Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to lower your grocery budget!

One of the greatest impacts on our budget has been reducing our food budget. Years ago we were spending on average $400 a month on eating out, as well as another $100 a week at the grocery store. Yes, that is $800 a month on food. Ridiculous!

About a year ago we cut out our eating out from 4-5 times a week to only once or twice a week. That made a huge difference. Our grocery budget skyrocketed though. We were still saving some money, but no where near where we needed to get it to.

Here is what I did to bring our food budget to under $100 a week.

1. Menu plan

  • Take a look in your pantry and see what meals you can create with items you already have on hand. Most people can come up with two meals. This week I was able to come up with three meals!
  • You probably have meat in the freezer, but need the stuff to make it into a meal. Put those items down on your grocery list. 
  • I know that each week I will have a ground beef meal, a chicken meal, a pork meal, maybe a fish meal. After you have shopped your pantry, figure out what meals you are missing. Think about what you are in the mood for this week. Write that meal down. 
Once you have gotten your meals written down, write on your grocery list the items that you need to create those meals. Fill in with stuff for breakfast. We have standard breakfast choices of cereal, frozen waffles or eggs. Lunches are usually left overs or sandwiches. Throw in some snack items, household items and your list is complete.

* Put your list in "region" order. This will come in handy when you are shopping so you are going in order, instead of jumping around on the list. If you use tip number 3, you will see how this helps even more.

2. Coupon

I know what you are saying, "I do not have time to coupon." You do not have to sit down with a newspaper every week. You do not have to have a coupon binder or go crazy with them. All you need to do is sit down with your grocery list and go on the computer to You can search through categories to see if items on your grocery list have available coupons. You can print off a total of two coupons for each item they have listed. This is for each computer in your house, so if you have two computers, you can print off two on each of those computers. This process maybe takes 15-20 minutes tops. I think it is worth it to save a few dollars.

3. Shop with a calculator

After you have decided what your food budget is, make sure you stay on track at the store with a food calculator. It is amazing how fast the tally runs up on the items in your cart. Once I started using a calculator in the store, I was able to go from spending about $110-120 at the store, to spending about $80.

Here is how I do it:

I have my shopping list and as I put items in the cart I write down the total cost of that item, next to it. I then add the amount into my calculator (the calculator app on my phone is very convenient). You may also write down a subtotal for each "region". For example, on my list I have a Produce section. Once I have put all those items in my cart, I will subtotal that region. Adding regions as I go. You can find a system that works for you, but a calculator is a MUST HAVE, when trying to stick on budget in the store.

Once I have gotten all of the items on my list I check my total. If there is money left, I can choose to fill in with "treats". Or I can call it a day and be happy with going under budget.

If I find I have gone over budget, I review my items to see if there are cheaper versions (store brands or other brands) that I can substitute the items I normally use. I have found that store brands are often just as good, if not better than the items I normally buy.

You can also buy smaller, less expensive items. This week I needed potatoes for one of the meals I was making. I would normally buy a five pound bag, but it would bring me over budget. I knew I only needed two large bakers, so instead of paying $2.98 for a bag, I got two large bakers for $.81.

4. Find a store with the best prices or Price Compare!

For a few months I was running around all day on Saturdays to get the best prices at three to four different stores. In the end I spent more money than I would have if I shopped at one or two stores. I decided to shop at Walmart and Costco from now on.

One benefit of Walmart is that they price match items. But I was not happy about having to do all the research on my own. Luckily I heard about Walmart's Price Catcher. I figured I would give it a try this month and I could not have been happier. In 3 weeks I got back almost $15 in e-cards. Here is how it works:

  • Shop at Walmart
  • Get the Walmart Price Catcher App on your phone
  • Scan your receipt into the app after you shop
  • They will scan all the sales flyers for you to see if you should have paid a lesser amount
  • They will then let you know if you are owed money, select to have it sent to your e-card.
  • Next time you shop, have them scan your e-card bar-code on your phone and you get that money put toward your balance. 
5. Leave yourself a budget buffer.

My weekly food budget is $100 a week. I decided that my initial food shop should be at $80. This leaves me with an extra $20 a week to be able to run back to the store to get more of something. This could be getting a few more bananas, milk, or even a snack from the gas station. You know how it is, you think you put everything on your list and you go to make dinner and you forgot to put a key ingredient on your list. This allows for those moments, without killing your budget. Any money that is left over can be put into savings, or if you are like us, we use it for a treat like ice-cream out as a family.

These are a few things that I have done to reduce my food budget. This will allow us to save up for that down payment we are working on. I hope some of these tips help you to reach your financial goals. I will be sharing more of my tips in the future. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mini-breakdown, now coming out the other side...

I had such motivation a few weeks ago. I wanted to get back on track with my weight loss and use you all as way to be accountable. It failed. I wanted to explain why.

For the past 6 months we have been lucky enough to be getting commission checks from one of Hubby's old jobs. We did not know how much they would be every month, or when they would stop coming. We had been doing well with paying the bills and rent, but we relied on that money too much. We had several emergencies that made those checks a Godsend. We came to rely on them too much, so when they stopped we were not prepared.

When you are wondering where you are going to come up with rent money, nothing else matters. Everything else on your plate slides off into the trash. I was so stressed out that everything salty, sweet and greasy found its way into my mouth. I found myself on the couch, crying and barely able to get up to go get my oldest from school. Dramatic Much?!?!? Yes, but that was where I was at.

What did I do to come out of it?

1. I forgave myself. I forgave myself for not keeping on a strict budget. I forgave myself for not saving more money. I told myself that I am only human. We all make mistakes. The key is, to forgive yourself and move on.

2. I had to admit failure and pull some money out of savings to get pay rent. I hated doing this, but in reality the pain of doing so helped to solidify the determination to not let it happen again.

3. I sat down immediately and came up with a system to get spending in control. This meant coming up with a realistic budget. Anyone can set up a budget, but it takes being realistic and following it that matters. I had been setting up a budget for months, but failed in following it.

4. I decided that I needed to make myself review the finances every day. I had an old ledger that lists all of your expense types (rent, food, gas, utilities, etc); with a column for every day of the week. I told myself that every time I spent anything, I would log it in that journal. I decided that as soon as I got up in the morning (after breakfast), I would log anything I spent the day before. I would check the checking account to make sure I was on the same page. You may ask why I don't use my check register. When you are spending cash, that doesn't reflect what you are actually spending on different items. I would take out a chunk of cash for food and gas, but I didn't know where it was actually going. My goal is to use this log to make a better budget the following month. It will also give me a visual on where I need to reign things in my spending.

5. I set up the calender that hangs on our wall. It is a dry erase calendar, so I can update it every month. What I did was to sit down with the bills. I listed the bill, amount and due date in the bottom notes section. Then in the box for that date, I put "cable due", "rent due", etc. As I pay them I will mark that it was paid.  This will give my husband and idea on what is due and when it was paid. I also went through my daughters school announcements to see what financial commitments I had for her. This month she had pictures, PTA dues, and a Scholastic book fair. In the past we could never do these things because we didn't plan for them. Not anymore!

6. Each payday, before I spend any money on anything else, I will pay the bills due that pay period. The problem I was having was that I would go shopping first. I would overspend, or the week would get away from me and then something wouldn't get paid so it would roll into the next week. Then we wouldn't have enough to pay the next weeks bills on top of the previous weeks bills. It would roll and roll on like this until the end of the month when we were "screwed". I hate to admit this, but if more people knew that other's are having the same issues, maybe I can help get them make the changes they need to make too.

7. After I pay the bills, I will take what is left and subtract my food, gas, odds n ends budget. What ever is left over will go into our short term savings account. This will help us to make sure we have rent money at the end of the month.

To wrap it up, we have started this month on a really good standing. I have regained control and feel more relaxed. I have heard time and time again that when your "house" is in disorder, everything else is too.

That brings me back to my weight loss journey. I read a really good blog post ( It helped me to realize that it isn't about diets or fads. It isn't about setting a goal with an end date. It is about getting active. Calories in and out. You can read the post to see what you get out of it, as it might be different than what I did. My personal weight loss journey will continue. For now I am focusing on trying to keep my finances in order. Get active. Enjoy life. I will share my successes as they happen. Maybe one day when I the finances are completely under control I will get more serious about the weight issues. For now I have to focus on one thing.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to share your journey. I love hearing them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Really looking at yourself is painful...

I had great hopes and aspirations to be able to kick this thing called obesity in its butt. It didn't happen. Instead, I end up defeated, depressed and at a loss.

Today I went to the mall with my family. The oldest was in desperate need of new shoes, so we headed for one of the discount shoe stores. Overall, it was a good trip to the mall. That was until we went to get in the truck to go home.

I stood there looking at my reflection in the window, while hubby was loading up the youngest in her car seat. I saw this person who was so overweight, that there wasn't any cuteness left. I saw someone who I knew my husband wasn't attracted to anymore. I saw someone on the edge of death.

Before, when I was overweight, I could still see myself as cute. I could see a shape that was at times sexy. But now I see this deformed person who can barely get up from the couch. I will hear the kids screaming from the other room and wonder if I will be able to get to them in time if something were to happen.

Yesterday, we went to my mom's house for her birthday. I sat on the couch looking at the family photographs on the bookshelves. I saw my wedding photo and I was almost brought to tears. I was beautiful. Still overweight by most standards, but I was beautiful. My face wasn't distorted. My skin was glowing. My hair shiny. Granted it was my wedding, but the beauty was under the makeup and hair goo.

I have tried several times to go on a diet. To give up coke, carbs, sugar. I have failed every single time. What is wrong with me. I see myself heading to an early grave. I cannot seem to stop it though. I would love nothing more than having another child, but we agreed unless I could lose 50 pounds, it wasn't going to happen. Not even the intense desire for another child can get me off my butt to lose this weight.

No one can help me but myself, but I just cannot seem to do it. So that is where I stand. Feeling like a loser. One who is the worst kind of loser - one that knows exactly what needs to be done, but is not doing it.

Thank you to my friend Katie, for calling me out. I needed to share what I was feeling. I need to get this out. Maybe something will click and I will figure it out. Maybe one day I will succeed. For now, I am searching for the belief that I will succeed. Maybe that will be the step that I need to move forward.