Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cash Budget

In yesterday's post, I mentioned having something more about grocery shopping later. Well, here it is!

Money is a little tight around here lately, so Mr. S and I have been examining our budget to determine what we can cut and where we can trim. I do most of the grocery shopping for our house (mostly because I can get in and out of the store more quickly than Husband most days), but both of us are pretty bad about spending more than we planned at the store. We love food, we love good food, and we both enjoy cooking. Needless to say, we both have ideas and upon entering the grocery store are totally enchanted by some of the things we see. All this to say, the grocery budget could definitely be trimmed.

We decided to put a couple systems in place. We've never been meal planners - that is to say, we rarely sit down once per week and figure out what we're going to eat everyday for dinner. This meant a lot of forgotten leftovers in the back of the fridge that had to be tossed, and remaining unaware of things already in the pantry to be used for that week's meals. Obviously, this needed to stop. I sat down yesterday and planned out our meals for the week, including space for consuming leftovers.

A lot of people go grocery shopping with a list. My mother, Husband's mother and sister, many of our friends. For whatever reason, we've never been list people. Even on days we tried to be good and go with a list, we'd end up with quite a few items in our cart that weren't on the list. (I did tell you the grocery store is an enchanted place for us. I wasn't lying.) Now our rule is you must make a list before setting foot in the grocery store, and you must stick to it!

The final system we put in place is a cash budget. As we thought about different ways to trim the grocery budget, we both knew if we pulled a certain amount of cash out of the bank each week and said, "That's all we have for groceries," our chances of actually trimming the budget might succeed. So, we now have an envelope on our fridge with our grocery money. On the front of the envelope we wrote: Week of: October 2-8, etc and a place to write down how much was spent that week. We've budgeted $50/week for groceries. For this first time around, we pulled two week's worth of cash for the envelope - nothing worse than getting to the checkout and needing an extra 4 dollars or something as you try out the system.

Alright, so we put these systems in place and I tried it out for the first time yesterday. I planned out this week's meals with our pantry in mind. We have lots of rice, pasta, and potatoes on hand, some fruit and veggies in the fridge...so I wanted to only pick up ingredients from the store that would round out our pantry for the week. I made my list and grabbed our envelope. During my shopping trip, I paid close attention to the cost/ounce or pound of the items I purchased, wanting to get the best value. Only one extraneous item made it into my cart - sweet potatoes because they were on a good sale this week. How did I fare? $55.13 for my first time out. Not too shabby! "But it's over your budget," you say. That is true, but some of the items like milk and cereal will last us for two weeks. Also, it was my first time using this system and most of my grocery trips were at least $70 or $80. I'm pretty proud of myself and Mr. S is proud of me, too. Mostly, I'm proud of us for finding a practical solution to this problem.

How do you budget for groceries? Do you have any systems in place?


  1. You guys are great at compromising on budgets. I'll be curious to hear how this works out:)