I mentioned two weeks ago we were doing well on our budget and meal planning. We have always lived within ours means, paid off our credit card and put money into savings each month but it seemed lately we had no "fun money" left over and we knew something wasn't right.
We sat down with our online back account and used a program our bank provides to organize all our expenses into categories.
Kyle's work lunches were also bad. He didn't think he ate lunch out often but after seeing it sorted out it was a lot.
Surprisingly our take out and going out to dinner spending was too awful but there was room for improvement.
Since food was our main culprit we knew that something had to be done. Here were the first steps we took:
1. Meal Planning- While I always had a list when I went to the store I was always adding or taking stuff away as I shopped because I would think Ohhh maybe we'll have this for dinner one night or oh I should try to make that new dip this week. My all time favorite being the buy 2 get 1 free trick where I would some how decide that we had to have 3 boxes of english muffins. This type of shopping had to stop.
We now plan out breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner and only buy what we need for that week. We take into account both of our schedules- Kyle's travel, work lunches he might have, if we have a night out, or I have a junior league meeting.
I only plan dinners for 6 night a week to leave us one night to go out to dinner or order take out- this usually happens on Friday or Saturday nights.
I'm not going to lie our menu is boring and a little repetitive but we are saving so much money and we are not wasting food. I don't know about you all but we were horrible about wasting food especially fruits and veggies so now we just buy one or two fruits/veggie a week and eat them until they're gone. By Sunday our fridge and pantry are pretty empty but it's a good feeling to know that we aren't letting our money waste away in our fridge.
2. No more food shopping at Target and Wegmans/Whole Foods.- I used to do a double trip where I would get most of our groceries at Target and then meat and produce at either Wegmans or Whole Foods. The problem was that I was picking up a lot of extras at Target that we didn't need- nail polish, baby stuff, a shirt,makeup, new throw pillows here and there. Trust me you all know the Target trap- it's easy to get sucked in. I was going to Target at least 1-2 times a week under the guise of buying food when I was really just there spending money on crap. I think a lot of this has to do with having a baby during the winter- I needed to get out of the house and the Target is literally 5 minutes away so it was my escape that I did not realize was draining our bank account. I am happy to say that I go to Target only 1-2 times a month now and I don't even miss it all that much.
3. Utilizing store specials and coupons and gas rewards- Before Target carried food I only shopped at Safeway so I decided to go back to just shopping there since they offer a lot of in store coupons and gas rewards. Safeway has the Just 4 U app now where you can add tons of coupons to your Safeway card and get extra gas rewards for the money you spend. The best part about the app is that they tailor some of the products specifically for you, so they will give you an extra discount on items you buy or special sales for being a Just 4 U member. I usually get at least 2-3 gas rewards every trip which saves me $0.10 to the gallon at Exxon per reward. So if I have 3 gas rewards I can save $0.30 to the gallon- which is huge with gas prices right now and driving an SUV.
So those are some of the tactics we've been using to help us save money on food. It's really worked out well for us but I know this budget and saving money thing is still a work in progress. If anyone has any other tips/tricks they use I would love to hear them! (don't suggest couponing because I tried that once and it lasted about 2 weeks- I can't ever remember to bring them with me)