I’ve been getting lots of e-mails from ShopRite shoppers about how I’m able to keep up with all the sales while decreasing my grocery budget every month. I figured this is something that all grocery shoppers can benefit from, so I wanted to share a few simple things that I did the first year(and still do) that I started budgeting our amount towards groceries.
1. SET A FIRM BUDGET. This may seem simple and obvious, but some people still don’t do this exactly. Even if you have to do it down to the penny, do so. This will not only keep you from over-spending at the stores, but will keep you from effecting the rest of your budget. Also, by sticking to a firm budget, you can easily see how well you are doing when you have extra grocery money left in your pocket. Which brings me to the number 2…
2. Use cash if at all possible. I know some shoppers still use their credit cards to pay because of the points you get from using the card. But, if you DO NOT pay off your card in full at the end of every month, then you should not be using it for groceries. I like to look at it this way: If I’m purchasing something perishable, or can be used in one sitting, then I pay cash. This can also go for other things in your budget, such as airline tickets, concert tickets, that birthday cake you get from the bakery, etc. I found that once I had that mentality, it was easy to switch to paying everything in cash. The only exception I have is if you use your debit card, and the monies are taken off your account automatically.
3. Coupons are great, but not truly necessary when starting out. This is one of those things that I hate to admit is true, but it is! Looking at the circulars and paying attention to sale prices are the best way to start off saving. Luckily for us “internet savvy” shoppers, there are plenty of websites and blogs that will tell you if a price at your grocery store is a great stock up price or if you should wait it out. If you aren’t in the mood to start buying multiple papers every Sunday, then don’t. But do pay attention to the great printable coupons that are online. The best match-up blogs(like this one :op) will tell you which printables are great for the current week’s deals and where you can print them from. Once you feel you have mastered using coupons in this way, then you can either start buying your papers or order coupons from clipping sites like Coupons and things by Dede or My Coupon Hunters.
4. Keep track of the extras in your budget. This is also another pitfall of grocery budgeting. When you start out, you need to decide if you will be adding other items to your budget, such as pharmacy items, health and beauty items(including baby or kids items), or items for any pets in the house. In our budget, all of these things are included in the grocery budget, as well as the papers and clipped coupons I purchase throughout the month. This, of course, shortens the amount of budget that goes towards food, but in the same token, these coupons tend to allow me to get more food for cheap or free. So, in essence, one frugal hand washes the other.
5. In the beginning, max out your budget. This may seem a bit silly if you are trying to find extra money in your budget to put towards bills, mortgage, etc., but your goal here should be to stockpile your house with necessities at a great price, so you don’t blow out your budget later on. The idea is to take this small amount of money that is budgeted just for groceries and stretch it as much as possible. If you are able to get all of your items for that week or month and stay under your budget, start to look at items that rarely go on sale. If your family goes through sugar at a fast pace, take the extra budgeted money and stockpile a 5lb bag. Are you a busy person that doesn’t have time to make their own bread, but loves to take in their lunch? Take that extra money and grab some of your favorite cold cuts or a quality loaf, or two, of whole wheat bread. All of these things can be placed in the freezer for later use, by the way.
6. In the end, turn the extra money into gift cards. I’ve shared this tip before but it is one worth repeating. Once you get into the groove of using only your grocery budget, and start to create a stockpile, take that extra money and turn it into gift cards for your local grocery stores. This is a great idea for two reasons; first, you will be “stockpiling” extra money for those months where the sales are just too good, but you don’t want to go over your allotted budget. You can stock up on good deals on produce, meats or even dairy without dipping into other parts of your main budget. Second, if you tend to go crazy with your grocery shopping during the holidays, you will have a side of “savings” ready to offset that bill. I love to use these cards during catalina deals at my stores where I want to take advantage of a deal, but don’t want to sacrifice my regular budget. I also love to use these extra gift cards as giveaways here on the blog.
I hope this has answered most of the questions that some of you had. Keep those questions coming! If you have any more, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment below.