When I returned, however, I was excited to discover this exciting fact:
I, Feather, stayed within my grocery budget this month!
It may very well be due to us being gone for a week, but I will take this small victory no matter what the circumstances.
For the past 4 months, I have been very diligent to find out how I can stay under the amount set for groceries each month. Usually, I hit right around that mark, but it takes much planning and time. I have tried many different methods to see which works the best:
Shop multiple stores for the best prices. I do not like this method. After many months of shopping the supposedly cheaper Wal-mart for some items and then going to Dillon's for items I won't buy at Wal-mart, I have found that I really don't save much. Wal-mart has surprisingly more variety than Dillon's; therefore, I stray from my list more and thus spend more money in the end. I will say that Aldi's has many items that I like and that are extremely cheap (such as EVOO, baking supplies, & organic tomatoes), but the fact that their inventory changes so frequently frustrates me. I make a trip there about once a month to get long-term supplies.
Shop the ads. I actually think this works well, but only if you plan your menu according to the ads. If ground beef and chicken are on sale, make meals with those items. If pork and steak are on sale, make meals with those.
Use coupons. I have found that there is an art of using coupons. You can use coupons at the wrong time. For instance, if I have a coupon on an item I buy every week, I like to wait to use the coupon when the item is on sale. Then, I save more money. Or, use double coupons. I have purchased some household products at amazing prices because of sales and double coupons. But, you can also get in trouble using coupons if you are just buying something because you have a coupon.
Stick to the list. Use up what is in the kitchen. This seems self-explanatory, but I had to learn it. The first month I started being wise with our budget, I realized that we had a lot of food in our house that I could use. I had stocked up on things. I had half-used boxes of all sorts of noodles. So, each week I now begin my menu by seeing what things need to be used up in the kitchen. Sometimes, I may only need to purchase a few items to make a complete meal. And of course, I can only stay within my budget if I stick to my list when I am at the store. This seems to be the hardest part!
Shop one store. This is really the method I like best. And because I have tried out other stores, I feel qualified to say that. I shop at our local grocery store, but I shop smart. I try to use the ads and plan accordingly. Our grocery store keeps track of what we buy and sends coupons based on it. Seriously, I get coupons in the mail for the things I buy on a regular basis and because of how often I shop there. Plus, I can load coupons on my card and use printed coupons. Even buying items that are a little pricier than Wal-mart, I do better budget-wise when I just shop at one store.
Ultimately, there are just some things I am willing to pay more for. Chicken, for example. Fresh fruit and veggies. So, I buy cheap in other areas of my list.
When I got married, I was not aware of how much of our budget would be dependent on me; nor did I take it seriously. Now I realize that I spend a major portion of our money and I am doing my best to be a good steward in this so that Hubs can trust me completely.
Of course, you may have different strategies that work for you. But, I think I am finally getting a good grasp on my methods. I know I have a long way to go, but this month has given me hope!