Like many American families, one of our goals for the new year is to focus more of our energy on staying on our budget and paying off some of the credit cards that we’ve allowed to get away from us over the last two or three years. Since being debt-free in 5 years in our ultimate goal, we’ve got to really buckle down and make some lifestyle changes – our grocery budget is one of the first places we turned. I knew we were spending a lot of money on frivolous items, products I could make from home cheaper and healthier, and we were wasting a lot of our leftovers, so over the last two months I’ve devised a budget, purchasing plan and a printable grocery/pantry supply list that works for our family. While I’m sure I’ll continue to make slight changes or adjustments as the year progresses, I wanted to share with you what I’ve found so maybe you can adjust it to fit your family, as well.
Establish a Grocery Budget
First things first, Jon & I tracked all of our grocery spending for the month of January to give us a starting point for our grocery budget. Our monthly budget is now set at $500 a month to cover all of our food, cleaning, and paper goods…that sounds like a huge feat, even for me, but with my system of once-a-month shopping, couponing, and menu planning and by keeping my shopping list consistent, I can easily stay on budget and keep my family eating healthy all month long.
When we met for our monthly budget date in February, the budget date is something we’ve done for years now, we were able to pin down a whether our grocery budget was reasonable, but not outrageous, using the tracking we did the month before. Through our new awareness, we also discovered we were losing a lot of money through food waste and by shopping once a month, rather than weekly. If you’re anything like me, you tend to pick up at least a couple of items not on your list…these couple of items can really add up monthly if you’re shopping weekly.
Master Grocery List
I’m terrible about making grocery lists every week, and that can really cost me, so I also created a master grocery list spreadsheet in January for us to use in our grocery shopping for the month. Over the last couple of months, I’ve added items that I had forgotten and it’s been great for keeping up with our pantry…it also gives me an inside look at what we’re eating a lot of and where we could use some diversity in our diet.
Since I’ve spent so much time fine tuning our pantry list, I wanted to share it with you. You can view and save your own version of our grocery list in Google Drive or in PDF format…I hope it helps make your grocery shopping go a little more smoothly. I’ve found with a pantry full of basic items you can create a month’s full of recipes with ease.
Once A Month Shopping
Every month, on the first Friday of the month, you will find me taking the day off from client projects and tackling our grocery list. Since I only shop once a month, my grocery shopping can take as much as 5 hours to complete – and about a week to prepare for. Yes. Really. But really, it only takes me so much time because I am running a company, raising a family, and preparing to start school (again). I usually only hit up three different stores: Costco (LA & I share a membership), Walmart, & Kroger. Here’s a look at how I spend my week leading up to the big trip and how it works for me:
Monday – Print out pantry list and fill out needed items + quantity (I do this in pencil because I know I’m going to make edits as the week goes on).
Tuesday – Create monthly menu & recipes. Add items needed for recipe to grocery list.
Wednesday – Review weekly grocery store ads and add any sale items to list. (Now is a good time color code your list per store.)
Thursday – Go through coupons and cut/collect those needed for your trip. Spend this time also paring down the expired or undesired coupons.
Friday – After dropping off the kids at school, I head straight for Starbucks – I use my holiday gift cards to pay for this little excursion, so it doesn’t come out of our budget. I also try to schedule any other errands in the city for this day, so that I can be as budget friendly as possible. Then I start my trip at the store that is the farthest away and start working my way back home. By the time I’m done I’m exhausted, ready for another cup of coffee, and a nap. But alas, I’ll spend the next hour unpacking and putting away those groceries while throwing back a couple of cups of coffee.
I have to tell you…it’s a lot of work, this once a month shopping, but it’s also really nice. I’m alone in my car with my Spotify playlists for the majority of the day…and then I get to take the music with me in my ear buds in the stores. We’re also down to slip pickings when it comes to groceries by this time, so I’m just excited to have food again.
So what do you do to save time and money on groceries?