First of all:
Creeeeeeeeek, thud, click!
That was the sound of the vault closing on our emergency fund! We did it! :) We actually went $1.05 over our goal! It feels so good to know that we have a safety net, and now we can work towards a new financial goal. Yay!
Next, for those of you who have been commenting on these financial articles, I want you to know that I have been getting lots of feedback from our readers, and not only do they appreciate that we're discussing this, but they really appreciate your comments! There isn't a "one size fits all" equation to managing expenses, and your different experiences are giving our readers a wonderful sampler of ideas, so thank you, and keep it up!
Now, back to the grocery store!
Deal or No Deal?
I was flipping through a magazine one day where I found an article about saving money at the grocery store. I'm a bit obsessed with the topic, so I started reading. The advice was pretty typical, but one particular blurb caught my eye. The author compared the unit prices of small containers of yogurt to a 32 oz. tub of yogurt and recommended that customers purchase the larger size to save money per ounce. Sounds reasonable, right?
You are the expert when it comes to your family.
I have bought the large tubs of yogurt. I have also thrown those tubs away, unopened, when they passed their expiration dates. My family just doesn't eat yogurt if they have to scoop it out of a tub. They eat a ton of yogurt, however, if it's in the ready-to-go cups. In our house, I leave room on the grocery list for cups of yogurt and I cut back in other areas to make up for it.
Bigger isn't always better.
Of course, usually the larger the quantity or volume, the less we pay per ounce. That's the lure of the big box stores and warehouse clubs. For things we tend to use lots of, like say, olive oil, it's a great deal to buy it that way. The trouble though, is that if we spend our monthly grocery budget to buy enough toilet paper to last a year, what do we use to buy food?
When my husband and I started cracking down on our food budget when we went to one income, my solution was to only buy what we needed for the week when I went to the store. It drove me crazy to only buy a small box when a month's worth of the same product was so much cheaper per unit, but it was a good exercise for me. We stayed within budget, and we always had what we needed. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn in my "frugality" which led to some very expensive months.
Couponer gone wild!
When I really became a "power couponer" I started taking advantage of all kinds of deals because they were, well, deals. I would find an amazing price on something that we had never really tried, and I would buy a cartload of it. I would come home with twenty boxes of diet granola bars (they were only a dollar a box!) and very little else to eat. Guess what? We didn't eat the granola bars either. At least the food bank was happy that month. McDonald's was tickled, too.
Pioneer Woman I am not.
My next craze was to buy things like dried beans and the non-boil-in-the-bag rice. They are MUCH cheaper than their easy-to-prepare counterparts. Guess what? It doesn't matter how little they cost if you never cook them, and it especially doesn't matter if they are inedible when you do. It's all wasted money, and then it's worse when the replacement costs of canned beans and Minute Rice figure into the equation.
Return to Center
I'm still a couponer, but now I only "stock up" on foods that 1) my family will eat and 2) are healthy for them to eat. I only buy foods that I know how to prepare because there's no point to storing something for a year and then throwing it away when it expires. (Just a note--I actually have learned how to cook beans and rice from scratch now, and I do it often. I do have Minute Rice and canned beans in the pantry, however, just in case.)
What am I saying?
When I make my grocery list, I do all of the things I mentioned last week, but I do keep in mind our non-negotiables (like yogurt in a cup) and I work around those. I find other areas to cut or to economize (like buying store brand brown rice instead of Uncle Ben's). I budget each month for a trip to Sam's to buy olive oil and nuts, and I keep that money separate from our weekly grocery money. Even then, we only spend 10% of our income on food (the recommended percentage is 5-15%, so I feel pretty good about that).
YOU are the captain of your grocery-buying ship, and you know your family better than anyone else. Don't be swayed by the siren songs of "good deals" and clever packaging! :)
So...this week, I would love to hear about your financial successes--did you lower your bills this week? Spend less at the grocery store? Complete your MASP? Fully fund an emergency fund?;) Let's celebrate together! Also, have you ever bought something ridiculous in the name of a "good deal?" What are your grocery buying rules? Let's talk!