And so, because I don't want lots and lots of my money going to groceries, I put forth a fair amount of effort to keeping my costs low. Our budget for groceries is $200 a month (just around $50 a week).
- I grocery shop every single week. I know some people (like Merrick) do two week trips, but that has not worked for me. It is easier and less stressful for me to go every week and know that if I can't afford something one week, it's only one week until I go again. Also, then I can get through my produce without throwing it away or running out of stuff too early. Figure out what works for you and then stick to it.
- Find out what kind of deals your grocery store offers. Shortly after we moved to Massachusetts, I started doing some reading about couponing and store specials and I was so sad not to live in Utah or other states where I was reading about these amazing deals or programs my stores didn't run. But over the last eight months, I've made a real effort to figure out what my store policies are and now I feel like I'm getting some good deals. I know that they double all coupons under $1.00. I know that there is a reduced produce section (a huge tray of various slightly bruised or very ripe produce for $1.29) back by the deli. I know that if something rings up for the wrong price, I get it free (if I ask). I keep learning ways to save at my grocery store that I was missing before.
- I am militant about that budget. If we run out of something, that's too. dang. bad. Bart can live for three days without eggs. I can do waffles for dinner if I suddenly realize my spinach for my quiche has gone bad. No syrup? Put some jam or applesauce or powdered sugar on your pancakes. Running out of something is not a reason to go to the grocery store. I make one midweek trip to the grocery store for bananas but I do not buy anything else. Nothing.
- Read your store circulars. I get the circulars for three different grocery stores, all of which are within about two miles of my house. I have one store that I generally shop at, one that I NEVER go to, and one that I go to on occasion if they have enough good items or coupons to make it worth my while. Use this to plan your menu.
- Make a menu. I cannot say this with enough emphasis. If you are not planning out what you'll be eating every night, you are very likely going to have a hard time sticking to a grocery budget. I make my menu in Google Docs so that I can access it from anywhere, so that it's on file for me, so that I can share it with Bart if he wants to know what I'm making for dinner, and so that I can copy it every week and copy the things I didn't make (I almost ALWAYS end up with one meal I didn't actually make because we had leftovers or decided to have waffles instead or Bart had a work dinner or something).