Watching the nightly news isn't the only place you can learn about the economic down-turn. I just look at the balance in our checking account. When day-to-day life revolves around counting pennies, you have to look at every single function of your household to figure out where to cut costs. The grocery store is probably the easiest and fastest way to trim your budget. Ordinarily, I plan a week's menu, draw up my list, and hit the grocery store. But, "ordinary" wouldn't describe our financial situation now. So, now I have taken another tactic. What would happen if I shopped the sales and forced myself to cook only what I could buy at a reduced price?
When you walk into the grocery store, you'll notice a remarkable thing. You can't turn down any aisle without walking into a "Buy-One-Get-One-Free" sign, a "Price Cut" sign, or a "Reduced Items" sign. I started to think, what if I only chose items on sale? Could I make dinner with just those ingredients?
It may take some time before you feel comfortable restricting your meals so dramatically. But, you know the kinds of foods you and your family like. Also, be aware that your best sale days are most likely on the weekend. I've been in a grocery store that didn't have any sales on Thursday, but they were practically giving the store away on Friday.
Once you get into the grocery store, you need a plan. Get your main ingredients out of the way first. You may want to begin in the meat, fish, and poultry section, choosing only those items that are on special. Now you can run around to the vegetables and see what's on sale. You'll already be developing sort of a plan in your mind. Don't forget cheese and other dairy items that may be on special. These main ingredient items are typically on the outside aisles of most grocery stores, so walk your cart all along the outside aisles first.
It's time to quickly push your cart through the inside aisles. You'll want to grab only items that are on sale and that your family will eat. It's amazing how quickly you begin to get ideas for dinner. But don't think too hard or take too much time struggling with ideas. When you get everything home, you'll find items in your pantry that you can use as well.
We need to discuss coupons. Are you a coupon clipper? That's a great way to take advantage of every sale possible. One warning though; only use coupons on things that you are actually going to use. If you buy a food item and leave it sitting in your cupboard gathering dust, it really isn't saving you money. Paper and cleaning products, however, are another story. If you are agreeable to trying new products, then by all means, clip and buy. In other words, if your family is not "married" to a certain bath soap, why not save a few cents on the brand that offers a coupon?
Now, you're home and the challenge really begins. Start by sorting your groceries into categories like protein, vegetables, dairy, and canned goods, or whatever makes sense to you. Look in your cupboards to see if you have any rice, potatoes, or pasta, too. Now you can see a menu start to develop. If you review each pile, you should be able to pull an item out and mix and match until you're looking at what appears to be a meal! See... you are creative after all!
Give this "shop the sales only" tactic a try for the next couple months and see if you don't see a reduction in your grocery bill. You may even enjoy the challenge of figuring out what to cook from the items in front of you, instead of having every meal planned out. What if you found out you could really cook instead of just following recipes? Are your cooking "habits" stopping you from really saving money? You're more creative than you think. Give it a try!
Now it's up to you; here are some great tips on saving on food
and some grocery budget guidelines for your family
. By implementing a few of these tips, you can start saving money this week.
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