6 Lessons Learned From An All-Cash Grocery Budget

all cash grocery budget

Guest post from Jennifer

It’s been just over a year since my big budgeting ah-ha moment and switching to an all-cash grocery budget. It has not been easy, and some months got pretty ugly — peanut butter and jelly for a week of lunch may appeal to kids but it’s not my favorite.

Overall switching to a cash budget has been a success and something I will continue to do for my family. I have learned some lessons, made mistakes, and even cheated and swiped the debit card on a few occasions.

Here are 6 lessons I’ve learned, and why our all-cash grocery budget is the best budgeting decision our family has made to date. Our savings account will back me up on this!

1. You can eat healthfully on a budget.

Seriously, it can happen, and actually I started buying healthier food since going on my all cash budget.

I will let you know that my family doesn’t eat organic, we love gluten, and luckily, have no food allergies. We do eat “real” food like fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and very little processed foods. I do like to cook/bake and have utilized this skill more over the past year.

My biggest secret for affording healthy foods is to buy in-season. We eat a lot of strawberries in June, apples in September, and tomatoes in July. We seem to eat our weight in corn on the cob and zucchini in the summer and hop on the pumpkin bandwagon in the fall!

I also freeze a lot of in-season foods so we can enjoy them out of season. Right now my freezer is filled with frozen strawberries and corn on the cob. I’m making room for the apples this fall.

2. A simple meal plan isn’t a bad thing.

I follow a very basic plan when planning my meals, especially dinners. We have a protein, starch, and vegetable. The protein is usually meat of some sort — chicken, ground turkey, or ground beef. I know we could save money by eating vegetarian once a week, but we like meat and as long as we can afford meat, we’ll eat it for nearly every dinner.

Our breakfasts and lunches are also pretty simple. Fortunately at this time in our lives, our mornings are pretty relaxed since my oldest has afternoon preschool. We are able to make eggs, toast, or pancakes each morning for breakfast. This is really cheap and a pretty healthy. Lunches are usually made up of leftovers or PB&J’s with fruit and crackers. I’ll admit, variety may be lacking in our lunches, but it does keep the costs down!

I know that someday, I will be able to get more adventurous in the kitchen. But in my season of life (two boys ages 3 and 5, and two more babies on the way), simple meal planning is my best friend. I don’t have the time, money, and more importantly the energy to follow a Martha Stewart recipe each night for dinner. I try for variety, but won’t allow my budget to suffer for an elaborate meal.

I also attempt to create a meal plan each week, I will admit that this gets done about 75% of the time, but when it does get done the entire week seems more organized and easy going. Since I shop primarily at Aldi, I don’t really have to base my meal plans on what’s on sale since everything seems to be on sale all the time at this store. Since starting my cash budget I take this more seriously, I know my funds are limited and every dollar counts.

3. It’s very helpful to know what my food costs.

I know what a good price for milk is, and when to stock up on ground beef. I won’t overpay for lettuce because I’m much more aware of the price of my food.

I also know how much I need left at the end of my 15-day pay cycle in order to get milk, eggs, peanut butter, and bread–the essentials to make it through those last couple of days, if need be.

In short I’m a more intelligent shopper, and am aware that just because a flashy ad claims that paying $1.99/lb for grapes is a great deal I know that is much more than I’m willing to pay, and will wait a few weeks until they are $0.79/lb.

4. It’s okay to cheat sometimes.

In the beginning I made some mistakes and fell back into bad habits.

I quickly learned that paying a few dollars on the debit card was not the end of the world. Kids will get sick and need medicine, milk will run out more quickly than expected, and not everything you need for the week will be on sale.

The important thing is I’ve learned from my mistakes, and continue to learn how to make my money stretch as far as possible while still preparing good food for my family.

5. A bare refrigerator no longer stresses me out.

In the past, if our refrigerator looked empty, I had to go to the grocery store to fill it up — even if I had run out of money in my imaginary budget. I didn’t like the thought of not having anything to eat, even though there was food to eat, just not a plethora of food that would eventually get thrown out.

Now I like that my fridge is bare, because I know that the food that is in there is food that will get eaten. Rarely does food go to waste in this house anymore, because I know the value of that half eaten salad, or can come up with something to do with the leftover vegetables from two nights ago.

