Organization and flexibility. They can be perceived as opposites because most people assume that if you are organized or have systems in place it's more difficult to be flexible but when it comes to working with your grocery budget they are two things I have learned that I must have. Without them it's hard to succeed at maintaining a successful grocery budget and feed your family for less.
Organization. I previously wrote on knowing what you have. When trying to save money on food you have to put in a little effort and planning. You can save without doing these things but to get the most savings you need to invest a little time. First, learn from my mistake and know what you have on hand. Start by figuring out what you have in your cabinets and freezer. Once you do that you may realize that you can skip shopping for a few weeks. Next, menu planning, menu planning, menu planning!! Everyone has a tendency to eat the same meals over and over. I'm no different but didn't realize this until I started menu planning. I know, I know, who wants to sit down and figure out what meals they are having for the next week, let alone two weeks or even the next month. I would have to say that the first few menus are the hardest to plan. After all the inventory and planning comes actually shopping and making lists based on your budget and in my case coupons.
Coupons are not for everyone, I get that. Personally, I love them. To me they are little slips of money. I find it challenging and make a game of matching coupons up to sales to get items for as little as possible. I've been doing this for years, using coupons that is. I started using them when I was in college and working at a grocery store. I don't mind clipping them or checking out online sites. Sometimes if there is a great sale price on an item I will even search the web trying to locate a coupon that will make that sale even better. Coupons for some are too time consuming and if you aren't sure how to match them with the best deals then it may seem like they just aren't worth it.
Throughout all of that you have to remain flexible. If you try to keep everything set in stone you will end up frustrated and will give in to the temptation to revert back to your old habits or to eat out. Both of which are bad for your budget. I've been there too. It doesn't happen overnight but I realize that without these systems we spend so much more money. That is money that I would rather put toward paying off debt or into our savings. Sometimes, things will come up. You make a menu plan and decide you really don't want what's planned that night. Then don't eat it. Simple as that. Take a meal that you are in the mood for from a different night and swap the two. Just because you planned one dish for a specific night doesn't mean that's the only night you can eat it. The same philosophy goes for shopping sales. There are weeks that I have no intention of purchasing meat but then the weekly ads come out and there is an awesome sale on roasts or chicken and I suck it up and buy as much as we have room for, or store limits allow. Why? Because I would rather buy chicken at $.59 per pound than wait until I need it and have to buy it for $.99 a pound.
The organization process for getting your grocery budget in check can be lengthy. Throughout our process to lower our monthly food bill it's taken time and adjustments. Sometimes we do really well. Other times things come up and we either need a lot, there are great stockpiling sales or we get lazy and grab take out too often. Everyone has their weaknesses. Over the past few years we have seen how well we can do and strive to do that each month. I've realized the past few weeks that we have gotten off track. We are doing well with the weekly grocery shopping and sticking to an average of $40 a week or less. We have set up our stockpile budget for the month and that has helped but we are still grabbing take out and making random purchases here and there. Those random purchases add up. I've decided that I need to go back to the basics and get organized again. Since it can be a lot to get organized I'm going to do a short organization series to break things down. Plus this is a great way for me to get back on track because I am going to go step by step along with the series as I write. EEK! I want to make sure that I have everything under control and back on track so that we can start the new year off right.