mapping Inserts Monthly Task List

This monthly task list is often overlooked or underused but it can be a very valuable tool.  Here are some ideas for how to use the Monthly Task List:

  1. Monthly Checks. I have several tasks that I do every month.  These tasks include checking the smoke alarms, checking the furnace filter, refilling David’s snack snash, cleaning the dishwasher filter, and backing up David’s iTunes account.  I write these tasks on the Monthly Task List and mark them off as I complete them.

Monthly Task List

  1. Budget. I don’t do a detailed budget on the Monthly Task List but I do an abbreviated one so I don’t forget anything.  My “budget items” might include things like birthdays, renewals, doctor visits, haircuts, medicine, travel, entertainment, etc.  I put the item and the amount.  Then when I’m working on my budget, I take a look at that list to be sure I didn’t forget anything.

Monthly Task List

This summer one of the neighbor kids came by selling things for her school.  I placed an order and then made a note on my Monthly Task List when the money would be due.

Monthly Task List

This is a great tool for those annual renewals that sometimes surprise us.  When I renew one of those, I make a note on the monthly task list page so it doesn’t catch me by surprise.

  1. Birthdays. I still send paper birthday cards to my family.  So on my monthly task list, I list the birthdays for the NEXT month so I can plan ahead.

Monthly Task List

  1. Tasks that need to be done. This list is NOT the place for anything and everything you can think of.  This list is where you put tasks that need to be done SOMETIME this month but not on a specific day or week.

Monthly Task ListHere are a few more samples:

Monthly Task List

Monthly Task List

Monthly Task List

These are just a few ideas of information you can track on your Monthly Task List.   If your calendar doesn’t have a monthly task list, you can create your own by simply inserting a blank piece of paper for each month.  If you don’t have many items you could even use a post-it note or sticker.

Do you use a Monthly Task List?  What information do you write on yours?

Entertaining: Just Do It!

Entertaining

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Do you enjoy having people over but you find that you never get around to inviting anyone?  You have good intentions but there’s always something standing in the way?  The only way to succeed at having people over is to

JUST DO IT!

The truth is,

  • The schedule will probably never be ideal.
  • The house will rarely look just right.  You know – perfectly clean and perfectly decorated.
  • Your cooking skills may or may not be up to par.
  • Your budget may not allow for a gourmet meal.

But those are just excuses.  If you really want to have people over,

JUST DO IT!

Schedule:  Obviously your schedule does have to work.  You can’t invite people over if you’re not going to be home.  But don’t wait for an empty evening.  Mark out a day on your schedule even if you haven’t actually invited anyone yet.  You know the rule – our appointments and tasks expand to fill the time we have available.  So if you wait for the “right” time, it’ll never come.  Just pick a day and pencil in a party.  Then start inviting.

House:  Don’t worry about the house.  I’m serious.  Don’t worry about it.  Most of the people you’ll be interested in inviting over don’t care about the condition of your house.  They’re coming to see YOU, not your house.  And if your house isn’t perfectly decorated or immaculately cleaned – well, who cares?!  People are what’s important.

Cooking.  If you’re not a great cook, that’s okay.  Do the best you can or order take out.  Better yet, have your guests contribute to the meal.  Most people are happy to help.  And remember, it’s about the fellowship, not the food.

Budget.  Yes, cooking for guests can be expensive.  But you don’t have to offer a gourmet meal.  Keep it simple and choose a meal that fits your budget.  There are lots of great recipes that are inexpensive to make.

So if you want to have people over, pick a day and invite someone over.  Then prepare to have fun!

Remember,

JUST DO IT!

Do you entertain often?  If not, why not?  What’s holding you back?

How to Go OVER Budget at the Grocery Store

Shopping List

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I spend a lot of money at the grocery store.  That’s because:

  1. We eat nearly all of our meals at home.
  2. My husband always takes his lunch and several snacks to work every day.
  3. My husband likes to eat and eat well.
  4. I feed other people frequently.
  5. My grocery budget includes household items like cleaners, pet food (for one large dog and a cat), diapers for the grandkids, makeup, etc.

I used to do a pretty good job at sticking to my budget but in the past several years, I haven’t tried as hard.  However, I want to do better.