I’m not afraid to mix two almost empty bottles of different flavored salad dressing together to make a new and “exciting” marinade for chicken — guess what’s for dinner tonight? I embrace the challenge of the bare refrigerator, and am saving money while tackling it!

6. It really works, and I won’t go back.

The concept is simple, pay in cash and stop shopping when you run out of money.

The reality is a little more difficult. There is a learning curve involved in making the leap from card to cash, and it can be pretty embarrassing to have to put that bag of chips back because you simply don’t have the money for them.

Grocery stores are tricky places that are strategically set up to get your money, and sometimes they win. I am happy to say, for me, most of the time they don’t.

Have you tried only using cash to buy groceries?

My name is Jennifer Willis, I’m a stay-at-home mom to two boys, Henry is 5 and Charlie is 3 and we’re excited to welcome boy/girl twins this December. My husband John and I have been married for nearly 8 years and live in Olathe, Kansas. I love to embroider, binge watch TV shows, and create train tracks and Lego houses with my boys.

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Gretchen’s Target Shopping Trip: Spent $4.55 out of pocket!

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Target Shopping Trip

Transaction #1

1 People Magazine – $5.99 and 1 Fruitwater – $1.02 (Buy both and get a $5 Target gift card)
Used $1/1 People magazine Target printable AND $1/1 magazine printable AND 10% off magazine Cartwheel coupon

Total with tax: $4.55, Plus received $5 Target gift card

Transaction #2

4 Ronzoni Garden Delight Pasta – $1 each, used 2 $1/2 printable - $0.50 each after coupon

1 GE Reveal Light Bulb – $2.79, used $2/1 Target printable AND $1/1 printable - Free after coupons

1 Colgate Toothpaste – $2.99, used $2/1 coupon from the 9/14 SmartSource insert AND $1/1 Target mobile coupon (Text THANKS to 827438) – Free after coupons

2 Annie’s Animal Cookies – $2 each, used $1/2 Target printable AND 2 $0.75/1 printable - $0.75 each after coupons

Used 10% off coupon from Target mailer

Used $5 gift card from Transaction #1

Free after coupons and gift card

Total for both transactions: $4.55

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7 Simple Ways to Save Everyday

7 ways to save

Guest post from Sarah of Saving Money Never Goes Out of Style

When it comes to savings, we often spend a lot of time focusing on coupons, special sales, and the hottest deals of the week. However, some of us frugal moms know it goes much further than that! Saving money for your family isn’t just about hunting down the next deal, but about making small lifelong changes in your home.

Here are 7 simple ways to save money every day that are easy to implement into your daily life. While not all will work for every family, you’ll easily find some tips that are simple changes you won’t even notice or feel like you’re sacrificing.

1. Ditch Paper Towels

If you have kids in the house you know that paper towels can be a monthly investment. Between meals, cleaning spills, and wiping sticky hands you are throwing away a ton of money each year.

Instead of buying paper, invest in some nice cloth napkins for your kids to use at meal time. Grab some old hand towels and wash cloths and designate those for cleaning up spills.

Tip: Colorful bandanas make great color coded dinner time napkins for large families! Each person has their own color to use.

2. Turn Off & Unplug Electronics

This is a great way to save money. While the savings are small, they do add up over time. Turn off all electronics when not in use and make a habit of hitting light switches as you leave a room as well.

Go even further by unplugging in between uses, too. That toaster sitting out on your counter that is rarely used? Simply unplug it and save yourself some money.

3. Plan a Menu

Taking the time to make a menu plan will cut back on last-minute take out and wasted food. And don’t forget to utilize your slow cooker during the school year or a busy season!

By having a plan in place, you will use more of what you have on hand and cut back on extra spending. No more running to the store for that one ingredient you forgot!

4. Learn To Sew

This is a great tip for those with girls, especially. Old pillowcases, t-shirts, ladies’ dresses, or men’s shirts can all be easily revamped and tailored into dresses for little girls. Shopping the thrift shop for gently used clothes in different patterns and styles can also lead to fun new revamped ensembles with a bit of sewing.

If you’re not a seamstress, even something as simple as replacing a button instead of throwing an item out is helpful. Or, if you have a son like mine, when he blows out the knees in his jeans, you can easily make them into shorts for the next season!

