Thursday, October 27, 2011

Managing Your Groceries Better

A big problem for most people spending too much money is food!  Eating out alone is a huge expense, when after dinner and drinks and tip you're out almost $50 for one meal.  But aside from that, people aren't very good at managing their groceries.  They spend to much, most likely throw out half the food they buy anyways, and they can look into a packed fridge and say "There's nothing to eat".  Here's some tips on cutting your grocery bills and your trips to the grocery store.

1. Budget
If you don't already have a monthly budget, make one! At the very least make a food budget.  Figure out what you SHOULD spend on food each month (not what you DO spend).  Keep a tracking list for all your purchases.  You should be writing down the date, a quick description of the purchase/where you shopped (groceries, milk, staple items, etc), how much you spent, and then calculate what you have left to spend for the rest of the month.  This will not only help you stay on your budget, but it will show you where your money is going.

2. Make a list
Before you do groceries, make a list.  Go through your fridge and cupboards to see what you need.  Try to focus on the things you already have.  What can you make with each item?  Do you really need to do groceries?  If so, what can you get that you can use with the things you already have to make a meal.  Our fridge is mostly milk and juice, with a couple staple items like eggs and cheese.  Cheese can make anything into a meal!  As for dessert, you don't need to go out and buy ice cream, cookies, pie and a bunch of treats.  Take a closer look in your cupboards.  See that bag of flour?  And sugar?  You've already paid for cookies and cake, you just need to make them.

3. Thou shalt not covet what is not on the list
Is your list done?  This trip should last you at least a week!  Some items should last you two, but obviously produce and other perishables will need to be restocked more often.  Okay, you have your list, time to stick to it.  For us the easiest thing to put in the cart that we don't need is chips and cookies, snack stuff.  Kyle is the worst when it comes to cookies.  If we do get them, I try to make them last more than a day.  If there's an isle that doesn't have anything on your list, don't go down it!  Stick to your list.

Now that you have your food, you should try to stick to a FIFO rule; First In, First Out.  I'm not saying you have to eat everything in the order that you bought it, you need to have a little choice in your dinner, but when planning a meal always look to see what's going to expire soon.  Try to use some of the veggies as a side on most meals, they will go bad the quickest.  Also watch your bread.  Moldy bread just makes me sad.  Picture your perishables as money.  If you end up having to throw it out, you just threw out physical money.  Which is a stupid thing to do right?  Right.

How did you do?
At the end of the month, take a look at your budget list and see where you were spending your money and how much of it you spent each time.  Were you over or under budget?  If you're over budget, see where you could have spent less, maybe you didn't really need some of the things on your list.  If you try really hard and continue to find yourself over budget, then maybe you need to add a little bit extra to your food budget.  Only if absolutely necessary!  If you were under budget, challenge yourself to stay under budget the next month.  Or, if you were really strict with your food, use the little money left over to treat yourself.  Kyle and I did well this month and treated ourselves to Dairy Queen, since we don't eat out anymore.  They had a great deal going on, and it's pumpkin pie blizzard season.  That boosted our spirits. :)

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