Buying Ahead or Stock-piling
Since I started using coupons and really watching for deals, I have been able to keep my grocery expenses at about $50 per week. I have a slightly higher budget than that, but rarely use it all. My total budget also includes toiletries. How do I do this? By buying ahead and stock-piling. In other words, I do not buy just what I need for that week, but also things I will use later on. And no, I do not have a garage full of stock-piled items! :) I do not buy more than my family can consume before the expiration date. I always allow $10 per week of my budget for buying ahead and stock-piling. If I have extra in my budget, I will buy more, if I find anything at the right price. I found several good deals on meat this week. I am not planning to use it this week, but will freeze it for another week. By buying this meat ahead, I saved 50%. I do stock up on things when they are at, what I think, will be the lowest price. (I know about what the prices are on the things I buy often so I have a good idea of a good price when I look through the sale ads). By planning my weekly menus around what I have on hand, for the most part, I can cut my grocery bill. So far, I have cut it more by more than 25% of what I would spend previously. Some weeks, I save as much as 50% of my original budget. And we have more food in the pantry! I usually only buy milk, bread (only if I don't have it in the freezer), fresh produce, and things that I do not have stockpiled yet. My shopping trip is also much shorter, since my list is much shorter. I am constantly adding to my stockpile each week by allowing for it in my budget. If I don't use my entire budget, I can roll it to the next week if I choose to. Or I can save that money and not spend it at all.
I plan my dinner menu for one week at a time. By planning my menu ahead, I don't have the need to run back and forth to the grocery store for things that I do not have. I try to make one trip a week, early in the week. If a new deal comes up that I do not want to pass up, I will go when I am close to the store or when I go to pick my son up from school. I try not to make extra trips. I live in the country, so to speak, and do not live close to the major stores, so it is a bit of a drive if I am not already going. I love knowing what is for dinner and not having to worry about it at dinner time. This also allows me to know when to take things out of the freezer to thaw. I do not plan breakfast and lunch menus. It is generally only me and my 11 month old at home for lunch, so there is not need. Breakfast we keep simple, such as cereal, oatmeal, frozen waffles and pancakes, cinnamon rolls or biscuits, and eggs. If I were to go to the store without a plan, I would end with a cart full of nothing and would pay twice as much. Now, I understand that this plan is not for everybody, but it is what works for my family. It keeps things simple, and saves money at the same time. And if we have a freak snowstorm (very rare here) and everyone runs to the store, I don't have too! If you have a plan that works for your family, or you have a tip you would be willing to share, please leave a comment!