5. Brown Bag It

Taking your own lunch consisting of healthy portions of leftovers or specific lunch items can really save you a lot of money over time. If you also learn to make your own snacks and gourmet coffee, you’ll significantly increase your savings.

Don’t have time to make your own snacks all the time? Buying a box of granola bars in store is far cheaper than buying a single bar from the gas station or vending machine.

Do your kids like Lunchables? Make your own! All it takes is Ritz crackers, some deli meat, and cheese singles, and you’re good to go.

6. Cook From Scratch

It may seem like it will take so much more time, but simple things like making soups and beans in a slow cooker can cost a fraction of what canned varieties do.

Grab dry beans for $1-$2 a pound and cook them in your crock pot all day. When cooked, a $1 bag of dried beans will often be the equivalent to 4-5 cans you would have purchased at $1each. Over a year’s time, that can add up to quite a bit of savings in your grocery budget.

7. Pay With Cash

Make a point of paying for things with cash. There is a lot to be said about the concept of not buying anything else for the month once you run out of cash on hand. It helps you stay within your means, and not rely on credit cards. It also gives you a chance to save that change in a piggy bank for rainy days, treats, or vacations.

No matter what your household budget is, you can easily put into place a few of these 7 simple ways to save money every day and increase the money in your pocket. These things can free up money to pay off debt, or simply help you stop living paycheck to paycheck.

What simple things do you do to save money every day?

Sarah is a stay-at-home mom of two wonderful children. From homeless to well-off, this single debt-free mom is most known for her ability to live well on $18k/year. Sarah loves encouraging others that dreams do come true if they are willing to consistently work for it. Follow her blog: Saving Money Never Goes Out of Style.

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5 Ways to Live Well on One Income

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Guest post from Liz of The Quick Journey

As a momma to four kiddos and one handsome hubby, I am always on the lookout for ways to stretch our money and still live well. Many people think that giving up the “two-income” lifestyle means that everything else goes with it.

Sure, you’ll probably need to pare down some, but life doesn’t need to be boring and stifling. I have found 5 tried and true ways to save our pennies and still enjoy a good life:

1. Set Goals

It is so important to set goals for your family. When you have goals in place, it makes it easier to save those pennies because you get to dream about the reward at the end of the journey.

Goals also add resolve when things might get tough. Remember, pennies add up to dollars and dollars to hundreds of dollars. So every penny counts toward your family goal!

2. Find Free Family Fun

Instead of spending a lot of money going on expensive family trips, find ways to enjoy each other without spending the money. Some great ways to “stay-cation” would be to gather around a campfire and roast s’mores with the fall season coming up. Or, go to the park for a family picnic.

Then, when you do get to experience a “true” family vacation, it will be well appreciated and the experience will be much sweeter.

3. Eliminate Desires

It is simple: the less I see, the less I want.

When we transitioned into a one-income family, I had to eliminate desires from our home. That meant eliminating TV so commercials didn’t create the “I want” effect for both my husband, myself, and the kids. The less we saw, the less we wanted things.

I also limit my time on Pinterest and websites that drive my desires. When I go shopping, I avoid those areas that encourage me to spend on things I don’t need.

4. Limit Shopping Trips:

The more I go to the store, the more I buy. Because of this, I only go to the store twice a month to prevent extra buying opportunities.

I also go with a list and stick closely to the list. Not only does this help with “little” purchases here and there, but it saves on gas!

5. Utilize Bargain Shopping

Aldi has been mentioned here on the blog many times. I love shopping Aldi and reaping the rewards that go along with that!

I also think a great way to purchase products is second-hand. Whether it be thrifting or garage saling, it saves money and still allows the shopper to enjoy “new” items without breaking their budget!

These are simple ways to pinch pennies and not feel too restricted.  They have worked great for our family and I hope they work for yours as well!

What would add to my list?

Liz is a stay-at-home, homeschooling momma to four precious kiddos. She finds joy in the little moments and enjoys spending her evenings snuggled up with her handsome “high school sweetheart” hubby. Liz blogs at The Quick Journey where she shares her journey through motherhood.

