Saturday, August 25, 2012

How we make our grocery budget work!


It seems so small, yet like such a large sum of money. 
Doesn't it?

This is our grocery budget for each month.

I finally came to terms with the fact that I have another job.
Household Manager.
It is kind of like being a stage manager, only the stakes are higher.
It's life or death, really.

We eat a lot of organic. We do not eat red meat. We eat a lot of beans. This number includes paper products and cleaning supplies. There are sometimes 5 of us, and sometimes only 3. 
Regardless, the Budget stays the same.

And I am going to share with you how we do it!

I have to start off by saying that I have read a lot of posts on budgeting, freeze ahead meals, meal planning, cooking one time a month etc. But it really seemed like the meals were not very healthy. 

This process has taken about 4 months to refine and nail down, but I have found out a system that works for us, and I am so very excited about it!

Decide when your budget starts and stops, keep it the same every month. Happy Hubby gets paid on the 26th of each month, so that is when our budget begins!

I'll start by saying what all of the other budget blogs say. 

Make a meal plan.
1. Ask family members what they'd like to have for the month, and make a list of 30+ meals that you can hang onto for future months. Also, know your schedule. I teach some nights and it is way easier on us to have crock pot meals those nights. (Really, just about anything can be turned into a crock pot meal these days!)

2. Write it on a calendar where everyone sees it. Highlighted so there is no doubt. We use a calendar template printed for free from the internet. On big paper.

3. Make a list of ingredients you will need for each meal.

4. Go shopping at the beginning of the month for the whole month, other than produce.

5. Keep a weekly allowance for weekly fresh produce and "uh oh, I forgot" items. This is usually $25-$30 per week for us. 

Here is my plan written and highlighted.

Go Shopping
1. Buy big and buy in bulk, you will need to freeze things. Don't worry, we just have a regular tiny freezer too! Costco/Sams/warehouse shopping is so very much worth it!

2. Compare prices. Things are not always less expensive in bulk. You can keep receipts or write down prices to recollect what a "good price" is.

Yes, that IS 25 lbs of brown rice flour... I make our GF bread.

3. Compromise. You don't always have to buy name brand, and it's not always "better"

4. Know your ingredients. We rarely buy crap boxed cereals or snacks. Other than tortilla chips and tortillas. For snacks we have fruit or veggies with peanut butter, homemade granola bars (they're so easy to whip up!), breakfast bars, baked oatmeal, muffins, smoothies, eggs (cage free organic etc), grits, pancakes with honey etc. We don't need all of the chemicals in the products that come in a box.
Make big batches of pancakes, breakfast bars, muffins, whatever and freeze them, it'll save you!

5. This will seem contradictory to what is listed above, but buy treats. This month it was ice cream and spinach artichoke dip. We mindfully ration it out. We believe this keeps us from feeling like we are confined, and we then won't run out to buy worse food like french fries and frosties! lol

I should note too, that we don't use paper towels, they're too wasteful. We washcloths from Ikea with color tabs that are used in their absence and washed daily. We also use cloth napkins, since I make them! However, I assure you we wipe with toilet paper ;) We are not THAT far gone.

More on 4 and 5 in a minute....

Try to hit all of your shopping in 1-2 days to get all of the effort out of the way! 
Prep and put it away:

This is so great for us, no moldy cheese and this amount lasts 2 months.

This amount lasts two months. It is about a once a week treat, if even that when we buy it. 
Freezing it in the muffin tin works out to be the right portion size.

We buy lots of onions from costco. These last us 2 months. We chop them and keep them in jars.
We also chop some and freeze them (in a little water) like the artichoke dip.

Here are old classico jars we use for chopped onions and excess beans.

We buy dried beans and sometimes sub them for meat in recipes- we get the 20 lb bag of dried pinto beans from costco. We make them in the crock pot. Super duper easy!

Here is our teeny freezer packed up!

On the night you do all of your grocery shopping, plan something so very easy or eat out!

Like chicken hotdogs in tortillas with cheese!

Keep your receipts with a log to track your budget and keep tabs on prices. I write mine in my everything notebook. 

And that, my friends is how we feed/wipe/clean a family of 5 on the tight budget of $500 per month!

Check back on Monday for this month's meals!

What are your budgeting tips and tricks? 
I'd love for you to leave them in the comments as there is always room for improvements!

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love Costco! Freezing dip in muffin tins and buying in bulk for the entire month sounds like great tips. Even though it is only me I usually spend about $250 a month on food...and that is if I don't eat out :( Maybe I will take your advice on meal planning my entire month!