As you all know, I started this blog to document the lessons I'm learning in how to save money while still being healthy. My learning process has only just begun. This month I have learned a little bit on what has and has not worked in my endeavor. Let me share those things with you.
In January and February, I decided I was going to plan my meals and shop for an entire month. Obviously, I would still have to go to the store for my fresh produce, milk, things like that. The meal planning initially took me forever. However, after the first session of planning, I found that February's menu was much easier to figure out. I looked at the grocery store circulars and tried to plan according to what was on sale. I went to the farmer's markets and purchased some meat and produce. I also began incorporating more vegetarian meals into my repertoire.
I found out that meal planning for an entire month is not only time consuming, but it didn't end up saving me any money. As a matter of fact, I think I spent more money in those two months than I had in the previous months. My theory behind planning for a month was that I wouldn't have to go to the grocery store as often, so I would buy less (because of less impulse buying). Well, I am NOT an impulse buyer at all. I go to the store, with a meal plan, and I get what I need. That's it. For those who get tempted by all the sale signs and new products, this may be worthwhile. It was not for me. I'm glad I found this out though because now I know I don't have to go through the arduous process of planning for a whole month.
I also found that I was missing the really good sales on certain things. For instance, in the last few weeks, there have been sales on cereal at the local grocery stores. Well, for me to stock up, I had to go over budget. Also, I took a trip up to Whole Foods and was able to buy a case of rice milk, which is extremely cost effective. Not only is the rice milk cheaper at Whole Foods than the cheapest price I can find around here, but because I am able to buy it by the case, I save an additional 10%. I had already spent my $$ for the month, but it just made financial sense to purchase what I did while I was there.
All of that to say that I will be buying for a week or two at a time and looking at my month as a whole (as opposed to trying to stick to a weekly budget). This will break down to a certain dollar amount that I am aiming for per week, but will give me a little more flexibility to stock up with the really good sales.
So, I have told you what didn't work for me...those things that DID were perusing the circulars for the best deals and coupon clipping. I wasn't much of a coupon clipper until recently. I have saved SO much money in the last couple of weeks by getting online coupons at sites like coupons.com, smartsource.com, and redplum.com and clipping coupons in the Sunday newspaper. By matching up the coupons with the sales in the circulars, I am getting things for free or darn close to it! I am working on my "stockpile" right now to tide me over between sales, but I am having some pretty good success! This is my stockpile trip this week (spent $50, saved $75...no, the candy is NOT "clean", but it was a treat for the hubs ;)):
Another thing that I have done is to make sure I'm not wasting food. Sounds simple, right? How much food do you throw away on garbage day? Kristen over at thefrugalgirl.com began chronicling her food waste by starting Food Waste Friday. Many bloggers have participated and while I have not participated formally, I have been more conscious of what is in my fridge. I use up leftover ingredients before they expire and am proud to say that in the last three weeks, I have had no food waste!! What a simple way to save money.
So, that's my month and education in summary. Hope this is helping someone besides me...it certainly helps to keep me accountable!