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Swagbucks Paid for My Husband’s EMT Course

Blood-Pressure- cuff

Today’s Swagbucks success story is from Elizabeth:

I was the PTO President, my son was in second grade, and my husband worked full-time. We were already busy when my husband applied for a local EMT class — and got accepted!

That led me to panic a little. I worked as a substitute and he worked full-time — we had no idea how we would make everything work financially, but we were sure we could figure it out.

I have been using Swagbucks for some time now — usually to get gifts or things for our son with just pennies on the dollar using Amazon gift cards. However, when my husband got accepted to the EMT program, my new goal was to earn as many Swagbucks as possible before his first class started.

After his first class he came home with a lot of homework, a list of things he needed, and a smile that could brighten anyone’s day. I took his list of things he needed, and worked extra hard – just about every waking minute I wasn’t doing something, I was earning Swagbucks.

I was averaging about 200 a day — which was more than I had ever earned at the time. I was able to get enough Amazon gift cards to purchase my husband’s blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, first responder pants, and a pen light (totaling $200) and I spent nothing out of pocket!

It was all paid for using Swagbucks!

Here is a list of things I did to earn the Swagbucks:

- The Daily Poll: these are only worth 1 point but if there are 30 days in a month, that’s 30 points!
Surveys: sometimes you get a bunch and others you don’t get any at all
Special Offers: I never did any that cost money but the little ones for a 1 Swagbuck or more always worked well for me
SwagTV: I played it on my phone and on the iPad (on their website they have the “watch” button and I would do that as much as I could. My son loves the animal videos)

A year later, my husband has now passed the class, and is working on two different departments. He really loves helping people, and I am happy I was able to get the items he needed with nothing spent out of pocket!

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DIY Project: Ferris Wheel Scarf (a simple, 3-step scarf!)

Ferris-Wheel-Scarf

This is a guest post from Abigail who blogs at The Modern Prairie Girl

The Ferris Wheel Scarf was inspired by the simplicity and fun times spent at hometown fairs with family and best friends. Its simple design is fabulously straightforward.

If you’ve never sewn a stitch (or are known for messing up whatever you touch at the sewing machine!), you will find this scarf perfect for starters. This makes a perfect gift, too.

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Sew! What are you waiting for? Have fun and please share your success story with me on the Modern Prairie Sewing Facebook page or via my email abiamerican92 @ netins.net

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Ferris Wheel Scarf (A Simple 3-Step Scarf!)

Finished flat measurements: 19 ¼” x 7 ¼”

Required Supplies:

  • ½ yard fabric*
  • Matching or coordinating thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing pins
  • Scissors

*Notes on fabric: Make your scarf fun and unique by using a wide variety of fabric types. I would suggest a cotton quilting weight just like I used on these shown samples. You could also make your scarf out of cotton rayon, cotton voile, cotton velveteen (absolutely the best for Christmas gift giving!), and home décor. Really, this scarf is so versatile and crazy, go all out and make a scarf from each suggested fabric weights, types and styles! Have fun!

Cut it Out: Cut your scarf fabric at 40” x 15 ½”

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Let’s Make it!

1. Right sides together, sew long sides together. Press long seam open. Make this step easy on yourself, by rolling the seam to the middle of your scarf piece and then press it open.

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2. Turn right side out.

3. Press one short end ½” inside, the wrong sides of your fabric will be touching. Tuck raw short end of scarf inside other short end. Pin and sew in place.

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Your scarf is finished! Now wear it to your hometown fair!

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This scarf was designed and made by Abigail A. Long, author of Modern Prairie Sewing: 20 Handmade Projects for You & Your Friends. Visit her blog, The Modern Prairie Girl, for more sewing inspiration.

Modern Prairie Sewing

Note from Crystal: If you love sewing, you’ll definitely want to check out Abigail’s book, Modern Prairie Sewing. She sent me a copy and I fell in love with it… and I don’t even really sew at all! But she made me want to learn how to sew well so I could make some of the beautiful projects in the book.

Modern Prairie Sewing

Modern Prairie Sewing is very well written, the instructions are detailed, and it’s full color. My favorite thing is that there are so many pictures and step-by-step instructions, making it seem doable for even a very novice seamstress like me! Find out more details on the book here.

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