A month ago my husband and I sat down at SLO Donuts and enacted a budget plan.
The plan entailed downloading an app to track our spending each month, deciding what to cut back on, and making a long-term goal that would motivate us to save (a.k.a. Buying a Jeep and driving to Alaska!)
As we nibbled on our Maple Bar we noticed a few things…
Our out-to-eat budget was a wee bit high; and by that I mean outrageously too high. (Who can blame us though; someone cooks for you, cleans for you, and feeds you all at the same time!) Anyways, we cut the eating out allowance in half, maybe even more.
Another skyrocket was our movie allowance. We had been seeing all the best movies on their opening nights. (We’re newly weds. We do what we want!) Our movie budget was cut too – down to one per month.
As far as shopping goes, we had done pretty well. Neither of us our big clothes/stuff shoppers, (I stick to thrift stores) so we gave ourselves a $20 limit with $50 to spend on gifts.
Our groceries were another story. My excuse is that I’m a new wife and I don’t know what I’m doing. (Lame, I know.) We decided to give ourselves (me) room to figure out the grocery stores in the area to find out where to buy what.
The budget seemed reasonable, even doable. We left the donut shop feeling like winners. Our eyes were set on Alaska and we were ready to conquer our goal! We were so serious; we abandoned our maple bar, only half eaten.
As the weeks went by, I found our fridge and pantry growing steadily emptier – I was terrified to shop!
These were my recurring thoughts: It’s really hard to shop for two. I don’t know what food to keep in the house. How am I supposed to know which stores have the best prices. I don’t want to go to multiple different locations.
I know what you’re thinking, excuses are lame, but what I’m trying to get across here is that I’m the world’s worst grocery shopper! I really am!
(The sad thing is, I should know better, seeing as my mother is Queen of the Coupons – I guess I didn’t inherit that useful quality from her.)
When I grab that grocery cart and steer it through the automatic doors it all suddenly becomes a big game of How Many Delicious Items Can you Fit in the Big Empty Basket? Let me tell you; I rule at this game.
When the game is over I roll up to the checker, my 4 tiny wheels to breaking point with the weight of 75 pounds burdening their hinges. Suddenly I’m thrown back into reality, realizing that my basket is overflowing. What have I done!?It’s too late. I’m stuck. How incredibly awkward would it be to say “Excuse me sir, will you give me a minute (or 20) to sort through this heap and pick out what will actually fit in my fridge.”
Do you believe me now? World’s Worst Shopper
Instead of learning to shop, I decided to just not shop at all – what a money saver that was; a stomach grumbler as well.
A week and a half passed and I finally went shopping. $100! Hmm back to square one. We ate until there was nothing left but salad dressing and peanut butter. I refused to shop. (Thanks to Momo and Dado Rans and our lovely friends, Tim and Faith, we didn’t starve.)
My “no shopping” plan wasn’t working – on our budget, it looked great; in our fridge, not so much.
Today, I decided it was time to take a stand against myself.
I could do this! There had to be a way to shop without spending so much.
Aha! A brilliant idea popped into my helpless, little shopping brain – I would bring only one reusable bag into Trader Joe’s and shop into it, buying only what could fit in its confines.
I mozied through TJ’s grabbing all the musts: half-n-half, arugula, spicy sausage, feta, eggs, corn tortillas; the bag was filling up fast. I grabbed a case of Firestone beers and forced myself into line (there were so many yummy things I still wanted to grab, but the load was getting heavy and I had to restrain.)
The checkout was tense. I anxiously waited to hear my sentence, I mean, the amount due.
I did it! I really did it!
I spent half of what I had normally been spending at the grocery store – all thanks to my brilliant plan.
My big, blue Trader Joe’s freezer bag is large enough to fit all the things I really need and easy to carry, even with a purse and a few extra items that don’t fit inside. This bag is my new restraint for buying too much.
And that’s how you grocery-shop on a budget!
Try it next time. I dare you.