When I went to the grocery store this past week, I made a detailed list complete with price estimates and it added up to $183.  I wanted to spend no more than $200 so that gave me a little leeway if I discovered that I forgot something.  By the way, I don’t add in tax because I estimate high on individual items to cover the tax.

Anyway, when I got to the checkout, my bill was $223.30.  Oops.  I went over my estimate by $40 and over my budget by $23.

grocery receipt

When I got home, I analyzed my grocery list to figure out where I went wrong.  Here’s where I messed up:

1.       My biggest problem resulted from the “leeway” I mentioned earlier.  Leeway seems like a good thing because I always forget an item or two or there’s a great sale.  But if leeway isn’t handled carefully, it can be very bad.  When I think I can add a few things because I have a little room in my budget, unless I carefully keep track, that extra $15 will easily turn into $30.  And when I grocery shopped this week, I added $36 worth of extra stuff.

2.      Not being realistic.  I always buy a 20 ounce coke at the checkout.  It’s my reward for shopping.  It costs about $1.60.  Sometimes I buy a second one to share with other members of my family.  Since I KNOW I’m going to buy one or two, I need to add that to my list.  If I KNOW I’m going to buy something, I need to put it on the list!!!

3.       Underestimating the cost of an item.  Most of the time I’m pretty accurate with my estimates but once in a while I miss the mark.  When that happens, rather than tossing the item in my cart anyway, if I’m really serious about staying on budget, I have to make a decision.  If I add the overpriced item, something else has to go.

My granddaughter loves those packages of breadsticks with dipping cheese.  Normally you can buy a pack of 5 for $1.15 but they were out of them.  I didn’t want to disappoint her again (I didn’t get them last week) so I ended up buying a bigger box and more expensive brand for $5 instead of the $1.25 I budgeted.   I also opted to buy a package of chicken cutlets instead of normal chicken breasts (for a recipe for chicken roll-ups that require thinner pieces of chicken) and it was $5 more than I budgeted.  I should have purchased the normal package of chicken breasts and cut them myself.  I just wasn’t thinking.

4.       Not being careful when I make my list.  When I made my list, I wasn’t as careful as I should have been.  I was in a hurry and threw it together.  As a result, I got to the store and realized there were several items I needed that weren’t on the list.  If I had been more careful in my planning, those items would have been on the list.

5.       Not being committed to staying on budget.  Even though I wanted to stay on budget, I wasn’t truly committed to it.  I went in with the attitude that it wasn’t a big deal if I went a little over.  That attitude DOES NOT WORK – at least not for me.  The only sure way I know to solve my attitude problem is to go to the store next week with the exact amount of cash I want to spend.

Grocery List

After analyzing my spending at the grocery store this week, I know what I need to do when I go shopping next week.  If you have problems staying on budget, what are your problem areas?

Plan Ahead with a Budget Allocation Worksheet

Wallet

I’m on a budget.  I don’t have an unlimited amount of money to spend each week so I’ve learned that if I don’t plan ahead, my money gets spent where it shouldn’t and I can’t pay for things I should.

In an effort to plan ahead and set aside money for things I need, I came up with this Budget Allocation Worksheet.  I don’t like it because it keeps me from spending mindlessly (which is how I like to spend) but it’s a necessary evil to keep me out of trouble.

Spending Allocation Worksheet blank

Here’s how I use it:

1.       We’re self-employed so I have our finances set up for a weekly allowance which covers all household spending.  I mean ALL.  It covers groceries, gasoline, entertainment, eating out, vet visits for the pets, doctor visits, repairs, etc.   I make the transfer to the personal account on Saturdays so I have my worksheet filled in with the dates of three months of Saturdays.

2.       Use pencil because you’ll be making changes.

3.       This form is a little tricky to print because it’s horizontal.  So I print it once, put the paper back in, and print another copy on the other end.  You’ll have to experiment with your printer to see how to feed the paper or you can just print one per page.

Spending Allocation Sheet

4.       Record the amounts you expect to have available to spend on household items.  I suggest filling in just one month at a time.

5.       Then start plugging in the amounts you expect to spend on normal things like gasoline, groceries, eating out, etc.  Again, I would only do one month at a time.

6.       Plug in any expenses you have occasionally, like haircuts, specific entertainment expenses (like concert tickets, for example), doctor co-pays, medicine refills, gifts, etc.

