As mentioned in several of our recent blog entries we have started altering our cooking methods to try and adjust to the inevitable rise in our electric bill as summer gets along.
Altering our cooking methods though, is only one way we try and budget for those inevitable rises the electric bill. No matter what we do inside the house the temperatures will rise outside and so will the electric bill. This is a known seasonal happening and must be properly dealt with to stay on our household budget.
With this inevitable seasonal increase how can one stay on the over all budget? Well one way is to control as much as possible the size of the increase, that is our “Summer Electric Plan” menu mentioned here. Another is to adjust in other areas. One of those areas is the grocery budget. Saving a few dollars a week can quickly add up by the time the big bill hits.
Here are a few tips we try to follow to manage our grocery budget.
- Set a specific budget. This seems obvious, but if you don’t do it, it won’t happen and you will be left wondering what happened. Don’t just say it. Actually set one, a realistic one, and track it. We try to do all our shopping on one day that makes it easy to do an immediate check as to whether we stayed on budget or not. Simply add up the receipts.
- Make a menu plan. Without a menu plan your budget will suffer. Just look at the week we didn’t have one. It was ugly. Use that menu to build a shopping list and try to stick to it.
- Minimize waste. We tend to scale our recipes such that we have minimal waste. But if you have noticed we rarely build a menu for every day of the week, just weekdays. That is because we us try and use the leftovers on those weekend meals, and mid week lunches, etc.
- Use what you have. One of the things we try to do before every shopping trip is an inventory of our pantry. This seems like a real hassle but it is worth the time. If you don’t you end up with duplicates, like 4 bottles of Worcestershire sauce, or worse spoiled produce.
- Make substitutions in recipes. We do this often. Especially with meat. The menu may call for a specific cut of meat but when we get to the store we often discover that another cut is cheaper. If it won’t have too much of an impact on the dish we sub it out. No shame in that and usually no one is the wiser.
- Maximize what is on sale, and “cheap”. Review the advertisements then build your menu around what is on sale. When you get to the store look at the store brand and see if it might be even cheaper. We find for certain items, like tomato sauce, the store brand works fine. However, some items aren’t worth it even if it is cheaper. We tried the store brand of Mac-and-Cheese and finally had to throw the last box away. That is a waste of money. Even if it was cheap it wasn’t worth it.
Here is an interesting suggestion worth looking into. Try going to the Farmers Market just before closing. Sometimes they may be willing to make a deal rather than load it back in the truck or let it go to waste.
- Check your receipt. Not just to make sure you stayed on budget, but also to be sure you were charged correctly. Also look at what you bought that wasn’t on the menu, yes it will happen, then make a mental not of how much that it hit your budget. Was it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. If not you might consider returning it.
- Make sacrifices. This is when it gets tough. The suggestions above are what we do. When the big bills start coming in, this is when you have to start making sacrifices. Consider what you can cut out. Soda? Dessert? What about smaller portions of protein? Meat we have found can be quite expensive. By comparison vegetables tend to be cheaper and high fiber veggies can be just as filling. If you try and buy organic and need to save you may need to adjust to using conventionally grown produce, but do consult the dirty dozen list so you make wise choices.