Need inspiration to stay debt-free and stop using credit cards? Check out Jessica’s post on How to Live Without Credit Cards.
Looking for some quick and easy ways to cut your grocery bill? Here are five ideas…
I wrote a post a few weeks back with 10 simple ways to cut your grocery bill by $50 this week. I had so much fun putting that together, but I didn’t have room to share all of my ideas. So here are five more simple way to cut your grocery bill today:
1. Plan a Menu
Do you dread 5 p.m. because it’s when you have to try to pull something together for dinner or feel guilty about ordering takeout yet again? Do you often find yourself running to the store at the last-minute in a frazzled state rushing through the aisles and throwing random things into your cart in hopes it will magically create a five-course dinner?
The truth is, you could throw away the 5 p.m. dread and almost completely eradicate the frazzled last-minute grocery store trips if you sat down at the beginning of the week and made a menu plan.
I can’t even begin to calculate how much we’ve saved over the years through the simple act of menu planning. By planning ahead and buying all the groceries we’ll need for the week in one shopping trip, we save numerous trips to the store throughout the week. In addition, when you have a plan in place for what you’re supposed to be eating each meal and you’ve already purchased the ingredients for those recipes, it’s a lot harder to justify chucking the plan for takeout.
2. Go to More Than One Store
When I mention how I save a lot of money by shopping at more than one store, I’m often met with resistance:
“But I don’t have time to go to more than one store! I can barely make it into Walmart once a week.”
“That’s not saving money! You’re wasting all sorts of time and gas running around to fifteen different stores in one day. Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective and efficient to just do all your shopping at one store each week?”
“I’m glad that works for you, but I don’t have near the patience or organization to even attempt something like that!”
Let me be clear: I am not advocating going to 15 different stores that are 45 minutes away from your home in order to save $2 at each store. That’s not saving money, in my definition. Instead, that’s wasting enormous amounts of time and effort and producing little to show for it but wear and tear on your vehicle and an exorbitant gas bill.
What I am advocating is taking a little bit of time to scout at your nearby stores each week and pick a few which have the best sales and deals. Then base your grocery trip planning on shopping only at those stores.
3. Shop the Markdowns
The very first thing I do when I walk into a grocery store is to go around the perimeter of the store and look for the orange markdown stickers on items. I hit the produce section first. Then the meat, dairy, and bread items.
By starting with looking for markdowns, I then can rework my grocery list if I hit on a great deal. For example, if I was planning to buy carrots and cucumbers to use as raw veggies during the week, but I found a big bag of marked-down colored peppers and a marked-down head of cauliflower, if they were less expensive than the carrots and cucumbers I was planning to buy, I’d likely swap them and save a dollar or two.
My favorite thing about buying markdowns is that they add some variety to our menu. While I might not pay full price for a roast or salmon, I’ll snatch it up if it’s marked down by 50%.
I often receive the question, “How do you find out when a store marks down groceries?” I wish I had some super-secret answer to tell you so that you could just magically find markdowns at your store. However, each store is different and often the policies vary widely even in the same store chain in the same town. Sometimes, a store doesn’t even have policies for markdowns and it is based upon whatever mood the produce manager is in as to what kind of deals you’ll find.
Some store chains have a policy against marking items down. The best way to find out is to just ask. Usually, the produce manager is the person to start with.
Inquire what they do with produce that is going bad or milk that is almost to its expiration date and see if they have a policy on marking these items down. If they don’t, ask if you could get a discount if you found a gallon of milk which was expiring in a few days or produce which was going bad.
Find out more of my tips for saving money by shopping the markdowns at this post here.
4. Buy in Bulk
You can save at least 20% off the price of many staple products by buying them in bulk. If you’re going to be using the bulk amount of something over the course of a year and it can be stored for a long period of time, you might as well purchase it in quantity at a discount, right?
I save around $27 per year by buying yeast from Sam’s Club instead of at the grocery store. However, I don’t find it is worth it to pay for the membership. Instead, I just go in on the get in free days that they have a few times per year.
Be aware that not all warehouse packages are a good deal. In fact, many times, you’ll pay more per ounce for buying the large package than you’d pay if you bought multiple smaller packages when they are on a great sale at the grocery store.
You can often purchase large quantities of produce seconds for great prices from local farms (check LocalHarvest.org to see if there are farms near you that sell to the public). And if you like high-quality meat, you’re almost always going to save at least $1 per pound by buying it in bulk.
