Monday, January 19, 2015

Grocery Shopping on a Budget: Tips for Shopping Every 2 Weeks

We all know well enough that the cost of food is a HUGE expense when raising a large family. I budget $200 a week for groceries, but really we run out of a lot of food half way through the week, so it's really about $300 a week. That's a whopping $1,200 a month just for food. Now, the challenge is more difficult in our house because I am self-employed, which means my paychecks aren't regular and they are often late. A few weeks ago, I knew one of my checks was going to be late, and I probably wouldn't have grocery money for the following week. So, I needed to make $200 stretch for 2 weeks. I thought right away-- mission impossible.

Generally, I pretty good at grocery shopping on a budget, but I just didn't see how $200 was going to feed a family of 6 for 2 weeks, but I had to try. Surprisingly, I not only pulled it off, but saved a fortune. I was able to get 2 weeks worth of food for $156. Of course, I knew we would have to go get milk and perishables during the second week so I still budgeted in $50 extra for the necessities we would need.

I was so shocked that I was able to pull it off for much less than I expected that it got me thinking. Instead of spending $200 per week, if I could drop that to $200-$250 for every two weeks, that would cut our grocery bill by over half every month!! That's a huge chunk of change we could use for other areas in our household.

Now, I'm bound and determined to go shopping every two weeks to save us over $500 each month on grocery shopping. Here's how I pulled it off.

Meal Plan
Of course, my biggest worry was making dinners for 2 weeks. So, I sat down and planned out meals for the next 2 weeks. I admit, some of them weren't the most gourmet meals, but make some biscuits and throw a salad on the side and it's a done deal. 

Check the Cabinets
I happen to have a fairly large stock pile of canned goods and what not due to my coupon use. So, I took a look around to see what we already had in the home. Turns out, we had a lot more than what I expected. I took what we already had and worked it into the meal plans I came up with. Just by going off of what we already had, I was able to easily come up with 5+ nights of dinners, minus the meat we needed to get.

Check Sales
Then, I got the store ads to see who had what on sale. Naturally, meat is the biggest expense factor so I made sure I found which stores had the best meat deals. I also noted the stores that had the items we would need during the week on sale. Yes, this did mean going to more than one store, but the savings were worth it.

Clip Coupons
I LOVE coupons!! So, my next mission was to find as many coupons as I could for the items on my grocery list. Then, I matched the coupons and the items on my list to those that were on sale for extra savings.

Stick to the List
Usually, when I go shopping, I have my list of stuff I know we are running out of and, of course, the stuff we need Then, as we walk through the store, all of this other stuff magically appears in the cart. Not this time. I stuck to the list and didn't get anything that wasn't on it.

When I got up to the register, I could hardly believe how little I had spent, but the real challenge was going to be if I actually had enough food for 2 weeks. At the end of two weeks, I was pleasantly surprised that I did. Of course, I needed to make a run to the store for eggs, milk, and bread, but other than that we were good.

Yes, it did take more time and planning to go grocery shopping for 2 weeks, but when you're grocery shopping on a budget and raising a large family, it's certainly worth it.

Now, I'm sticking to shopping every 2 weeks and watching the savings stack up.

What's your plan for grocery shopping on a budget? Have you ever gone shopping for 2 weeks at a time? What tips did you use?

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