How I Get By: Budgets

6 01 2011

In this series of posts, I’ll take you past the food that I can eat and that I make, and a little more in depth into my life and how I get by.  I have a few topics to write about, so stay tuned for more!

Budgeting is really important in my life, and here are some of the ways that I continue to cut corners.

Coupons – I’ve always been a coupon cutter, because my mom was one. When she stopped cutting coupons, I would do it for her and give her the coupons for things that I wanted from the store that week (this was back in high school).  These days I still find a lot of satisfaction from physically cutting coupons, but most of my coupon cutting occurs online.  I utilize a few sites such as coupons.com, redplum.com, smartsource.com, and couponmom.com to find the best coupons.  What’s better is I can choose which coupons I want and most of them are plentiful and available most weeks, so I can cut coupons for things that I actually need.
I keep a coupon file with me when I shop – but the most important thing is to pull coupons that I’m definitely going to be using before I shop so I don’t get too flustered with all the coupons (there are a lot).  Here are coupons I’ve cut online too.

Buying on sale When I grocery shop, I only buy things that are on sale, or if not, the cheapest price.  Store brands are definitely okay, and it certainly pays off to take the time to look at unit prices to bargain shop for the best price.  The two grocery stores that I frequent the most are Shop Rite and Stop and Shop, and both of these stores feature an online weekly circular.  This way I can plan on my shopping trip before I even get to the store to save myself time.  Both stores, actually, also have an ‘online shopping cart’ where you can click links from the online circular, and the site will print out a shopping list for you – it’s even categorized to optimize your trip to the store!  This has certainly helped me in money AND time saving efforts.

Stocking up There is always something at the grocery store that I need in my pantry and will need later.  Chocolate chips, flour, sugar, chicken broth, pasta, butter, bacon .. when these things go on sale, I will normally buy more than I need, so that I don’t have to run out to get it later, and because a lot of dishes I use need ingredients such as these.  By stocking up my pantry with frequently used items, it ensures that I won’t have to rush out to the store and end up spending more money because I didn’t plan ahead.

Keeping track of where the money goes – I budget $150-200 a month for groceries, and for the past two months have fallen under $150.  I use mint.com to keep track of all my finances, and keep close track of where my money goes each week and each month.  Also, I’ve found it really helpful (a little time consuming, but helpful) to go through my shopping list while I’m shopping and keep an estimate of how much money I am spending.  I tend to do one big grocery trip a month (and spend $80-100) and then have small shopping trips after that.  This way I know the bulk of my money is going towards that one trip, and when I plan out my grocery list, I plan accordingly.

Lists! I wouldn’t be able to survive with lists and grocery lists are no different.  Even yesterday I walked into Wegmann’s (which I’ve only been in a handful of times) and completely forgot why I was there because I was so distracted by the complexity of the store.  I ended up wandering for about half an hour before I really had to focus myself to do what I was there to do.  (I didn’t even find what I was looking for, so it was just a waste of time.)  I make grocery lists and bring a pen with me so I can cross off things I found, and only put things on my grocery list that I will use for a meal that I’ve planned for (more on meal planning next week).

Along with using canvas bags (they help the environment AND they save you a tiny bit of money), I cut corners wherever possible.  It’s really rewarding when there’s a “total savings” box at the bottom of your receipts – here are a few of mine:

These are just receipts that I had laying around, too!  I saved $30 in one trip by shopping with my frequent buyers card (which everyone should have) and with coupons.  Think of what this could all do for you!

Happy eating, all!

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2 responses

6 01 2011
Tina

I know it seems a little crazy, but Whole Foods has some great deals too. Their organic, low-sodium chicken broth is $2.29 for a quart compared to $2.50 for the sale version of the non-organic stuff. Quinoa and beans (I especially love their bulk lentils which are a super healthy, protein filled carb) are a great price there too. Finally, now they do coupons! http://wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons/

For those that have the space, buying in bulk helps too! Especially for pantry items (rices, canned beans, pasta, paper goods). I only shop at Whole Foods for my toilet paper and paper towels because I can get the 100% recycled stuff (good for the earth!) for super cheap. I also love that Stop & Shop prints out coupons for you after your order. Those are pretty helpful and seem to be things I already purchase.

6 01 2011
Truc-Lan

Agreed – I love when Stop and Shop prints out coupons for items I already bought, as opposed to items I don’t need or use!

Whole Foods is great and I’m always stopping by after work – they have an extensive collection of dairy-free, soy-free alternatives, especially in the yogurt department. I’ll have to check out those coupons and shop there more often! Thanks for the tips, Tina!

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