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Category: Earning & Managing Money

My $110 Shopping Trip at ALDI (I’m trying something new this week!)

I’ve heard from so many of you over the last few years who have said, “I want to lower my grocery bill, but I can’t shop like you do.”

Maybe you don’t have a Kroger, or you don’t have access to great markdowns, or you don’t want to shop more than once a week, or you find it stressful to think of planning a menu based upon what you have on hand and what is on sale at the store.

How I Usually Grocery Shop

I know that the way I grocery shop can seem weird and confusing. I buy ahead for the weeks to come based upon what’s on sale, what’s marked down, and what we’re running low on.

Much of time, this means that my grocery shopping trips are sort of a random assortment of food that doesn’t look like it would really make many meals. And that’s exactly right — because often, I AM buying a random assortment of items that are marked down or on sale at rockbottom prices.

I aim to never pay full price for pretty much anything, so I base our menu plans almost entirely on what we already have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer — which is usually a big assortment of different items I’ve gotten in previous shopping trips — plus, what’s marked down and what’s on sale.

For me, it’s fun and life-giving to play a sort of version of Chopped every night in how I make our meals. However, I know that not everyone would enjoy shopping this way nor does everyone have access to the stores and deals I do. But just because you don’t want to shop and cook like this and just because you have different stores with different prices and sales, doesn’t mean that you can’t save money on groceries!

Why I Spent $110 on Groceries This Week

This week, I’m going to be showcasing how you could shop on a budget even if you want to just buy all your groceries for the week and not mess with buying ahead or matching coupons with sales at the grocery store.

The shopping trip below is almost everything we need to eat for a week. (Not 100% everything, but most everything, because I did let myself use a few items we already had on hand — which I think most people would do a little bit of each week!)

We usually spend $70 at the grocery store, but I got creative and we only spent $40 last week and then I had a little extra in the budget from the past few months, so I let myself just pretend like I was a “normal shopper” this week — while also being somewhat mindful of being thoughtful about how I spent money.

Simple Ways to Save — When You’re Short on Time

A few simple suggestions for saving money on groceries when you don’t have a lot of grocery options and/or you don’t have a lot of time:

  1. Make a plan. Take 15 minutes to plan your menu for the week. Need a little help? You could try a menu-planning service. I’m using the Eat at Home Slow Cooker/Instant Pot plan for our meals this week — it’s just a few dollars per week to have someone do all the leg work for you! (Use code EASY to save 30% off this week. That’s the best deal that they offer! See some sample menu plans here.)
  2. Stick with the plan. 🙂 Seriously. Use self control. Bring only cash to the store. Get an accountability partner. Whatever you need to do, do it so that you come home with what you planned to buy and not a cart full of impulse purchases!
  3. Choose inexpensive meals. This is one simple way to cut your grocery bill, no matter what stores you have. Choose chicken over other expensive cuts of meat. Choose meals with fewer, frugal ingredients. Focus on making ingredients you can get inexpensively the stars of your cooking show. If you can save a few dollars each meal by doing this, it all adds up!
  4. Buy the produce that’s on sale. Rather than always buying the same variety of produce, buy the few varieties that are on sale that week. I shoot for fruit that is $0.99/lb. or less and stock up on that. It might mean we don’t have as much variety each week, but it means that we have lots of variety over the course of a few months.

What I Bought At ALDI

Now, on to the groceries! Here’s what I bought this week at ALDI:

  • Water — $0.79
  • Ranch dressing — $0.79
  • Bananas — $1.04
  • 3 bags of Gala Apples — $1.99 each
  • Bacon Bits — $1.29
  • Ranch dressing mix — $0.45
  • Mandarin oranges — $2.89
  • Chicken tenderloins — $5.45
  • Chicken Breasts — $5.59
  • Taco Seasoning — $0.39
  • Tortillas — $1.15
  • Pork Chops — $5.51
  • Feta Cheese — $2.19
  • 2 cans Refried Beans — $0.75 each
  • 10 lbs. potatoes — $4.29
  • 4 bags Organic Peas — $1.99 (whoops — I thought these were $0.75 each! I just realized that when I was typing this up — oops!)
  • Mozzarella cheese — $1.69
  • 2 bags shredded cheddar cheese — $2.19 each
  • Honey — $4.99
  • Cane Sugar — $3.49
  • Sweet Potatoes — $2.39
  • Baking Powder — $0.99
  • Chocolate Chips — $1.69
  • Cantaloupe — $1.69
  • Brown Sugar — $1.29
  • Yellow Onions — $1.89
  • 2 cans pumpkin — $0.85 each
  • 2 Chicken Broth — $1.19 each
  • Baking cocoa — $1.79
  • Pineapple — $0.95
  • Lettuce — $1.39
  • Eggs — $0.58
  • Black Beans — $0.58
  • Flour — $1.15
  • Diced Tomatoes — $0.45
  • Mined Garlic — $1.79
  • Cinnamon — $0.95
  • Honey Nut Crispy Oats — $2.69
  • Honey Crunch Oats — $1.29
  • Red Grapes — $1/85
  • Peppers — $2.99
  • Cinnamon Crunch Squares — $1.39
  • Carrots — $1.19
  • Tomato Paste — $0.39
  • Celery — $1.29
  • 2 gallons milk — $2.20 each
  • Total with tax: $110.37

