Now that I’m a SAHM things have changed a bit around the house.

For one thing, I’ve become a budgeting wizard. We’ve always budgeted, but we used to be quite a bit “looser.” Honestly, I might not sit down and really add up our income/expenses until the month was already over. We’re used to living on the frugal side so we generally made more than we spent and never really had a problem (keep in mind my husband is self-employed so his income can fluctuate widely depending on the month, but things generally evened out). But now that we’re living 100% on Chris’ variable income and we no longer have my fixed paycheck coming in every week to tide us over until Chris’ next big job, I’ve really had to buckle down with the finances.

What did I discover?

We spend a LOT of money…..on food.

It’s crazy, really. If you ask anyone who knows us, they would say that we’re living very frugally. Granted, we’ve got a good bit of student loan debt (from me), but we’ve always lived very humbly. We make-do with small homes, few luxuries, etc. I’m not a big shopper and never go on big spending-sprees. We rarely go on vacation (does driving back to Texas count??), made-do as a one car family for 3+ years, and get most of our entertainment for free (e.g., going to the park, walking the mall, etc.). But when I take a good, hard look at our budget for the past several months one thing is painfully apparent. We waste a LOT of money on food.

The reason I say “waste” is that, unfortunately, a lot of the food we buy ends up not getting eaten, going bad, and ultimately being thrown away. It was not uncommon for our grocery bill to be $150-175 per week just to feed 2 adults. In addition to that, we’d often either go out to eat or order take-out (take-out is more common now that we’ve got the babies). Eating out twice per week at $30 a pop means another $60 per week for food. If you’re keeping up, that means our average food bill was about $220 per week….$880-$900 per month just to eat!

If we were looking for somewhere to tighten the belt a little now that we’re a 1-income family, food was the place to start!

I found a blog (zerowastehome.blogspot.com) about minimalist living. Although their mission is purely motivated by environmental concerns, I noticed the obvious impact on (lowering!) one’s budget. I thought of it as a fun challenge to try to stretch our dollar by eating in, and planning meals that were cost-effective.

The biggest tips I would give are:

  1. Before writing a grocery list, take stock of your inventory. Check your fridge, freezer, and pantry and notice what items you already have on hand. Maybe one of your meals could come entirely from stuff you already have, or maybe you have a few meals you could make by only buying a couple of ingredients.
  2. Think outside the box. A typical example of how our family might have “wasted” food:  we make burgers one night, which requires buying a bag of 8 hamburger buns and some ground beef (1.25 lbs.). I make 4 burgers, but we only eat 1 each (2 total). I eat another burger for lunch the next day. So we still have 1 burger patty (and 5 buns!) sitting around until they go bad and end up eventually getting tossed out. How can we “think outside the box” to use this food? The leftover burger patties could be crumbled and mixed with marinara sauce. Serve it atop cooked noodles and you’ve got spaghetti! As for the burger buns, you could freeze them, make them into croutons, garlic bread (perhaps to serve with the spaghetti?), or plan a grilled chicken sandwich meal soon so you can use the buns again. The options are limitless!!!
  3. Check out your local store ads. I used to throw away my store ads the minute I got them out of the mail box. Now I take them inside and check them out. I often go to a couple different grocery stores (usually one just for produce and another for my other grocery items). Check out the ads for the stores you shop at and plan meals around the sales. You can also stock up on items that hold well if there’s a really good deal (e.g., pantry or frozen items). There are some stores that even price match ads! I know Walmart does for sure (and supposedly they’re trying to rebrand as a “food store” again), and I’ve heard that Target does, too. Heck, I worked at Petsmart in college and we would price match there! If you aren’t sure it never hurts to ask!

Although ideally we’d like to cut back in other categories, too, the “food” category was definitely an obvious choice of where to start, given our gross over-spending in this area. If anyone has other money-saving tips they’d like to share, comment away!

I’ll never forget one friend’s Dad telling us when we were young that, to save money in college he used to steal packets of ketchup and saltine crackers and when times were tight he’d dilute the ketchup with water and eat as “tomato soup” with the saltine crackers. A full meal entirely “free’ (err…or stolen, lol). Any crazy way’s you’ve tried to save money??

Advertisements