Grocery shopping, and all the planning that goes with it, has been a BIG topic of conversation at our house these days.
To rewind, I should mention Jonathan and I recently decided our current budget system is not working. It’s not that we’re necessarily being irresponsible with how we spend (have you met my husband?) but we’re just not sticking to the goals we’ve set for ourself. For instance, trips to Target have gotten out of control. Throw in some diapers here and there, a few birthday cards, a new nail polish, cheese, bananas, a hat for Anna…blah blah blah. You know where this is going. All of a sudden I leave with a $125 charge on our Mastercard but I’m not really sure where it went.
We use Mint to manage all of our spending, and Jonathan is quite good at checking the budget several times every week. I am not. And if we ever want to take that European vacation we’ve been dreaming about, or buy me a car that actually fits my long legs, or send our children to college…well…we need to tighten things up.
So we’re going to try the cash envelope system for the next three months. We won’t be doing it in all our spending categories, because a lot of our monthly expenses are set up as automatic billing, but areas like groceries, gifts, entertainment/restaurants, and our personal budgets will be cash. I actually know a lot of people using the Dave Ramsey inspired cash system who find it to really work, so we’re going to give it a shot. The biggest challenge will be sticking to a grocery budget.
Here’s the confusing place I’m at with grocery shopping:
- I shop all over the place depending on my week, my mood, my list. Sometimes it’s Costco, sometimes Trader Joe’s, sometimes Savemart, occasionally Target or Walmart. All of these places have their positives and negatives in terms of convenience, selection and pricing however I haven’t been great about actually sitting down to compare prices at each.
- I no longer know what a reasonable budget is for a weekly grocery spending. Anna is now eating more and more solids so our former $70 a week budget seems too tight especially when we didn’t always stick to $70 before she was eating.
- I meal plan every week, and always shop with a list. But, I’m starting to think that the meals I prepare could be less complex or have fewer ingredients especially because Jonathan’s trying to cut out all dairy and almost all gluten. (EEEK!)
- I’m having a difficult time deciding which items we purchase should be organic versus non-organic. We’ve been buying organic milk since Anna drinks so much of it now, and I’m pretty set on continuing to do so. Additionally, I try to go to a farmer’s market or receive a CSA box for veggies. If I take the time to shop at a farmer’s market, I can often get a lot of great vegetables and eggs for a fair price.
- We are sporadic on how frequently we purchase meat, chicken and fish and what types of buy. In an ideal situation I’d love to buy all high quality meats, (I mean, have you seen Food, Inc.?!?) but, it’s just so darn expensive! We’ve tossed around the idea of buying an extra freezer for our garage, and then splitting a cow with friends but I’m curious if there’s a big cost savings in doing so.
I’d love to hear what you think is a reasonable budget for a small family of three.
Do you purchase organic meats/fish? If so, what have you found to be most cost effective?
What does your meal planning look like each week? Do you prepare staple low-cost meals on similar days each week? Do you do leftovers?
Please let me know your tried and true grocery shopping habits! And, as we re-evaluate our own system, I’ll be sure to share what we’re trying and learning.
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