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I’ll share what our menu plan is for this week using these groceries! Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

How to Get Your Family to Eat Meatless Meals

Often, on Instagram Stories, I’ll share what we’re having for dinner that night. Occasionally, some of our meals will be meatless (breakfast for dinner, mac & cheese, etc.) When I post these types of meals, I’ll always get questions from people asking, “How do you get your family to eat meatless meals?”

When Jesse and I were first married, we committed to stay out of debt while he went through law school. We knew this was going to require a number of sacrifices on our part and we decided staying out of debt and starting our marriage with a strong financial foundation was worth the sacrifices.

One area I knew we could save a lot of money on was our grocery budget. I started looking for all the creative ways I could come up with to maximize the mileage of our money when it came to buying food.

Not only did I shop the sales, use coupons, and plan a menu, but we also decided to serve meat more a condiment. We had it sprinkled on pizza, sprinkled in casseroles, and sprinkled in soups. We usually only bought one bag of chicken to last two weeks and then we supplemented this with the occasional really good markdown/coupon special on pepperoni or ham. We rarely ever had beef because it just wasn’t in the budget.

In addition to serving meat as a condiment, we often had meatless meals. We made lasagna casserole and I just left out the meat. We had corn chowder without meat. We’d have pancakes and eggs or cheese pizza or bean soup or even rice and beans.

(Need some inspiration for meatless meals? Check out this post on 3 Ways to Rock Meatless Meals and check the comments on this post for lots more meatless meal ideas.)

I loved getting creative and using what we had on hand, what was on sale, and what I found marked down to put together filling and yummy meals. Sure, we didn’t eat anything remotely gourmet, but we always had plenty to eat and the sales and markdowns quite a bit of variety.

Plus, being very intentional and strategic in how I shopped and cooked ended up saving us thousands of dollars in our first few years of marriage alone — and was one way we were able to stay out of debt.

Maybe you are wanting to pay down debt, save more money, or get in a better place financially. It’s going to require sacrifices, creativity, and effort. But it can be so worth it!

Here’s my best advice for how to go about getting your family on board with those sacrifices — whether it’s eating meatless meals or other creative ideas for spending less:

1. Don’t Try to Change Your Spouse/Kids

The first step to getting on the same page is letting go of your desire to fix or change your spouse or your kids. Stop placing all of the blame on them or telling yourself that it’s all their fault that things are the way they are. Being a victim of your circumstances or playing the blame-game will never do anything to move the ball forward.

2. Be Willing to Make Your Own Sacrifices

Oftentimes, we want other people to change when we aren’t willing to make changes ourselves. What can you do to make a difference for your family’s finances? What are you willing to change, tweak, or give up?

3. Communicate About Where You Are

You can’t find a solution if you don’t first know where there’s a problem. Call a family meeting or approach your spouse and have a conversation.

Gently and graciously share what you are feeling and ask for their feedback. Talk about the problem without pointing fingers or putting it on anyone’s shoulders. Make sure that you focus on stating the problem, asking questions, and then listening with the intent to understand (instead of listening in order to defend yourself or rebut their statements).

4. Communicate About Where You Want to Go

After agreeing on the problem (spending too much money, not saving enough money, not sticking with the budget, not agreeing on budget categories, etc.), then it’s time to talk about where you’d love to be. Dream together about what it could look like to not have as much financial stress or to not live paycheck to paycheck. Where would you love to be if money weren’t an issue.

5. Come to a Compromise

Go first with what changes you were personally thinking of making to help get where you want to go. Then, propose some other ideas that maybe you could do as a family or a couple. Talk about how these changes might work and open up the floor for people to give their honest thoughts and opinions.

If possible, really do the math on what it might look like to make some of these changes. This can be so motivating — and it can also inspire you to come up with other ideas for ways to change.

Decide specifically what changes you are committing to make and put some accountability in place for these changes.

