As a result, we've been able to buy more with our money. We've also cut our monthly budget for groceries, household items, and toiletries by 20%. Our family of 3 used to spend $100/week (or $400/month). Now, however, we average $80/week (or $320/month). If our budget allows, we enjoy spending about $20-$35/week on eating out.
Here's what we're doing to save money:
1. We know how much we pay for items. A few months ago, Tal and I had no idea how much we were paying for bread, milk, or cereal. Even worse, we had no idea if the sale price was a good deal. For that reason, we created a spreadsheet with 50 items that we buy on a regular basis and included their Wal-Mart prices:
- Lucky Charms--$2.99
- Minute Maid OJ--$2.62
- Pasta Sauce--$1.98
2. We pay attention to sales. Each week Tal and I pore over the sales ads for 4 grocery stores. We use our spreadsheet to compare grocery store sale prices to Wal-Mart's everyday low prices. Some weeks we shop at 2-3 stores to get the best deals. Overall, we stick to Wal-Mart for staple items. However, we often find good deals on cereal, meat, and cheese at other grocery stores. For example, General Mills cereal is $2.50-$3.00 a box at Wal-Mart. However, at Kroger recently, General Mills cereal was $1.49 if you bought four boxes. We bought 4 boxes and used a $0.75 coupon--bringing down the price to $1.30 for each box. We saved at least $1.20 per box (or $4.80 total) by shopping at Kroger instead of Wal-Mart.
3. We stock up on sale items. When Tal and I find a good deal, we buy enough of the item to last 4-6 weeks. For example, chicken is $2.79/lb at Wal-Mart. However, a few weeks ago, chicken was on sale at Food Lion for $1.99/lb. We bought 10 lbs and saved about $0.80 per pound (or $8.00 total).
4. We plan our weekly menu. When Tal and I make our weekly grocery list, we also plan 3-4 meals for the next week. For example, this week we bought ingredients and side items for lasagna, tacos, and chicken and rice. Then, while Savannah is napping on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, Tal and I cook a couple meals and eat them for lunch and dinner during the week. Cooking meals ahead of time saves us time and stress during the week, as well as enables us to spend more time as a family when we get home from work and school.
5. We get groceries once a week. We plan our meals ahead, so we don't have to make multiple trips to the grocery store for last minute items. If we forget or run out of an item, we improvise and come up with an alternate meal or side item. When we make an unexpected trip to the grocery store, we run the risk of buying more items (and paying more) than we planned.
6. We keep our ears and eyes open for sales, coupons, and free events:
- We take advantage of daily deals on Groupon and LivingSocial. For example, Tal and I recently bought 2 Fandango movie tickets for $8 total and 3 hours of house cleaning for $59.
- We sign up for emails from our favorite stores and restaurants. For instance, I buy some of Savannah's clothes at Kohl's--but never without a 15% off coupon that's delivered to my inbox each week. On my birthday, I received an e-coupon for a free entree at Moe's. We paid $12 for our whole family because we used my birthday coupon and got a free kids meal. (Kids eat free on Tuesdays.)
- We buy our gas at Wal-Mart. Each week we put money on our Wal-Mart gas card, which saves us 10 cents a gallon at the pump (or $16/month). Every dollar helps because we spend $550-$600 a month on gas.
- We go out to eat on days when Savannah can eat free. For example, Savannah gets a free kids's meal on Tuesdays at Chick-fil-a and on Sundays at Burger King.
- We look for free family events. For example, this weekend our family is going to a free children's event at the state fairgrounds. Drinks, popcorn, sno-cones, and inflatables are free! Also, a local pumpkin farm is offering free admission (usually $10 per person) to teachers and their families on two weekends in September.