My friend Lisa recently wrote a blog entry entitled “no bailout.” No, she wasn’t talking about her views on the recently passed government “rescue” plan, though she could have been. She was talking about tightening the familial belt and surviving the rough times that are already upon us and to come.
Lisa got me thinking how my own home budget has changed over the years. When I had six children – and most of them teens at the time – at home and eating constantly, my grocery budget was about $600 a month. People are amazed by that number. That was food from the grocery store – some pre-prepared but most pieces that had to be cooked and put together. That was not a lot of take out, though we would have pizza occasionally.
As my children have left the house for college, they do not come back. It is hard to find a summer job here that pays well. If they can find internships or jobs in other areas that pay enough to cover the cost of living and still have money left for tuition come fall, they stay at school or go somewhere else to work. My grocery bill has adjusted at times. Although, at other times, it seems like I am just running more households on the same dollars.
I mostly shop at one grocery store locally. I don’t have a price book but, because I do the shopping, I know what the average price is of any given item we use regularly. I clip coupons for items that we use. I do not bother to clip coupons for those items that we don’t normally use. I don’t need the temptation.
I try to not drive all over to shop at different places but if I am in the area of Sam’s, I am likely to stop in and get bottled water or bread or large quantities of cocoa. I never go the distance – as it is over 20 miles round trip – to just pick up one thing. I plan it in with other trips to that area.
I do, in the summer, try to shop the various farmer’s markets in the area. Some I can get to on foot – mostly road side stands. Most I have to drive to but could bike to some if I could carry back the produce.
I do go in for more expensive items in certain areas. I am likely to purchase pre-cut veggies as my kids are more likely to eat them if they are ready for them when they want them. I do not buy a lot of pre-made items or quick fix items. I would prefer to make soups from scratch than buy a can or a mix.
My average grocery bill for a week is about $75. The biggest items in this are milk and bread. We go through a lot of that. Next comes meat as protein is important.
I try to keep the grocery bill down by planning. I do my planning prior to shopping. I can, though, be in the store and find that a certain cut of meat is cheaper than my plans. I quickly change what I am having for the next week.
How do you budget what is necessary for your family in food?