Doing This One Thing Saved Me $300 In Groceries Each Month
I used to spend way too much money on feeding my family. For a family of two adults and one child, I would spend close to $700 every month on food, not including eating out. When our second child came along, I spent closer to $800 to stock up on prepackaged baby food and snacks. These are convenience items that really should be considered a luxury purchase, rather than a monthly staple. If you are a savvy grocery spender, you might be wondering how I spent so much on groceries, considering the size of our family. But my spending was on par with the Canadian national average of approximately $200 per person. Granted, two of my family members were children, but I also did a lot of hosting in our home, feeding multiple adults and children for church and neighborhood gatherings. Plus, these numbers represented my grocery budget when I lived in the two biggest cities in Canada: Vancouver and Toronto. The average Toronto household spends $254 per person on groceries, about 25% more than the national average.
Granted, when I was living in Vancouver and Toronto, I didn’t abide by a strict budget. I just gave myself a ballpark figure ($500) to work with each month, but would often exceed that figure by a long shot. Once I started to work with a budget, I would still have months of overspending. How I would work around that would be to take a couple hundred dollars out of another category and add it to my grocery budget. But sometimes there was no wiggle room, and I would just have to pull money out of our savings, which I didn’t feel great about. Then one day, I changed the way I purchased groceries, and my budget became so much easier to stick to. In fact, I even cut down on spending in that category, without having to sacrifice the quality of food. How did I do this? I started buying all my groceries with gift cards.
I began purchasing gift cards every month to the two grocery stores that I frequent most regularly. I purchased approximately $200 per store leaving me with $400 to spend for the month. I then challenged myself to see if I could keep my family’s monthly spending to $400 in groceries, plus an extra $100 in miscellaneous spending for social eating (i.e. dinners out or hosting meals). The first month was the hardest because I had nearly halved our usual grocery budget, but it just meant that I had to do a bit more planning for the month. I rationed out meals at home to about $100 a week. Since my husband often travels for work, I knew that there were a couple weeks, I could bring the weekly total to even less than $100. I also began to meal plan like it was my job. At the beginning of the month, I knew what our family was eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the last day of the month and every day in between. Of course, I didn’t shop for everything all at once. I did a weekly shop to make sure all the produce was fresh. And, I left wiggle room for substituting the proteins or veggies and fruits depending on what was on sale at the store. But I made sure to never go over budget when at the store by bringing only my gift card and store loyalty card (still gotta get my points!)
I have been shopping with only gift cards for almost 6 months now, and haven’t looked back. It has made me a much more creative chef and we hardly ever have food spoilage anymore, which used to be a huge problem. Since I used to stock my fridge and shelves with lots of different food, and no plan of how to use it, a lot of it would go to waste by the end of the month. Everything that goes into my cart today has a purpose and plan. It may sound like a lot of work to do all this planning, but you can do it in one afternoon at the beginning of the month, then never waste time on thinking about what to cook for dinner the remainder of the month. Additionally, think about what an extra $300 in your pocket every month can do for your budget? Sure, you could spend it on another item in your budget, or you could invest it into a low-cost index mutual fund every month. With a return of 7% on average, your extra $300 a month could be worth over $52,000 in 10 years. Leave it in for 20 years, and you’ve got nearly $160,000 to do whatever you want with. Now that is worth cutting the grocery budget for!