You would think having an emergency fund would help a mother relax a little bit, right? Think again. Nothing causes me more anxiety than pulling from our savings account but the truth is, we’ve had some major, unexpected expenses within the last year and it has really made us reevaluate our priorities when it comes to money.
I believe everything happens for a reason and as scary as a TIGHT budget can be, I know that if we put in a little extra work, there is a lot we can learn from going through this. But, everyone starts somewhere… and no one becomes a finance expert over night nor do I care to be an extreme couponer. So if you’re like me and need some minimal effort steps that reap rewards, I got you 😉
Remember, start with one thing at a time. We’re starting with our grocery budget because while I am grateful that we don’t go without, we were being frivolous in this department. As a family of 4 (1 laborious working dad, 1 breastfeeding mum, 1 wasteful toddler & 1 EBF baby), we were spending on average about $660-750 per month on food. At this rate, by the time my kids are teenagers, they will literally eat us out of house & home…
How did I take control of my grocery bill?
- Buy a chest freezer – I know these babies aren’t cheap and I know they’re not exactly small but if you have a basement or even a hallway to keep it in, this will easily pay for itself. We got super lucky when we found one second hand over a year ago and at the time, I wasn’t even worried about saving money… I knew we’d eventually have another baby and I’d need a reliable place to store my milk! Now, we only buy meat on sale and we have exactly what we need when we need it.
- Shop the sale flyer – I’m not talking about running around to 5 different stores to get everything you need. As a mum who lives in a rural area, that isn’t even a viable option for me. But what I can do, is at least shop what’s on sale at the store I already go to every week and check what’s in season at the farm stand I drive by on my way to get there. Be careful though, just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. Stick to buying the things you actually need but buy a couple extra when they are on sale or if it’s not a necessity this week, leave it off the list when it’s not on sale.
- Make a list & a Menu – Plan out your meals for the week. We have found that planning out 5 meals for the week works well for us. The other 2 nights, we either wing it or eat leftovers. By doing this we are; saving money by planning around what we already have in the pantry or freezer, eating healthier meals, stressing less about what to make after both having worked all day and we have significantly reduced our food waste (with room to improve!) Then, we make our list based on what we still need, what’s on sale and a few wants (it’s not about depriving yourself but everything in moderation, right?) The kicker though? Stick to the list! (even if it means, talking yourself out of breaking that rule when you’re standing in front of an end cap full of oreos)
- Prioritize certain items – Though realistically we can’t afford to buy all organic for example, it is important to me that certain items be organic, local, non-generic, etc. This is where we prioritize and sacrifice in other areas so that we can afford to get the things most important to us. Everyone’s priorities are different (even mine & Brandon’s) so, he doesn’t complain when I buy fresh, local eggs at $3-4 a dozen and I no longer complain when he buys flavored coffee creamer 😉
- Buy Bulk/Wholesale – Don’t let this one scare you. Start by cutting out some convenience items like fruit cups or go-gurts and just buy these items in larger quantities and then put them in small Tupperware containers or reusable bags when you get home. Next up, shop your store’s bulk section if they have one. Here you can buy as much or as little as you need of a variety of staples without paying for the fancy packaging (and also limiting your package waste.) Lastly, price shop some of your most frequently used, nonperishable or freezable items at wholesale stores. Personally, we haven’t found a crazy value in shopping at these huge stores so, we only do this a couple times a year thus, making a membership just for us a bit of a waste. Consider sharing a membership with a friend or ask to tag along with someone who already has one.
- Have fun with it – By nature, we all enjoy a little friendly competition right? It’s fun to see who can spend less depending on which one of us goes shopping that week and I get a thrill out of waiting for my total in the checkout line to see if I came in under my goal. Make it a game to see how low you can go! Plus, since we’ve been tracking this spending very closely, we are holding ourselves accountable (and earning some bragging rights while we’re at it haha)
This right here is our starting point. I should add that we’re not ones to eat out but if on the off chance we decide to grab takeout, I expect it to fit into our projected grocery budget for the month. I don’t expect to slash our bill in half over night but in just 2 months of tracking and doing a few simples things, we’ve already started to save $150+ a month on our grocery bill. That’s a good chunk of a car payment or cell phone bill for most of us! Imagine what we can do as we get better and start to overhaul other areas of spending! Tell me, how do you practice being a frugal mama when it comes to feeding your family? Share your ideas with us in a comment below.