I am the last person to be able to deny Zachie when he hopefully holds up a bag of fruit bites at the store. Of course. When MacLean wants a tin of Mentos? Sure. In my honest moments, it gives me more pleasure to grant these wishes than it likely does for the boys to gobble them down.
So, let’s be honest: some things are not going away from your grocery list. They mean something to you. That said–there’s lots of things you can dump from the budget without causing you pain. Let’s see how to do it, shall we?
1–Track your budget for a month. This one was hard, because The Todd does the cooking and most of the grocery shopping. We finally stuck an envelope to the fridge and committed to dropping every recipt into it for a month. Even if you think you’re keeping to your budget, you’ll likely be shocked. Our biggest weakness was little things–cheapie toys for the kids, magazines at the checkstand instead of by subscription. Yours may be soda, or insanely expensive shampoo. Discuss as a family what you can live without. Financial experts are recommending a food budget of $125.00 per week for a family of four.
2–Join a food co-op. My dad was big on these in the groovy hippie era in San Francisco. Fortunately, the co-op survived, though the love beads did not. Usually, you spend a few hours monthly volunteering at the co-op in exchange for prices that are often half of what you spend at the store. Our local co-op has fresh herbs, lovely bread from an artesian bakery, and organic veggies. Find one near you at Coopdirectory.
3–Buy more fresh fruits and veggies. I know, they’re more expensive, but more and more studies show that when families add more fresh produce to their diets, they not only lose weight, their food budgets actually shrink by 25%!
4–Consider an extra stop by a local outlet for baked goods–day-old breads and rolls are at least 50% off. Take a look at the “outlet locator” a to find one near you.
5–Convenience costs you. Sliced bags of apples? $5.79 a pound. Whole apples? $1.29. Bag of pre-washed lettuce? $3.25. A head of romaine? $1.19. Shredded cheese is a killer: $11.19 a pound. A one pound block? $5.09. The Todd argues that if buying the convenient stuff is the only way to eat healthier–ie salads, it’s worth it. But if you can devote an hour to slicing, shredding and pre-bagging everything for the week, you’re saving hundreds of dollars. You know your time limits, so you need to decide if time or money is worth more. It’s not always the latter.
6–Coupons. You will likely want to spit on me here. This is the first year I’ve ever used them–consistently. Here’s what I’ve noticed from emails and comments from you in The Todd & Erin FF community. Eager souls buy 6 papers, spend hours clipping coupons, and then go nuts trying to redeem them all. Simplify. Your time is worth something, too. Here’s a few great clip sites:
—Uh, look to the right side of this page: I run a daily tracker that posts all the latest coupons with the link to print them.
—CouponNetwork is my new favorite: I’m fairly helpless with coupons and give myself a huge pat on the back if I remember them half the time. (Editor’s note: don’t act all shocked. You know you’re not dealing with Martha Stewart here.) Grocery Coupon Network takes a few minutes to set up–you’ll click on the coupons you use most–staples like mik and cheese, or diapers, etc. The network scans all offers in the blogosphere and sends you all the coupons you want to print. It’s quite amazing!
—Coupons.com: always good for staples like cheese, milk, yogurt and toiletries. Can be used anywhere. You’ll need to download a widget to use it. It will not add spyware. Do not fear the widget!
—Freeflys: in the last 3 months, I haven’t had to buy toothpaste, eye drops, coffee creamer, dishwasher detergent, organic cereal…because I got free-bees from here. No spam, that’s why I suggest this one.
And as with all Resolutions, break it up into manageable chunks. I always try to accomplish the entire thing at once and then think I stink because I failed. Maybe start with tracking what you spend. Or, sign up with just one coupon site. Or, look into the co-ops. You don’t have to be Insane Shopping Diva from day one, right? Good luck!