A little while ago my husband and I realized that we needed to spend less money. Not super fun, however, saving money has always been a game for me, a challenge. How much can I save, the more I save, the more I win. I always see the figure in our savings accounts like a score. I’m a pretty competitive person so I like to have a high score. Whatever way you look at saving money, it is important.
Step one is make a budget. This can be as easy or as hard as you make it. All I did was add my average monthly income with my husband’s then subtract our monthly bills. With what was leftover I put half in savings and divided the rest into three “envelopes.” Now, I don’t like the idea of using actual envelopes, because I don’t want to carry that much cash around. So I like this free app for my phone called Goodbudget. It’s just digital envelopes where you can record your purchases. You can even share the app so you and your spouse both have the same information on both of your phones. Our three envelopes are groceries, gas and other.
The amount of money in our grocery envelope is about half of what I was spending before making the budget. Here’s how we’re making it work.
1. Make a list of every we have. Everything. What’s in the fridge and how much. Do we have three sticks of butter or just one? I do the same for the cabinets and the freezer.
2. Figure out what we can make with what we already have. Spaghetti, half a jar of capers, black olive, pepperonis and half a bottle of Italian dressing made for a great cold pasta salad last month.
3. Come up with the rest of the meals for the month, incorporating as much of what we already have as possible. I never plan out the exact number of meals for the month. There are always leftover dinners for lunches some days, some days we’re out of town and eat with family or on the road.
4. Make the shopping list. Don’t forget to include staples that you may be running low on like olive oil, sugar, baking soda, etc.
5. Shop. I always shop at Wal-mart because it’s cheap and they price match. I check the sale papers for two other grocery stores in our area and if they have a better deal one something I need I make a note. Wal-mart doesn’t even require that you show them the sale paper. You just tell the cashier “I have two items to price match.” When you get to those items (I usually put them at the very end) just tell your cashier, “Giant Foods has cucumber 2 for $1 and Food Lion has grapes for .40 per lb” or whatever. They’ll type in your price and that’s it! I saved $4.00 doing this once.
When I get home with my groceries I divide meats into freezer bags, cut up the lettuce, make granola bars and oatmeal muffins. The oatmeal muffins freeze wonderfully so we can eat on those all month long. Do as much preparation as you can when you get home but don’t go crazy and cook everything all at once! I’ve designed some pages for making lists that have helped me organize things. I hope you find them useful if you decide to try spending a little less, or to just start planning more!