You've all heard the saying before: "Organization is the key to success". Well it is. Plain and simple, it is. I might be a little biased on this observation because I am somewhat of an organization junky, but I really find that the only way I can stay on top of things and make sure that I am not overspending and overindulging is to be organized. So, I've decided for the next few weeks I will post a few ideas on how organization can help you to save money while grocery shopping.
The first thing you can do is to set a manageable and realistic budget. Try not to under or overestimate how much you should be spending on groceries per week (or month, whichever is better for you). At one point, I had set a budget that was way too high and I found myself buying things that I didn't need just because "the money was there". Yet on the other hand, I have also had times where I made my budget much too low and got stressed out trying to fit everything in. Finally, I think I have found a budget that fits our needs right now. If you know how much you are allocated to spend each week, it really helps when you're in the grocery store and debating over whether or not to buy that certain treat.
Also, don't beat yourself up if you have a week where you go slightly over budget. Things always come up ... unexpected company, potlucks, etc. Just try to monitor this and be sure that you aren't going over budget every week. If you go over a bit one week, try to aim to spend less the next week. For some people, using a cash only system seems to work. This means taking out the amount of cash that you allocate for groceries at the beginning of the month and using it throughout the month. If you run out before the last week of the month, then you should plan that week around what you've got in the house. Just a side note, I've tried the cash only system and it doesn't seem to work for me. The important thing is that you find something that works for you and your family.
Be specific about what is included in your grocery budget. Does this include cleaning supplies, pet supplies, hygienic products and money used to eat out? Being specific will help you to stick to your budget and not overspend. I have found many times when I am in WalMart or some other store and I see toilet paper on sale so I grab it. Then I'm always faced with the question ... does that come out of my grocery budget or not? This is something I have not been good at in the past. Cleaning supplies, pet supplies and hygienic products are supposed to be a part of my weekly budget, but sometimes I forget this and the products cause me to go over budget. Also, eating out is not in our grocery budget. We really enjoy food and really enjoy going out to eat, so we have a bit of a "fun" budget that we include eating out in.
Lastly, while deciding on a budget, take a few minutes to reevaluate your spending habits. Do you find yourself tossing out rotten produce on a regular basis? Do you open your cupboards and find stale food that hasn't been eaten? Are their products in your freezer that have been in there so long you can't remember where they came from? Guilty as charged. I try to take a bit of an inventory about once a month to see what I've got, what I haven't been using and what I need. If you consider the amount of food that is already in your home, you may be surprised at how much you can reduce your weekly costs.
I hope these tips for budgeting are somewhat helpful. They have sure helped me although I'm definitely not a pro and I go over budget more than I'd like to admit. Next week I will talk a bit about menu planning. Have a Thrifty Thursday!