I hate to admit it, but I have never been one of those Moms who were adept at budgeting. I have 3 kids, a husband who works from home (and eats all meals at home too), 4 dogs, 3 cats and 2 turtles to feed, plus I host twice weekly playgroups (picture 5 or more hungry kids!), so you can understand that a huge chunk of our monthly expenditures goes on groceries. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a pretty conscientious shopper. I read labels, check prices and compare for the best value, but yes, I do buy some weekly treats for us all – like special organic snacks for the kids, fancy European soda for hubby and that new body lotion for me, but I do keep it to a minimum.
Well, when I saw this article on “The Challenge: Feed a Family on $100 a Week”, I was intrigued, and slightly nauseated that she actually pulled it off while I spend at least three times that (hey, she only had two kids- one of which was a 5-month old, who we know wont be saying “I’m hungry, Mom!!” all the time).
With the state of the world these days, I thought it was time I did try a little (okay, a lot) harder to cut down my hefty grocery bill and hopefully save some money. That, coupled with the fact that I have recently become a huge fan of Suze Orman and am now reading her book, Women and Money, which I find amazingly liberating (but that’s for a another post).
While I’m no budgeting guru, I’ve found a few, like frugal Mom Michelle Jones, who has been doing it successfully for 20 years, “with or without coupons”. I’m more inclined, though, to start off with some of these solid, basic tips from The Consumerist:
1. Make a list and stick to it. Lists focus your shopping and are the single best way to save money.
2. Compare unit pricing, not box size. As with good things, good prices sometimes come in small packages.
3. If you only need a handful of items, use a basket, not a cart. Empty space cries to be filled.
4. If it’s not on your list, don’t pick it up. According to Paco Underhill in Why We Buy: “Virtually all unplanned purchases…come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment.”
5. Shop at the edge of the store. That’s where the healthier, cheaper items hide.
6. Disavow brand loyalty and swear allegiance to the lowest price.
7. Consider generics. You usually get the same quality, without the unnecessary branding.
8. Learn to love coupons. With practice, you can buy almost $150 worth of stuff for $5.
9. Make one big shop, rather than several small ones. You’ll save on gas while inoculating against wasteful spending.
10. Buy from bulk bins. Why pay for packaging and marketing when you can reach right in and scoop out exactly what you need?
11. Check your receipt. Don’t let an errant scan ruin your hard work.
12. Shop alone. Science shows that we spend more when we’re with company.
13. Track your spending so you can see what’s eating your money. Committed receipt hawks can spot price cycles to help guide their shopping.
14. Eat a meal before shopping. Shopping on a full stomach tamps down impulse spending and keeps you focused on your list.
15. Shop without a car. Nothing limits spending like knowing you’ll have to carry your goods home.
Photo via Lab2112