In a prior post, I mentioned that we came to a point financially where we needed to go through our grocery budget with a fine-tooth comb. In scrutinizing our spending in this area, we became more thoughtful about our purchases and, I would argue, it’s what we should have been doing all along if we had been thoughtful stewards.
Before diving into the specifics, I will comment on one thing we had going for us when we were first married. I was employed when my husband and I got married and I remained employed until our first child was born. I owned a home before we got married. Rather than sell it and buy a different home together, my husband moved into the small home I owned. Because it was small, we figured it would be a temporary situation, but because I had been able to afford it on my salary we knew we could afford it on his.
Even though we stumbled upon this in a rather accidental, not-very-thoughtful way, we set up a paradigm for ourselves that would become a way of life for us. We would live on one salary even though we were both working and we would make every attempt to keep our expenses low enough that we could live off my salary if, heaven forbid, something should happen to my husband’s ability to work and I had to be the only breadwinner. (Food for thought for those of you reading this.)
Fast forward a few years (and three children!) and circumstances dictated that we re-evaluate our spending. We find that the area where we can make the most impact is on groceries. I got to work and developed a spreadsheet to help me keep track of every last dime we spent in order to discern areas that could be cut drastically.
I started by taking the receipt from the grocery store and creating a column for each item I purchased. For me, having a “dairy” category and a “meat” category was not specific enough. Within my dairy spending, I had separate categories for yogurt, cheese, sour cream, milk, etc. I had separate categories for the types of meat I bought such as chicken, red meat, deli meat, etc.
Once I had done this over the course of a few of months, I was able to get a good snapshot of all the items I purchased on a fairly regular basis and the prices I was paying for them. Using this information, I was able to create a new grocery budget by setting quantifiable limits while also being able to establish a rotation based on how long certain items would last. I was also able to develop a price list, which helped identify the best prices I had found and hopefully purchase enough to last until I found that price again. By putting in a little effort, a lot of thought, and careful planning, I have been able to average $300/month for our family of five.
~Jeremiah 29:11-13 “Know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for your welfare, not your woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope. And if you seek me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart.”