So. My husband gets paid once a month. Now, I know a lot of grown ups have been budgeting this way for years but for me it took a while to get used to waiting sometimes 31 days between paychecks. Oh, and when you get paid every other Friday, you sometimes get a month with three paychecks instead of two, ya know? I always loved those months. Pero no mas para nosotros.
Anyway, it's now eight days until payday, and this is when I always have to go on a spending freeze because basically I'm a child who spends as much as possible for the first 23 days of the pay period so that I can Mr. Krabs it up for the final week. So in the spirit of said cheapskatery, I'm going to try and spend just $50 at the grocery store tomorrow for enough groceries to last us until the following Tuesday with no eating out budgeted in. Eek.
(When your fall property tax bill and your first propane fill-up of the season and the mandatory purchase of a new bunk bed because your daughter's cheapo 6 year old bed physically broke beyond repair and bills for getting your grown up cavities filled all coincide, you gots ta tighten the belt somewheres. Darn you, early fall.)
The good news is that many moons ago my friend Mary Kate told me that the basic secret to using coupons and having a stash of non-perishable goods is that you have to stop shopping for what you've just run out of and start shopping for what's on sale that you can combine with coupons and other discounts. The bad news is that when you make the transition from need-shopping to stash-shopping, you have to buy what you've run out of at the same time as you start building your stash. Ugh! You mean it's a process that takes time and requires patience and organization? Dagnabit.
Luckily I've been on this train for the last couple of months so we have a small stash of non-perishables at our disposal to make this week's $50 budget for perishables even possible. I mean, 7 people, y'all. We eat a lot of food.
So how am I gonna do this? Basically I think we'll be buying lots of bananas. We'll get apples off the apple tree, finally dig the potatoes up, and harvest what I'm pretty sure will be the last of the tomatoes from the garden. I'll buy milk and cheese and yogurt and if there is any meat that is on super sale, I'll grab some of that too. But then there's gonna be a lot of bread and roll baking (flour stash, yay! Cheap bread machine, yay!) and slow cooker using. Oh, and beans and rice. Lots and lots and lots of beans and rice.
1) Spending more at the grocery store will help you spend less eating out and will save you money in the long run
2) Looking at the grocery ads and matching up coupons FOR THINGS YOU ACTUALLY USE to things that are on sale or have a promotion attached will eventually pay off
3) Buying large quantities of meat and dairy when they are on sale and freezing them will lower your bills and help you get through lean times or unexpected emergency-feedings-of-extra-peoples
4) If you hate cooking the way I do, a slow cooker and a bread maker will be invaluable to you and will sometimes be what saves you from spending $30 on Chinese take-out on those nights when you just can't handle another dirty pot. But do not pay full price for these items! Check Goodwill and the Salvation Army and Craigslist and yard sales. People are always getting these kinds of things for weddings and then not using them.
5) Try and make a space for some storage shelves to stash non-perishables that you actually like. Never buy stuff that you don't like just because it's cheap. It will expire and be gross and you'll throw it out and waste all that money. Buy what you regularly eat and shop from your stash. When you shop at the store, it goes into your stash, not into your kitchen. Does that make sense? New things get put into the stash, stash things get put into your belly. That way nothing ever gets old and weird and of questionable health benefit.
Let me just tell you that before I started following these obvious rules, we were spending almost (sometimes more than) $1000 per month at the grocery store (that includes food and toiletries and cleaning products) and sometimes $300 a month eating out (I KNOW!!!). This month because of the propane and the property tax and the bunkbed and the dental expenses, we will end up spending less than $700 total at the grocery store (including food and toiletries and cleaning products) and less than $150 eating out. That is a big savings, y'all. And lemme tell you, we were not eating like paupers for those first 23 days, no sir. I even went on a mom's night out to some fancy Tapas restaurant downtown.
Do you have a favorite tip for keeping the grocery budget low? Feel free to share it in the comments so other people can benefit from your glorious wisdom.