I’ve had friends ask me how I keep our grocery budget between $40 and $50 weekly (we have a family of 5, and this includes all toiletries, diapers, paper products, etc.) First, I think I’m a little genetically predisposed to living frugally. If you visit my Dad’s house he’ll probably tell you to use only half of the 2-ply toiletpaper – I think he’s kidding but I’m not completely sure! Also, my husband provides very well for our family so that I can stay home with our kids, and I hate to see his hard earned money wasted on consumable groceries that don’t last. So I work really hard to spend as little as I can on groceries, because I’d rather have money to do the things we really enjoy, like giving, cute clothes for our kids, and vacationing (we love that one!) Here are a few things that I’ve found work to pinch a few extra pennies in our home.
Constantly try to think of ways to use less.
We rarely use paper napkins (I have a huge stash of cloth ones) and we use rags instead of paper towels as often as we can (my hubby hates this one). The dishwasher doesn’t run until it’s completely stuffed (saving on dishwasher detergent, water and energy), and I use half a dryer sheet instead of a full one or a very small amount liquid softener (even that’s a luxury, when I’m being really cheap I just use vinegar!) It’s rare that I even use disinfectant wipes to clean because they’re just too expensive, instead I buy cleaners at a really good price (less than $.50 per bottle) along with good ole’ fashioned rags and each bottle lasts quite a while. I also try to use grocery sacks (the plastic ones) as often as I can for trash bags so that I use fewer garbage bags (I can never find a good garbage bag deal!)
When it comes to snack foods, skip the snack-sized bags!
My kids have to take a snack to school each day, so I usually stock up on the very cheapest snacks I can find (they’re getting a little tired of Chex Mix, but it’s just so stinkin’ cheap!) and pack it in small plastic containers that I found at the Dollar Tree so I don’t waste Ziploc bags. I also sometimes bake homemade muffins or snack mixes and they have those for snacks. My kids don’t get juice boxes or water bottles, instead they get plain old tap water in plastic bottles. (I did pick up some of the BPA free ones in the fall, so I feel a little less anxious about that whole plastic thing!) We really do stick to milk and water in our house and very occasionally orange juice when I find a great deal on it (except for my Publix diet cola addiction!)
Stock up on meat when you see a good price on it.
When I find chicken breast or ground beef for less than $1.99/lb., I buy as much of it as my grocery budget can afford. I also stock up on any basic pantry items when they’re really cheap, such as pasta, canned goods, frozen veggies, and frozen bread. If I have leftovers of meat that won’t get eaten, it gets frozen for another meal! It really does hurt me to see food wasted, so I constantly think of ways to eat up everything we cook (another one that my hubby doesn’t always enjoy, but he’s willing to sacrifice!)
I sometimes worry that my kids will have way too much to talk to their therapist about after growing up with this penny pinchin’ mama, but every once in a while I see glimpses of penny pinchin’ even in them. They love it when I come home with a new fun freebie (the free Nesquik was a big hit last week!), and they’re always excited to sample something new when I find a coupon on an item we haven’t tried yet. I really hope to teach them that we don’t always need everything all the other kids have, even when we sometimes could afford it if we chose to. And along the way maybe they’ll learn that we’re called to use wisely what God gives us, and to share with others, hopefully creating lasting, meaningful joy (you can’t get that in a juice box, even though my 2-year-old would disagree!)