Welcome back to Part 2 of How I Keep Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month… I’m about to share my ‘biggest secret’ about saving money while shopping. Are you ready for it? Here it goes:
Well, at least don’t go as often. I can almost hear all of your disappointed groans. (Oh, is that it?) Well, it may not be everything, but it’s a huge, huge part. If you’re like me and live within 7 minutes from the grocery store, it can be tempting to make a quick trip for a missing ingredient or sudden craving. But seriously, when was the last time you went into a store and walked out with only that one item you went in for? Shopping several times a week can wreak havoc on your grocery budget. Not only is it hard to keep track of things, but it also takes a lot of time out of your day!
Personally, I’d rather eat rocks than shop when I don’t have to. If Amazon started carrying all my usual grocery items, I’d sign up tomorrow. I have yet to figure out how to juggle the diaper bag, shopping list, bring-your-own grocery bags, baby on one hip, quarter for the Aldi cart, and keep the toddler from running out in front of moving cars in a time effective (much less, stress-free) manner. But luckily for me, that dislike of shopping does wonders to keep our budget in check.
Currently, I like to shop once every two weeks and have my husband make a bread-and-milk stop during the weeks in between. Dinners with the more perishable ingredients are eaten during the first week, but most ingredients will last for two without a problem. I cannot stress how much easier it is to keep track of your budget this way. Sometimes I go to balance my budget and have only 6-8 receipts for the entire month!
I like to leave a $20 buffer for the in-between weeks, even though fresh bread and two gallons of milk tend to only cost us about $8. Something unforeseeable usually pops up, and you don’t want to be stressing about not having money budgeted for more infant Tylenol when the time comes.
Here’s a copy of our 4-week month Budget Breakdown:
Week One –I aim for spending $130 or less on two weeks worth of groceries (like I mentioned in the last post, guesstimating at your grocery bill beforehand helps a lot!)
Week Two –We aim for spending under $20 for fresh groceries or last-minute needs
Week Three –Like week one, I aim for spending $130 or less on the next two weeks
Week Four –Repeat of Week Two
The five-week months I budget for two large shopping trips and three $20 weeks.
If I end up with left over grocery money that month (yes, it can happen), sometimes I’ll add it onto next month or buy my family a special treat with it (I recommend chocolate). Right now, our left over money goes to building our cloth-diaper supply. Until we started cloth-diapering, disposables were ‘eating’ a whopping $60 a month of our household budget. That’s about a week’s worth of food! And trust me, the food tastes better.
A few tips:
1) Write up a list and stick to it. Bring a pencil with you so you can cross things off as you go along.
2) It’s easier to focus on staying in budget if you don’t have to take all the kids with you. I realize that’s not an option for many of you, but I’m extra blessed, I suppose. Right now, I put one of the kids down for a nap (at either my parents’ house or at home if it’s my husband’s day off) and run for it. Often, I can get all of it done before he wakes up.
3) Try to avoid making one of your larger shopping trips at the beginning of the month. It will be twice as crowded and take twice as long. I prefer shopping in the morning when all the friendly retirees are out. I much prefer their friendly chit-chat to the afternoon college students who always seem oblivious to little ones in the parking lot.
So how about you? What’s your shopping routine like? Any tips to share? I’d love to hear how you Moms manage shopping trips with multiple little ones in tow! You already have my admiration.
Don’t forget to check out part three, Saving Money at Home!