If you don’t have freezer space for large amounts of meat or products, consider splitting a bulk order with a few friends. That way, you all get the discount, but none of you have to buy a new freezer to store it in!
If don’t find great sources for buying in bulk from health food co-ops and Azure Standard doesn’t deliver to your area, check and see if your health food stores or grocery stores would give you a discount for buying in bulk. It never hurts to ask!
You might also just buy in bulk by practicing the Buy Ahead principle — buying multiples of items at your grocery store when they are at their rock-bottom prices!
For more tips and ideas for how to save by buying in bulk, read my post here.
5. Use Cashback Apps
Each app works a little differently, but the cool thing is that you can use all of them at one time! Here’s the basic gist: Scan your grocery receipts every time you shop and then request cashback for any items you bought that qualify.
These apps often have offers for milk, bread, eggs, fruit, and so on. Even if you only earn $0.50 each week for taking a minute to scan your receipt, that adds up over time!
Also, if you shop at Walmart regularly, you’ll want to check out their Savings Catcher Program. Here’s how it works:
- Enter or scan your Walmart receipt. You can either enter your receipt number on the Walmart Savings Catcher website, or scan the receipt’s barcode with the Walmart App. Your purchase must have been made within the last 7 days.
- Walmart compares prices for you. Walmart will match the price of any local competitor’s printed ad for an identical product.
- You get refunded the difference. If the Savings Catcher finds a lower advertised price, you get the difference.
To learn all about my favorite cash back apps, sign up for my free 5-day series on how to make and save money with your smartphone.
Do you want to take better control of your grocery budget? If so, you’ll want to read my newest eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget!
This eBook will give you all the tips, tricks, and practical advice you need to create a grocery budget tailored to your family’s needs that you can actually STICK to (because that’s the key!)
In this eBook, you’ll learn:
- How to create a grocery budget that fits your family’s needs and your finances!
- New systems to help you keep track of what you spend at the store!
- How to actually stick with your new budget and save money for years to come!
- Ways to save up to $50 off your grocery bill THIS WEEK by using the 10 simple strategies outlined in this eBook!
Read to get started? Just use the form below to sign up!
Want to instill wise financial management skills in your kids? Here are three practical ways we’re teaching our kids about money…
“When should we start teaching our kids about money?”
We hear this question a lot — from friends, from people I meet at conferences, and often from readers. Our response is always the same, “As soon as possible!”
My husband and I believe wholeheartedly that it’s never too early to start teaching your kids about money! The sooner they can learn the value of money and how to handle money, the sooner they can begin to develop a strong foundation for wise money management.
We started teaching all of our kids about money from the time they were about two. When they are old enough to not swallow money, they are old enough to learn about how to start using it well! 😉
My husband and I were blessed to come from homes where wise money management was modeled. And we are forever grateful to our parents and grandparents for the gift they gave us in this. We know that there’s no way that we would be in the financial position we are in if it were not for the foundation they gave us.
It’s our hope that we can pass on this same foundation to our kids, too. Which is why it’s so important to us to make teaching our kids about money a very important priority in our home.
Here are three practical ways we are teaching our kids about money:
1. We Talk About Our Own Money Choices
Since the time our kids have been toddlers, we’ve talked about money and the choices we’ve made when it comes to finances. We’ve started out in small ways and gradually shared more as they’ve asked more questions.
We’ve talked about why we live on a budget, why we save up and pay cash for things, why we wait to make purchases why we don’t use credit cards, why we don’t go into debt, why they are currently sharing a bedroom, and why we don’t have a mortgage.
In addition to talking about our money choices, we’ve also sought to model wise money management before our kids. They hear us talking about our budget together. They see us making sacrifices to pay for things. They watch us paying cash for things. They see us deciding not to buy something because it’s not a good enough deal.
I believe that it’s very important to teach through our words and through our life. Because often more is caught than taught.
This was definitely true for me. My parents taught me that money is a tool. In the hands of wise stewards, it can be put to good use and make a huge impact. In the hands of those who are unwise, it can be wasted and blown with nothing to show for it.
With their lives and checkbooks, they modeled the importance of being wise in how you use and manage money. It wasn’t about saving money for saving money’s sake, but so that you could use that money saved to impact and help other people. To invest in things that matter, to bless people, to donate to causes you believe in, and to give generously.
Seeing my parents’ sacrifices and creative commitment to living debt-free and how it put them in position to be able to give generously because they worked so hard to no longer have a house payment was a huge inspiration to my husband and me.
