Budget Bzzzzz… Groceries

Budget Bzzzzz isn’t about complicated investments or extreme couponing.  It’s about smart, simple, money-saving solutions that won’t involve a total overhaul of your life!

Statistics say that the average American family spends between 9 – 12% of their total income on food. Considering the median income in Forsyth County in 2013 was $45,580, this statistic implies that you may be spending between $341 – $455 on food each month. Depending on your family and lifestyle, these numbers may be too low, or maybe they are high. At my house, these numbers are on the low end. There’s also some ambiguity because if you’ll note – this says “food,” which implies that that the number includes both groceries and restaurants. It also fails to define the size of the household. If you’re a student of Dave Ramsey (as I am), you may know that he recommends a total food budget of 5 – 15% of your take-home pay. That’s a pretty big pendulum swing, depending on your situation. The bottom line – there is no right or wrong answer to your total grocery budget. Unlike your car payment or your cable bill, this isn’t a fixed number, but one that fluctuates from month to month. However, there are ways to curb your spending.

Go Generic: 99% of what I purchase are store brands. I’m only a brand-specific snob on a couple of things. Most of the time, the biggest difference you’ll find between brand name and generic is the label.

Plan for Meatless Monday (and maybe Thursday, too): Committing to a few vegetarian dishes a week will certainly help lower your grocery budget, not to mention be great for your health.

Shop Frozen: Fresh produce is expensive and while I’m not remotely suggesting you shouldn’t buy fresh, some of the staples will be more economical if purchased frozen. Especially if there’s a risk of veggies and fruits going bad in the crisper before you get to them!

Buy in Bulk When It Makes Sense: Club stores are great for stocking up on the basics like toilet paper, paper towels, and other consumables, but only when it makes sense. If you have the space to store goods frequently used, that’s great, but buying a gallon of ketchup isn’t going to make sense unless you are feeding a household of boys hamburgers and fries every single night…and all of them really like ketchup. The downside to club shopping is it’s very easy (and tempting) to impulse shop. So, if you’re going this route, go with a purpose and focus….and budget.

Portion Your Own Snacks: Far better for your wallet, buy a full sized bag of pretzels or chips and portion your own servings. You can also eliminate a lot of waste, especially if you’re diligent about re-using bags and containers.

Be Aware of Average Prices: My first job out of high school was at a retail store. New inventory came in with a retail tag on it, and we promptly stocked those goods in the store with a sale sticker on the hanger. It’s all about giving the consumer that warm and fuzzy feeling that they are getting a deal. So, just because it says “on sale,” is it really? Being aware of the average cost is a powerful tool when it comes to saving on your groceries, even when the item is marked as “on sale.” If you’re shopping for an item you don’t regularly purchase, comparison shop online first, so you’re in the know!

Couponing: I’m not a fan of couponing, because I lack both the time and patience to deal with it. If you are a couponer, make sure you’re using coupons only on the merchandise you plan to use. An attractive sale price plus coupon may be tempting, but if it’s something your family won’t use, it’s a waste.

Online Grocery Shopping: I’ve saved the best for last. Shop online. Last September, I paid an annual fee of $99 for unlimited online shopping at our local grocery store. My husband thought I was crazy to “spend money to spend money,” until six months later when I compared our recent grocery bills to what we were spending at the same time the previous year. Online grocery shopping is offered by many stores in our area, and it helps manage impulse buying. Moreover, I’m able to make smarter decisions by comparing pricing, sort by BOGOs and sale items, and if I have coupons, they can be applied to my order. On average, I’ve trimmed our monthly grocery bill by 30% with online shopping and that $99 fee has more than paid for itself.

Source: LifeHacker.com