6. Talk About Your Goals Regularly

Remind each other often of your longterm goals and dreams. Pay attention to the progress you are making and how far you have come. Celebrate your success and check in regularly to see if you need to tweak or change anything.

7. Make it Fun

As much as is possible, think of these creative money-saving practices as a game. For instance, when it comes to groceries, I love to see how well we can eat for how little. It’s fun for me to save money at the store, for me to put together meals based upon what we already have on hand, and for me to creatively re-make leftovers.

When you make things into an exciting challenge, you’ll enjoy the process a lot more — and it might not even feel like you are making sacrifices!

Do you eat meatless meals? If so, what are some of your favorite yummy meatless meal ideas?

How to Teach Your Teens About Budgeting

We have a teen who is earning money various ways and starting first part-time job. We want to teach her budgeting. Putting money into a car, college, clothing etc. Do you have any suggestions of some proven methods of free spreadsheets or website to utilize with her? Need something so she can see savings progress and also what she is spending. -Laurie

What a great question, Laurie! It just makes my heart happy that you are teaching your daughter about budgeting while she is young. So many adults would be in a much better financial position if their parents had encouraged them to start budgeting from an early age.

Here’s my advice on how to teach your teens about budgeting:

1. Set a Great Example

One of the best things you can do for your child or teenager to help them learn financial skills is to model great financial skills before them. Let them see you being thoughtful and intentional about your purchases.

Let them see you waiting to make a purchase until you can afford it, or getting creative to find ways to pay cash for something, or being wise with your money so you have more to give generously.

By the way, if you don’t have a budget that your family follows, now is the best time to do so. Don’t expect something of your teen that you aren’t also doing yourself! 🙂 I highly recommend reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey if you need a starting place for setting up a budget.

For more encouragement, read my post on 6 Things My Grandpas Taught Me About Financial Success.

2. Talk About Finances Openly

Many families aren’t very upfront about their finances with their kids. And I think this does a disservice to your children.

I’m not saying you need to share all the details about how much you make and spend, but where appropriate, I think it’s so helpful to bring your kids into financial discussions.

Talk to them about how you’ve set up your budget. Show them what’s working for you. Bring them with you when you go to the bank. Explain why you’ve chosen not to use credit cards or why you pay with cash or why you buy used cars.

For more encouragement, read this post on 4 Ways to Teach Your Kids Money Management.

3. Set Up a Budget Together

Help your kids set up a budget from the time they start earning money. You can use a basic budgeting spreadsheet like this one. If you want something a little more complex (or your teen is more of a techie!), there are a lot of apps they can use for budgeting. (Here are 6 different apps to check out.)

Our family uses the You Need a Budget program and we can’t sing its praises highly enough. We use it for our personal budget and our business budget and have also used it with one of our kids who wanted to use it for budgeting.

I’d recommend sitting down together and making out a basic plan of what percentage of their income they want to save, give, and spend. Then, break those down even further by mapping out what their expenses are each month.

Once you have this in place, then it should be pretty simple for them to divvy up their paycheck every week/month into the proper budget categories. If possible, pick some kind of program or spreadsheet that allows them to constantly have a running total of how much they have left to spend in each budget category. (This is why we love YNAB!)

By the way, YNAB offers a free year of their program to college students!

For more encouragement, read my post on 3 Practical Ways We’re Teaching Our Kids About Money.

4. Provide Accountability

When your teen is first learning how to set up a budget, they’ll probably need lots of help from you. You can totally hold their hand at first, but as much as possible, have them be responsible for setting things up, planning out their goals, thinking longterm, and actually doing the work of inputting what they make and spend.

Remember: your goal should be to raise responsible adults not co-dependent kids, so don’t micro-manage their budgeting. Instead, just provide oversight and accountability for them to develop the habit of budgeting.

For more encouragement, read this book on Why We Let Our Teenager Manage Our Budget.

5. Let Them Make Mistakes

It’s easy and natural as parents to want to protect our kids from getting hurt or making mistakes. However, I’d much rather my kids make small mistakes when they are young in order to hopefully prevent much larger mistakes when they are older.

Want more tips on what we are doing with our kids? Listen in to our podcast episode where Jesse shares how we are teaching our kids to be responsible with money as they get older.

What advice or suggestions do you have for Laurie? What are your best tips for teaching teens how to budget?

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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Be sure to check out my book Money-Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make A Difference, where I share creative ways to manage money, generate income and–most importantly–live a life of deeper meaning, fulfillment, and generosity than you might have ever imagined possible. This book is packed with hard-won wisdom, real-life stories, and practical tips to help inspire and motivate you!

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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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