How to Teach Through Every Day Life
Recently, I took Kathrynne (12) and Silas (7) with me to Kroger. I had so much fun going through the aisles with them, showing them simple ways I save money at the store.
I shared with them that Jesse was in law school, we only had $17-$30 a week to spend on groceries, so I had to get very creative with menu-planning, shopping the markdowns, playing the Drugstore Game, and using coupons.
I told them how I would dumpster dive and search through the recycle bins for coupons. Between pairing the coupons and the markdowns, along with creativity, we were able to survive on a minimal budget.
We played The Markdown Game at the store — looking for the yellow markdown stickers and then, once we found them, deciding whether it was a really good deal or not. Teaching them that some deals aren’t as good as they seem and that it’s not a good deal if you don’t have the money for it is a fantastic way to connect the dots for them and increase the value of the dollar in their mind.
So we discussed our budget, and I helped them decide whether or not an item fit in our budget. We had so much fun doing this together — and we came away with some really great deals, too!
Near the end of the shopping trip, one of them said, “So when I go away to college, I can do this, too. I can afford to live and not go into debt.” Yes!
2. We Give Them Opportunities to Handle Money
We have our children start paying for things from a young age. In fact, from the time all our children were three or four years old, they had their own spending money that they had earned by doing chores and projects for us.
When we’re out shopping, they can bring their own spending money and spend it however they’d like (within reason!). This helps them learn valuable money management skills and also prevents the gimme attitude that can quickly pop up when out shopping.
If a child sees something they want and they ask me if we can buy it, my response is always, “Did you bring your money?”
I also love the real-life skills our children are learning from taking their items up to the register and paying for them themselves. They learn about counting change, interacting with sales clerks, and making sure they have enough money to pay for their items in the first place.
One of the greatest joys of paying our children for doing chores has been watching them become generous givers. We encourage them to set aside a portion of their money for giving and we regularly talk about the needs around the world.
We’ve been so proud to watch our children fund Operation Christmas Child boxes and buy goats and chickens and help fund a water project for those in other countries through Samaritan’s Purse. Truly, there has been nothing more rewarding as a parent than seeing our children want to follow our family’s mantra to “Live simply so others can simply live.”
3. We Let Them Make Money Mistakes
When our children to use their own spending money to buy things they want to purchase, we don’t give a whole lot of input or guidance — unless they ask us for it. Why?
Because we want them to learn how to think through the wisdom of purchases on their own. We won’t always be around to guide their purchases, so we want them to learn to think through what the best deal is and what the best use of their money is without a lot of prodding from us.
We also want them to make money mistakes. This might seem harsh, but we’d much rather have them make $3 mistakes now when they are little to hopefully prevent some $3,000 and $30,000 mistakes down the road.
They’ve learned a lot of lessons when they bought cheap items that were broken within a few days and they’ve learned that spending all your hard-earned money on some impulse purchase can often lead to regret. These instances have resulted in great discussions about how to carefully think through purchases and how to make sure you’re making the best use of your money.
Looking for more resources to help teach your kids about money?
Check out Beth Kobliner’s brand new book Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not) that just came out today, February 7, 2017.
Beth Kobliner is one of the nation’s leading authorities on personal finance for young people, and in this book she shares wise, practical, relatable advice to help parents teach children how to be smart about money.
Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not) is a jargon-free, step-by-step guide to help parents of all income levels teach their kids from ages three to twenty-three about money. The content in the book is based on the latest research from the fields of psychology, child development, and behavioral economics.
What I love most about this book is that it is full of “teachable moments” that allow parents to learn how to teach their kids character traits that are important in all aspects of life: a strong work ethic, the ability to exert self-control and to weigh our choices carefully, the perseverance to work toward distant goals, and a giving spirit.
I don’t agree with all of the advice in the book — especially the parts that make it seem like debt is just an expected and normal part of life — but I think there is a lot of incredibly valuable information in this book and it’s presented in a simple and easy-to-understand format. I think it would be a very helpful to any parent who is looking for some guidance and practical help to set your kids up for financial success.
The book also features various financial chapters with each chapter divided into the many stages of a child’s development (i.e. toddler, elementary school, college, etc.) for parents to read through or reference whenever they need to.
(Note: This post was underwritten by Beth Kobliner. Read our disclosure policy here.)
Guest post from Micah of MicahKlug.com
It’s never easy to go on a date without busting the bank — but, this doesn’t have to be the case! You can still go on fun, creative, and exciting dates without having to empty your pockets.
