Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 8--Keeping Up with the Kitchen Budget

My biggest goal with this journey is to reclaim a healthy lifestyle for myself and Erica.  A big part of that includes making sure we're not being wasteful and that we're only buying what we need.  It's difficult to have a concept of a food budget while you're radically changing everything you buy, so I don't have a specific dollar amount that I'd like to get us down to just yet.  But we have been trying to be more conscious about what we spend.

The past three months, our grocery bill has been hovering around $400/month.  I think that sounds really high, but when you consider that we almost never eat out, even at work, it's probably not that bad.  This month, however, we're only at $244, with just a little over a week left in the month.  I expected this month to be lower, because of Vegas and Thanksgiving, our natural groove has been thrown off.  I am setting us a goal of $300 for this month, which leaves us $56 for the few days we have left.

Erica has long been a fan of the blog Get Rich Slowly, and I'm finally becoming a regular there as well.  Advice on the site covers all aspects of financial well-being, but I'm partial to JD Roth's food-related posts, because he and his wife consider themselves to be foodies, but they live on a conscious budget.

One of the best pieces of advice I gleaned from his site seems stupidly simple, but is actually very challenging: "Only buy what you need at the grocery store."  At first glance, you may think it's obvious.  But it's never that easy.  Ever catch yourself buying four boxes of cereal because it's on sale?  Or laundry detergent, even though you don't remember if you needed it or not? Or three boxes of Keebler crackers because you have a coupon?  You may justify these purchases by saying "This kind of stuff doesn't go bad!"  But it's exactly that kind of stuff that makes it hard to create a food budget.  Also, if I remember correctly from my childhood, the more cereal/chips/crackers that are in the cabinet, the quicker they seem to disappear.

What Roth meant by "Only buy what you need" is to literally decide what you want for dinner, go to the store, and buy only that. Repeat every day if necessary.  He swears he actually cut his grocery bill by shopping everyday, but let's get real--most of us don't have that kind of time!  So I modified his challenge, and I've been trying to stick exactly to the grocery list I wrote out at home.  Where I can check what I already have.  Shopping has become time-consuming, sure, but I'm definitely going to save money for it.

Anther thing we're trying to do to cut down on overpurchasing is to not only plan our meals, but write it down, like a menu.  Enter the dry-erase board.

Erica loves to doodle on this. I had a hard time erasing our friendly Halloween ghost.

This week we have an easy one. Tonight we're both feasting on leftovers from the tasty things she made on Saturday and the mushroom stroganoff I made last night.  Three nights this week, dinner will be elsewhere, and our Thanksgiving obligation is only cranberry sauce.  I'm thinking with all the heavy eating we're doing, a nice big salad sounds right on Wednesday, and there you have it.  All I need to buy this week is the stuff for cranberry sauce, salads, and soy milk.  There shouldn't be any extra "stops at the store".  We'll see how this goes.

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