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Brick #1 - Start with what you know

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:

Make your own Lunchables

Options for healthy snacks

10 Expenses that add up fast and my post on the same subject

10 Painless Ways to Save $100

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On The Verge said...

Thanks for starting from the beginning. Cutting, sorting and filing coupons is a job in itself. Then trying to figure out what to buy and how to stay in budget. It all gets overwhelming at times.

Momstart said...

Your son is adorable!!! tHANKS for visiting my site