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a little creativity? Whether you’re married, exclusively dating, or still searching for your sweetheart, these 10 fantastic date ideas are all under $5 — many of them are even free!
1. Dollar Theater
Many communities have a “cheap theater” where movies previously released for a couple of months are played. Matinee tickets average $2 on any given day, or $3 for post-matinee prices. This idea would be great for a Saturday afternoon (possibly combined with #8 or #9 below).
For more creativity, some dollar theaters offer “themed nights” such as “2 Dollar Tuesdays”, “Family Night Mondays”, and “Popcorn Wednesdays.” Check with your local dollar theater for more information.
2. Board Games
Do you have a favorite board game or a deck of cards? If you do, then this date idea will be free. Otherwise, you should be able to find a deck of cards at your local dollar store.
3. Outdoor Games
If weather permits, consider playing a game outside. Water balloon volleyball will require at least one more couple and bocce ball can be played with two people.
If you want to play tag or hide-and-seek (especially if you’re exclusively dating or married) give a sweet kiss whenever you’re tagged or after your sweetheart has found you.
4. Campus Events
This idea will require a little research on your part, but consider taking your date to your local university’s production. The majority of plays, concerts, comedians, and other performers have a “trial night.” These are quietly advertised (through word of mouth mainly or briefly on their website).
What is a “trial night?” A trial night is when the performer has an opportunity to practice one more time before their big opening night. This allows them to make any last minute mistakes, have a little fun with the audience, and provides an opportunity to meet-and-greet.
My husband and I attended a “trial night” for a play and the performance was wonderful! Not only was the opportunity free but we got the same great performance without the hustle and bustle of the crowds. I highly recommend asking your local performing arts department (or their students) for more information on these nights.
5. Community Events
Search your city’s website (or a neighboring city) to see what community events are currently being planned in the future. These ideas are great if there is a holiday approaching such as the 4th of July, Christmas, Easter, and any summer kick-off parties.
Most communities also offer free movies in the park during summer months. These movies tend to be family and age-appropriate (G to PG rating). Consider grabbing a couple of blankets, some snacks from home, and your date to watch one of these evening movies.
6. Ice Cream
Many fast food restaurants offer ice cream cones from $0.50 to $2… and this is a great idea in conjunction with #8 and 9!
Some larger cities have carousels you can take your date to for $2 a ride per person. If $5 is your budget, this would be a great idea in addition to another idea on this list. You can ride next to each other on two different horses, or snuggle on one of the seats they have on the ride. The choice is up to you.
Spend a date in the park playing on the swings, going down the slide. Let your inner kid come out and have some fun! If you would like to really get creative and make the park your main theme for the date, bring along a picnic basket and enjoy a lunch of sandwiches and fruit together.
9. Leisurely Stroll
Taking a walk is a great opportunity to get to know another person. It allows you time to really communicate, discuss, laugh and express yourself. If the weather permits take a stroll through the community gardens, along a lake or river, go on an easy hike, or any other place that is beautiful.
If you decide to stay inside due to weather, or if you want to watch a movie/play a board game afterward, have a cook-in with your date.
Be creative with the food that’s in your cupboards and make a meal for each other with random food you decide to use. You can always order a $5 pizza in case you still feel hungry afterward, but you’re guaranteed to get a few laughs along the way.
What are your favorite frugal date ideas?
Micah Klug, author of “50 Freezer Meals: Easy Dinners for the Busy Family” runs a lifestyle blog to help people strengthen their faith, home, and family at MicahKlug.com.
When people come to our house or see pictures of our kitchen, they often ask, “How on earth do you keep your kitchen countertops cleared off?”
Yes, I might be weird, but I like to have really, really clean countertops without almost nothing on them.
I’ve always been like this. I grew up in a home where my mom modeled this. Other than a basket of towels and occasionally some bananas, there was never anything on the countertops.
And I grew to love those clean countertops so much that I knew it was what I wanted in my own home someday.
Now, a lot of people have said to me, “If I had a big kitchen, I could totally have clean countertops.”
I found this picture of when Jesse and I were first married and lived in a little basement apartment during our lean law school years. This apartment was small enough where you could plug the vacuum into one outlet and vacuum the whole apartment without switching to another outlet.
Here’s a picture of our kitchen in that basement apartment…
Yes, it was harder to keep the countertops cleaned in this kitchen because it was so tiny and when you made a meal, it messed up the entire kitchen. However, I loved a clean kitchen and clean countertops so much, that I made it a priority to have my kitchen look like this most of the time.
Now some people think that our kitchen is too clean and too minimalistic. I’ve been told before by people online that our home seems sterile and not warm at all because it’s too cleaned off. And I get that. What works for us, won’t work for others and that’s okay!
I’m a big believer in creating a space that works for you and your family and that makes you happy and encourages you to thrive. However, if you’re wondering how we manage to have clean countertops, here are four tips that help us keep our countertops cleaned off:
1. Only have a few appliances.
Okay, so I’m probably going to step on some appliance-loving toes here, but I don’t think you need to have an appliance for everything under the sun.
If you have a doughnut-making business, by all means, have a Doughnut Hole Baker (is there even such a thing? I may have made up a new appliance!), but if you’ve never made Doughnut Holes and never plan to, please don’t go get yourself a Doughnut Hole Baker and then have it collect dust for years.
Appliances take up a LOT of space and are usually one of the biggest reasons people need to have items on their countertops — because they have so many appliances that there isn’t room to fit all of them in their cupboards.
We stick with a few quality appliances that have multi-purpose use (in most cases) and that we use weekly, sometimes daily! These are things like: a Vita-Mix, a waffle iron, a hand-held mixer, a Bread Maker, a toaster, a KitchenAid, two Crock-Pots, and a Keurig. That’s it!
The kitchen in our first non-rental house, the house we paid cash for — I loved this kitchen so much because it was so much bigger than any kitchen we’d ever had in the apartments and duplexes we’d rented in the past. I did a tour of this kitchen and where we kept everything in it here.
2. Don’t keep what you don’t use.
I go through my kitchen very regularly and ask myself, “Do I have more than I need? What can I get rid of? What am I not using?”
If you’re just hanging onto an item because you think you might use it or if you’re just keeping it because there’s some nostalgic reason but it’s serving no purpose, taking up space, and not bringing you joy, get rid of it!
If you don’t love it and you don’t need it, find another home for it. Because there’s no point in it taking up valuable real estate in your kitchen cupboards or on your kitchen countertops!
3. Regularly clean out your pantry.
I’ve talked about having Eat From the Pantry weeks where we challenge ourselves to see how long we can go without going to the store. If you want to have some creative meals, save some money, and use up what you have, this is great way to do so.
Then, once you’ve gone as long as you can go on your Eat From the Pantry Challenge, go through the extra items and get rid of what you’re not going to use. If you’re not going to eat it and it’s not expired, donate it to a local food pantry and bless someone else.
Our current kitchen in TN — my favorite kitchen of all the houses we’ve lived in, even thought it’s a rental house!
4. Train yourself to put it away.
Want to know my best tip to get rid of stuff on your countertops? It’s simple: Train yourself to put your appliances away. Find a place for it — not on your countertops (!) — and start developing the habit of putting back what you got out.
When we lived in the basement apartment, I had to get creative when it came to where to store things. I ended up putting some of less-often-used appliances at the top of the coat closet that was right next to the kitchen. It was unconventional, but it worked and it allowed us to use that closet space fully while also enjoying clean countertops.
Try the 30-Day Clean Countertop Challenge!
Having clean countertops might seem like a lot of work and effort and it might be something that’s just not a priority to you. I totally respect that! What works for us won’t necessarily work for others.
That said, if you’re frustrated with the current state of your kitchen countertops, I want to challenge you to do a 30-Day Clean Countertop Challenge. Here’s how it could work for you:
- First, go through your kitchen and get rid of items you don’t love, need, and/or use. (I highly recommend reading or listening to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for some encouragement to pare down and make your home a space that you love and that brings you and your family joy.)
- Then, find a place for the items that are currently taking up residence on your countertops. If you can’t find enough space, go through your items again to see if there’s anything else you can get rid of. Or, get creative and find other places to store items that might not necessarily be in your kitchen (i.e. my coat closet example above).
- Finally, commit to 30 days of clean countertops. 30 days where you’re committed to put away everything you get out once you’re done with it. At the end of 30 days, you will likely find that you just naturally put things away — without even thinking about it!
If you hate your clean countertops at the end of 30 days, you can go back to however they looked before the challenge. But maybe you’ll fall in love with it and realize you love clean countertops, too! And if you do, I will be so happy because my mom inspired me with it and I’d love to be able to inspire you, too, because it’s made such a difference in our home!
What helps you keep your countertops cleaner? Leave a comment and tell us!
Want some inspiration and encouragement to continue on your journey of debt reduction and financial freedom?
Check out this family’s debt free story about how they paid off every debt including their house in 5 years!