Even with the big news last week that we're now debt-free, we are still sticking to a tight monthly budget. That's the only way to accomplish our financial goals. With a busy summer of swim team and activity, we ate out a lot and I didn't keep close track of the grocery budget. With back to school structure here, I am recommitting to our grocery budget.
If you've never had a grocery budget, I hope you'll read Setting a Food Budget and figure out a number that works for your family. I have a family of five, and all three of my kids (7, 7 and 10) are big eaters. I'm recommitting to a $500/month budget, and that includes all of our food and household needs (laundry detergent, etc.). We're only eating out 1-2 times each month. I'll do this for the next few months and see if the grocery budget needs to be raised for 2014.
How will I stick to $500/month? These strategies work for me:
- Plan meals ahead of time: I'm using this list of 30 Easy Meals for Fall so that each week it's easy to plan a week's worth of dinners. I'm also jotting down what I need for three kids' lunches daily, so I don't have to buy things impulsively. I also keep a notepad on the fridge to write down any basics (eggs, etc.) that we will need on the next shopping trip).
- Make one shopping trip per week: I find that the more often I go to the store, the more likely I am to sway off the shopping list and buy “wants” instead of “needs.” I did one bulk shop at Costco at the beginning of the month for the items I knew where cheapest there (string cheese, eggs, bread, etc.) and am now making one quick trip each week to the regular grocery store to get the specifics I need for the meals on my weekly meal plan, fresh produce, and more milk (we go through a ton of milk!).
- Store a week's worth in the pantry: If I keep a month's worth of snacks in the pantry, my family will go through them in a week! So I parcel out what we need to the pantry and store the rest on a basement shelf. I don't keep a huge stockpile, but they would go through boxes of crackers, etc. way too fast otherwise. They also know that once we're out, we're out. We don't just buy more.
- Keep track of my spending: This one is easy–I just keep a note on the fridge and write down any receipts so I can see how close we are to $500. Right now, I've spent $278 and it's the 12th of the month, so that helps me pace out the rest of my shopping.
If you're comfortable sharing, what is your monthly grocery budget? It really helps others to hear the size of your family, possibly where you live (because cost-of-living is different everywhere), and your number. Leave a comment below!
Original image from phil_g on Flickr