Welcome to the first installment of Bricklaying! Over the last few months, I've had a lot of people asking me how I'm managing to keep my budget so low. Especially in Massachusetts, the grocery costs are awful and most people I know are lucky if they spend less than $200 in a week. I hardly consider myself an expert, but I have definitely laid the foundation for good habits, and I do follow pretty basic guidelines when I'm shopping. I thought it would be helpful to share those bricks and help you build your own budgeting safehouse!
So let's start with an easy excercise:
1. Sit down and make a list of your family's must-haves.
Every family has different tastes. Some like spicy. Some like savory. Some are vegetarians, and some are meat-atarians :) Many people are dealing with dietary restrictions, either self-imposed or because of a medical issue. Take a little time and make a list of absolute necessities for your pantry - be realistic (while beef may be on the "needs" list, sirloin is not) and be aware of what you use on a very regular basis.
Here are a few starter questions for you:
- What are the top 10 items you use EVERY week? Stay pretty general - brand loyalty is great for the big companies but flexibility with brands can be a huge expense-cutter
- What proteins are absolute staples in your diet?
- What convenience foods are you buying on a regular basis?
- What do you buy outside the home regularly that could be replaced by something from home? - think about trips to the coffee shop, regular lunches or dinners out, snacks from the convenience store...all those little expenditures add up fast!
- What are you buying pre-made that you could make at home? - Check the list at the end of this posting for some great links that may help you in this area!
The list you end up with should be about 20-25 items (don't include spices and seasonings, just basic foodstuffs). These are the items that should be targets for stocking up when they go on sale. (When I started really pushing the grocery budget, I was totally overwhelmed by trying to hit EVERY sale and EVERY coupon, and it was easy to buy lots of stuff that I had to force myself to use.) Putting to paper the things that are your family's "essentials" will give you a starting point toward smart stockpiling.
Next week, be ready for a little homework. Start looking for all of those grocery receipts!
Some helpful links: