My husband and I have set a goal to try to save $1000 per month in 2014. We have decided to allot ourselves $400 per month for groceries for our family of 3 (we have one 12 year old son) as one way to free up money to put toward our savings goal.
Here is my question…can we do it? I have been couponing for around two years now, so I know the ropes, but $400 isn’t that much!
I hope you have some insight on how to stretch that budget even further! Do you have any words of wisdom for this goal we have made for the year? -Nicole
I think this is a great question, Nicole. And I really admire your commitment to living on less so that you can put money in savings! Way to go on making short-term sacrifices for long-term benefits!
Here’s my advice on how to stick with $400 per month grocery budget:
1. Stay Committed
Your attitude in approaching this goal will go a long way toward your success.
If you wake up every day with a can-do, committed, creative attitude, you are probably going to be able to stick with your $400 per month budget — and you may find that it’s not terribly difficult to do so!
If, on the other hand, you go into each day feeling discouraged and miserable, feeling frustrated by your “limited” budget, you’re probably going to struggle and possibly even burn out.
Decide that it’s possible. Choose to have a great attitude about it. And then start viewing your $400 monthly budget as a challenge… to see how well you can eat on how little.
You can do it; I know you can! I’m cheering for your success!
2. Use Cash
I highly recommend that you take out your $400 monthly grocery budget in cash at the beginning of each month. Then, just bring about $100 worth of cash with you to the store when you shop. Leave your cards and checkbook at home.
This might sound militant, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure that you actually follow your budget. Because when the money’s gone, the money’s gone.
I’ve found that it’s helpful to bring a calculator with me to the store (or use one on my phone) and to type in the prices of items as I add them to my cart. That way, I know exactly how much my total is and don’t end up overspending.
In addition, when I only bring cash to the store, it forces me to really evaluate each purchase as I add it to my cart. I often ask myself questions like, “Do I need this? Is there a less expensive alternative? Is this a good use of our budget?”
3. Get Creative
There are so many, many ways to lower your grocery budget and still eat well. I’ve written extensively about these in my 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series, but here are a few of my favorite ways to save money on groceries:
- Plan A Menu — This is Money-Saving 101 advice, I know. But it’s imperative to actually have a plan for what you’re going to eat if you want to eat on a budget! Once you get the hang of planning and following a menu, start looking at your store’s sale fliers and plan your menu based upon what’s on sale at the store and what you already have on hand.
- Eat From the Pantry — Challenge yourself to see how long you can go without going to the store! It’s amazing how this will usually inspire you to come up with meals with what you already have on hand, even if you feel like “there’s nothing here to eat!” Check the nooks and crannies of your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. Type in the ingredients you have and don’t have on the Ingredient Search Feature on AllRecipes.com and it will generate a list of recipe ideas for you based upon what you already have on hand.
- Buy in Bulk — Look into bulk prices on staple items you regularly use. Check out bulk rates for these items on Amazon.com, Vitacost, at places like Sam’s Club/Costco, or through a bulk buying co-op such as Azure Standard. If you want to get the bulk rate but don’t think you’ll use all of the item, consider splitting up the purchase with a friend or two so you all benefit from the bulk pricing without having a massive amount of an item.
- Eliminate the Expensive — Look through your grocery receipts and see what your most expensive purchases are. Are there ways to eliminate purchasing this item altogether, ways to get it for less, or cheaper alternatives?
- Cook From Scratch — As much as is possible, cook and bake things from scratch. Save yourself time and effort by doing a little freezer cooking each week and tripling batches of things you’re already making. When you have meals or parts of meals at-the-ready in the freezer, it’s amazing how much this will speed up your meal preparation time — and will just make you feel so much more organized!
4. Keep Tweaking
Challenge yourself to implement one new money-saving idea or tactic every 4-6 weeks. This encourages you to always be looking for new ways to save, but it makes it much more manageable than trying to overhaul your grocery budget overnight!
If a money-saving trick or tactic just doesn’t work well for your family, guiltlessly move onto the next idea. Not every idea will work for every family. Find out what works best for you and your family!
What advice and suggestions do the rest of you have for Nicole?