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- About a year ago, I started tracking my expenses in hopes of saving more money. I found that I was spending $200 a week on food.
- To cut back my grocery bill, I made three changes to my shopping habits, starting with creating a weekly meal plan.
- From there, I shopped the sales and took inventory before leaving the house, and I limited takeout to Friday nights only.
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I think we can all agree that grocery shopping — and everything that goes along with it — is a chore. Having to come up with daily meal ideas, create a budget, and set aside time to walk up and down the isles of your local markets? A chore. Add to that the frustration of having to wear a mask in public places and fears of economic uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and you have a truly annoying task.
Although there's no way to avoid the responsibility of feeding yourself or your family, I've found there are a few things that make the process run a bit smoother and even keep a few extra dollars in your account.
A year ago, I began taking inventory of my monthly expenses in hopes of finding a way to increase my savings. As I started to track how much money I was spending on food and groceries, it was clear that there was an opportunity to make some adjustments. I mean, as a single mother of two, why was my grocery bill comparable to someone with a family of five? Were we really eating $200 or more worth of food each week?
After reviewing my receipts, I discovered a correlation between how much I spent and factors like my mood or if I was in a rush. It was obvious that I didn't plan to shop, it was just something I was doing because I had to.
From there, I made some slight changes and was able to reduce my grocery bill by approximately $300 each month. By implementing the following practices, not only was I able to reach my savings goal, I also found a way to maximize my time and take the grunt work out of buying groceries.
I create a weekly meal plan
Doing this one thing alone added hours back to my day to do much more important things than think about food. Instead of taking daily trips to the grocery store trying to figure out dinner each day, I wrote down meal suggestions for each day of the week before shopping.
The idea of being in the kitchen every day was overwhelming so I decided to reserve Wednesdays for leftovers and Fridays for takeout.
Admittedly, it was challenging at first to come up with a variety of different options, so I scanned through online meal planners, dinner idea blogs, and enlisted help from the kids for their input. From there, my grocery list consisted only of the items I needed to make those meals for the week.
Previously, I was buying food in excess, and as a result fresh produce quickly spoiled. And, in spite of all the food in the cabinets, we never seemed to have anything we wanted to eat.
I'm shopping smarter
For me, shopping smart consists of asking myself a few things: What do I already have in the pantry? Where are the sales? Are you shopping while hungry or pressed for time?
I've learned that taking inventory of what you already have before you head to the store is vital. I don't know how many times I've grabbed something in the store, unsure if I already have it, only to get home to find out that I did. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but those little mistakes can add up, especially if you are on a budget.
Shopping smart also means shopping around. It may feel convenient to be able to go to one store for all of your household needs, but in doing so you are sure to overspend.
Large retailers like Target and Walmart have so many items that a simple trip to get a few things turns into a minimum $100 expenditure that rarely includes anything you originally set out to buy.
On the other hand, your nearest grocery store may advertise great "buy one, get one" or 10 for $10 specials, however, every deal isn't always a good one.
Ultimately, a good rule of thumb is to set aside time to review weekly ads and understand where you get the biggest value. If you aren't prepared, don't have the time, or are hungry while trying to shop, you can kiss your budget goodbye.
I'm limiting takeout
I enjoy a good sit-down at a restaurant especially after cooking most of the week. If I'm being honest, though, most of the meals I enjoy out can be made at home. Still, dining out is less about the food and more about the experience and convenience of not doing it yourself.
While I don't believe you have to be fiscally responsible every second of the day, you can limit how much you spend by setting specific days to enjoy takeout. For me, Friday marks the end of a long week and ordering out helps me decompress.
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