Written By: Ruthie Cody
Thriftiness is a skill: you can learn it and practice it. When you create a budget, there are fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are the ones that won’t change month to month, like rent or mortgage. Those are pretty set. Choose your fixed costs wisely (do you really need an expensive cable bill when you can just pay for wifi+netflix and stream things for free?) Variable costs are the items in your budget that aren’t the same amount every month. These are the ones you have the power to adjust when you need to make some changes. One of the biggest variable line items in our budget is groceries. I have found that if I want to make a big impact on our budget, this is where I have the most room to make cuts.
Of course, as my kids grow up and get bigger, I’m sure my grocery bill is going to expand. For now though, I am practicing the following things to try and keep us healthy, full, and still saving money:
- Meal plan. I can’t stress this enough! Making a meal plan will help you avoid spending money on food that won’t be eaten, or making impulse buys. We plan for 6-7 days at a time, and grocery shop for just enough to cover those meals. (Weekly trips to the grocery store double as fun time for my one-year-old because he loves sitting in the carts!)
- Stop snacking. If you plan to make good meals to cover your whole day, you won’t need to snack a lot. For us, when we want something between meals, it’s a piece of fruit or maybe crackers and cheese, but never anything pre-packaged. The pre-packaged goodies are typically less healthy than whole foods like fruits and veggies and cost a lot more. (The one exception I make is when we are traveling because babies need snacks and moms need convenience!)
- Eat less meat. We aren’t vegetarian or vegan by any stretch of the imagination, but we don’t eat meat every day. Find some good recipes that you can make over and over again that are simple and tasty. One of our favorites is farro with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper: simple but surprisingly full of flavor, and keeps you full!
- Shop sales. Seeing what’s on sale can help you make your meal plan! We live near an Aldi and I check their produce picks of the week to help inform my decisions for the meal plan each week! One week they had 10-pound bags of potatoes for $1.99, so we had quite a few variations of potatoes for meals that week (lentil shepherd's pie, steak fries, mashed potatoes, and coconut curry potatoes!)
- I don’t coupon. What? I know. I said it. Most advice about saving money on groceries probably involves some tips for couponing, but they don’t make coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables. Just about all coupons are for things we would never buy. Coupons can be fun, but they might tempt you into extra spending you wouldn’t otherwise do.
- Shop the perimeter. Most grocery stores (except my beloved Aldi) are set up so that the perimeter of the store covers 90% of your needs. You might never need to travel down an aisle unless you need some dry goods like pastas, beans, or rice. Everything else (fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, meat, bread) is around the edges!
If you are looking to save money in your budget, think about your grocery bill first. You have so much control over the final number! The more you practice making thrifty (and healthy!) decisions, the easier it becomes.