Monday, September 24, 2012

Budgeting When Money is Tight: Part 4

Today is part 4 of my series: Budgeting When Money is Tight.  Like I've said before, we don't have it all together, and we are not professionals, but, we have been working very hard over the last 2 years to knock out our debt.  With Ben's recent knee surgery bills, we have been set back a ton!  We are continuing to work hard to be financially free, and I'm wanting to share the things that have best helped us over the last two years in hopes that it would be inspiring and encourage to you., too!  If you've missed the first three posts in this series, check them out here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Cutting Your Grocery Bill

Menu planning is probably the easiest way to start seeing a decrease in your spending at the grocery store without diving into the world of coupons.  And yet, for most people, it can seem so daunting and intimidating.  By building a menu plan before heading to the grocery store, you can maximize your time there, and avoid extra trips during the week, which can add a lot to the grocery budget (who actually grabs just the one item you went in for?).  If you sit down for just 15 minutes before heading to the store, you can feel prepared for both your shopping trip, and the rest of your week.

How do I get started?

Use your store circulars to build meals that utilize the items on sale that week.  I recommend choosing just one store to get yourself started.  If you regularly eat spaghetti once a week and pasta happens to be on sale, buy 4 boxes to last you the month....doing just that, you've cut your pasta expense for the month in half!  If chicken is on sale, do a couple chicken meals that week.  If it's ground beef, do some meals utilizing beef.  Think also about your days.  Do you have a day that will be really long and you won't have time to prepare dinner?  Consider a crock pot meal for those nights!

Once you have chosen your meals for the week (breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks), write down all the ingredients for each meal.  Can you split one pound of ground beef among two meals instead of buying two pounds?  Plot out how much of each ingredient you will need.  Then, take inventory of what you already have and cross those ingredients off of your list.

I always re-write my list in a neat fashion, and if I have the time, I try to organize the list by aisle at the store (this helps me avoid going back and forth across the store-huge time saver when you're shopping with 3 small kids!).

Now, without even dealing with coupons, you can save money by going into the store and getting exactly  what you'll need for the rest of the week.  You will save money by avoiding "extra" items that aren't on the list, and you'll also be saving money by avoiding the store for the rest of the week.

Isn't that simple?  Now, you can of course get much more detailed into this process by using coupons, stocking up on sale items, going to multiple stores (or price-matching at WalMart), and freezer cooking meals that are super cheap, but this is the general idea for menu planning.

Also, remember, the fruits and veggies that are in season will be the cheapest (usually under $1 per pound).  You can use it as an opportunity to try new produce that you maybe otherwise don't usually eat.  Eat what's in season, and you'll keep that part of your budget low.

Check back tomorrow for part 5 of this series!

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