7.       Now it gets a little more complicated because we’re dealing with bigger ticket items like repairs, large purchases, bigger gifts, conferences, trips.  I can’t usually just go out and pay for these items – I need to plan ahead.  So I figure out when I need the money to be available and how much I need.  Then I divide it into smaller amounts and work backwards on the chart so I set aside a little bit each week.  For example, let’s say I’m going to a conference in the fall and the fee of $300 is due by the end of June.  I have 5 weeks in June and 4 weeks in May.  That’s about $35 a week.  So I’ll record $35 a week during May and June.  By the end of June, I’ll have the money set aside without busting my budget.

Or I need to pay for a car repair.  The speedometer on my Jeep works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t.  I know it will cost approximately $250.  So I decide to set aside $20 a week.  I write $20 in each column until I have the money.  Then I schedule the repair.

8.       Add up the expenses and subtract them from the expected income.  If you have a balance, it doesn’t mean it’s extra – it just means it isn’t allocated to a specific item yet.  Things change quickly so before that week arrives you’ll probably have a purpose for that money.  It can also cover overages on items like groceries or gasoline. And there are always unexpected surprises you need money for.  It’s nice to have a little extra for when those come up as they always do.

Spending Allocation Worksheet filled out

And that’s it.  It’s simple and effective.  And it prevents unpleasant surprises that derail the budget.  So print one out and give it a try.  And let me know what you think.

Download a Budget Allocation Worksheet for

 Personal
FC Compact
Classic or A5

13 Tips for Staying on Budget

Money

My personal budget is set up so I have a certain amount of money set aside for bills and the rest is for what I call “household spending”.  Household spending includes groceries, gasoline, makeup, eating out, entertainment, doctor visits, etc.  I don’t have any trouble sticking to the bills budget but the household budget is another matter entirely.  If you struggle with sticking to your household budget, like I do, here are some strategies that might help:

1.       If you don’t have money to spend, it’s probably not a good idea to go shopping.

2.       Keep track of how much you’ve spent and how much you have left.  If you don’t know how much money you have left, you won’t know if you can spend any.  I know, I know – ignorance is bliss, but if you’re trying to stay on budget, you have to keep track!

3.       When you’re out shopping, have a list.  And on that list, have estimates of how much you’re going to spend on each item.  Add it up and be sure it fits the amount you have available.  If it doesn’t, modify your list.  And while you’re shopping, as you mark things off your list and put them in your cart, it might be a good idea to write down how much the item actually costs.  That way, if you have to put something back, it’ll be easier to figure out which item needs to go back.

4.       Shop with cash and leave your cards at home or in your car.  It’s hard for me to spend cash but easy for me to spend the invisible money in my checking account.  And unfortunately, if I go in with cash but spend more than my cash, I’ll just whip out my card and figure it all out later.  So if that’s what it takes, take only cash.  When it comes to cash, you can’t spend it if you don’t have it.

5.       Be realistic.  If you KNOW you’re going to go out to eat on Friday, budget for it.  If you’re not realistic, you’re probably not going to be able to stay on budget.

6.       Don’t buy anything that’s not on your list.  I stay out of a lot of trouble when I do this!  Obviously there are exceptions.  If you’re out shopping and suddenly remember you needed something that isn’t on your list, adjust if you need to and get the item.  This principle of not buying anything that’s not on your list applies primarily to impulse items.

7.       If you mess up, don’t give up.  Analyze what went wrong and do a course correction.

8.       Be accountable to someone about your spending.  You don’t have to give them every detail but perhaps a weekly update on how you’re doing – whether you’re sticking to your plan or not.

9.       Make a game out of it.  See how well you can do and then put the money you don’t spend in a jar for a specific savings goal.

10.     If you have a category you’re really struggling with, you might need to analyze that category, figure out what’s going on and come up with a plan to fix it.

11.     At the end of any shopping trip, but before you check out, take one last look at your cart or basket and see if there’s anything you can put back.

12.     Keep a chart on the refrigerator or some other prominent place showing everything you buy!  Knowing you have to write it down and others might see it could be a motivation.

13.     At the end of each week, analyze your spending.  See how close you were in each category.  Note what you did well and what you messed up.  Note what you could have done different to make it work better.

These strategies help me stay on budget.  What are your strategies?