Whenever I counsel someone to help her reduce her budget and save money, I don’t start with how much money she spends on groceries.
This surprises people; I think they expect that I will tell them to use coupons and buy fewer snacks. Most people do spend a lot on groceries, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re doing it wrong. Groceries cost more than they used to, and yes, some people could stand to spend less on groceries, but that’s not where I start.
The reason I don’t start with cutting people’s grocery budget is based on my personal experience. When I trimmed my grocery spending by about a third, it worked well, at first. After a couple of weeks my husband and I became discouraged about our food. We didn’t have good snacks in the pantry, and nothing looked good to eat for supper. So what did we do? We went out to eat. It completely defeated the purpose of spending less money on groceries.
Having good food to eat at home brings a feeling of contentment, and that makes it easier to avoid spending money in other ways. So I keep good coffee at home, which helps us avoid spending money at Starbucks. We have good drinks and snacks in our fridge so that it’s easy to invite friends over to our house instead of all of us going out to eat. If we’re satisfied about the food we eat, we’re less likely to look for something we could buy to make ourselves feel better.
Instead of starting with the groceries, I first concentrate on trimming other expenses. I review insurance policies. I recommend cutting out the random trips to Target, buying fewer clothes, and anything that won’t be missed. Then, after finding ways to save in other areas, if the budget needs to stretch even further we look at the grocery spending. We add more meals with beans or eggs, and try to cap the week’s spending at a certain level. Like dieting, we want a long-term plan we can sustain, and the grocery spending can be reduced gradually and thoughtfully over the long term instead of drastically at the beginning. (It takes time to find new recipes and adapt to new ways in the kitchen, especially if you’ve just recently stopped going out to eat as often.)
This month is No Spend Month when my family takes a break from buying stuff, and for the first week we spent $61.87 in one trip to the grocery store.
We were too busy to think about buying stuff this week. We worked, visited friends, had friends over at our house, hosted a play group, worked in the yard, and watched the Fourth of July parade and fireworks.
We’re still coasting on what we already had, and we’re trying not to let anything go to waste. It will get harder.
FAQ: Do I use coupons? I don’t use coupons because most foods that you can buy with coupons have ingredients that my family can’t eat. I never see coupons for the foods we buy like beans, eggs, carrots, or celery, but I do watch the sales fliers at the grocery stores (especially for good sales on meat).
The recipe for Egg and Pesto-Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes is from Paleo Diet Lifestyle. And later when you realize that you forgot to use parchment paper so the egg white is baked on to your baking sheet, pour some vinegar and water on your baking sheet and let it soak for a while so it will be easy to clean.