They say life is what happens to you when you are busy planning your life! That’s what happened to me when I had premature twins, and decided to give up my rising career to stay at home and care for my twins and my eight-year-old. Suddenly we had more mouths to feed, and fewer breadwinners! And that simply defied every law of logic and supply-demand that my husband and I knew!
Earlier, we had lived more than comfortably and never thought twice about how our money was made or spent. Now, with increasing expenses for the twins, and with limited resources, we had to get creative to make more out of the little we had.
For the first time in our lives, we did some hard number-crunching and figured out ways to reduce our spending so that we could plan for the future that we dreamed for ourselves as a family.
As a SAHM (Stay-At-Home Moms) now, I had to take a fresh look at the way I handled things in my kitchen and at home in general. With a lot of planning, a lot of charts and spreadsheets and a whole lot of creative corner-cutting, we are finally able to save some money at the end of each month!
Here, I share with you some of the tried and tested methods to reduce your spending on your grocery shopping. A little self-motivation, courage and creativity can help you feed your family well, and save money. You don’t have to burn a hole in your purse to fill your kids’ tummies!!
As clichéd and tiresome as it may sound, sometimes the oldest solutions continue to be the best. If you are an inspired cook like me, who likes to rustle up something fantastic on the spur of the moment and wow your family, then menu planning will sound like drudgery. Be that as it may, if you are serious about saving money, planning your menu in advance ensures that you do not take several trips to the grocery store or splurge on ingredients that are not readily available in your fridge or pantry.
Menu planning is budgeting for food. Planning on a weekly basis is the most suitable, since the shelf-life of your groceries usually stretches that far, and you can also plan based on sale on food, or coupons that you may collect.
Take some time out on your weekends to jot down what you want to make for all three meals and snacks (for kids). Putting it on paper will stop you from planning for extravagant or expensive meals! Next, make a grocery list based on your menu, and DO NOT add on anything extra. This list could be a work in progress until you actually go to the grocery store, but make sure you add only the bare essentials that you may have forgotten.
Grocery on a Budget
The word ‘budget’ is second only to ‘taxes’ in causing stomach knots when you are trying to save money! However, where taxes take, budgets give. Force yourself to allocate a budget for your grocery, instead of assuming that everything that is left over from all your other regular expenses automatically goes towards groceries. This is a common mistake that people make, and this will mean that they have hardly any money left at the end of the month for emergencies. Therefore, let your Weekly Menu and your Grocery Budget go hand-in-hand.
Follow the Plan
Once you enter the grocery shop, remind yourself to purchase ONLY what is on your list. Moms will know what I mean when I say the produce section in a grocery store is one of the most beautiful places on the planet! All that fresh produce and colours will make us reach out for the mushrooms or that huge bunch of lettuce or those exotic veggies. At that moment we will tell ourselves that we will make a delicious salad, or try some dish we saw on Instagram the other day. But a bag of uncut veggies is more prone to get shoved to the back of the fridge in a hurry, until one day it is discovered looking sad and brown and unsuitable for consumption! So, if you see something that you like, make a mental note of it, and plan to use it the following week.
Think Outside the Box
At first it will seem like too much rote to plan your menu for the week ahead and follow something predetermined. However, the better you get at menu planning, the more exciting you can make it for yourself. You can use the same affordable ingredients in different recipes or with a different set of spices, thus making sure that you and your family eat healthy but are not bored with the same food every day.
All the time you save in planning for your meals can now go into researching and filing exciting recipes. When you get really good at saving, you will find that you can allow yourself some money to make a treat for your family each week. But remember, make it a homemade treat!
Popping into the grocery shop on our way to and from places is second nature to most moms. A quick trip to the corner store is something we even train our kids to do! However, when we step out to buy a carton of eggs, we rarely or almost never, come back with just eggs in our bag. A candy bar, a jar of olives we craved, or some other thing would have furtively sneaked its way in! Such trips will mean that we bleed money, and at the end of the week we will find that we followed the plan and yet overspent.
Efficient planning and committing to one-time-only grocery shopping will create a system that does not allow you to overstep your grocery budget.
Homemade is Best
We live in a culture where eating out or calling for takeaways is accepted as the main answer to the question: “What do we eat?” However, when you are trying to save money, you will see that eating out will never help you towards your goal. Granted, cooking every meal at home is time-consuming. But it is time well spent that you will thank yourself for at the end of the month, when you see your savings increase! With your menu planning and smart shopping, making every meal at home is something that every mom can accomplish. If you are a novice at cooking, and have avoided it when you held an outside job, do not fret! There are so many resources out there that help you start cooking with the simplest recipes possible, using the most affordable ingredients. These are worth checking out to help you in the long run.
Plan for your Planning
When you make serious plans to save money, you will realize that it takes time and effort to put your thoughts into action, and your plans into motion. Over months or years, it may come second-nature to you, but at first it is bound to be a struggle. Your first challenge is going to be finding time to make your plans. Try to find 30 minutes or an hour during your weekend, when you can sit in a quiet place and think about the week that was and the coming week. Keep a journal or charts where you record your budgets, meal plans, and your progress. Seeing the amount of money you have saved in the past week is the motivation you need to keep doing it week after week!
Secondly, sometimes even your best laid plans could go awry. Your family could resist the sudden changes that are put into place. Think about what worked and what didn’t, and how things could be changed. Look at your expenses and see if you are staying within the lines you drew for yourself. Plan to have a conversation with your partner if needed, or explain to the kids about the changes that are made. It is remarkable how much kids can cooperate when they feel they have been properly consulted!
Lastly, lay out a plan on paper so that you can visualize it clearly in your mind throughout the week.
There are more of these little smart tips to help you in your journey towards saving money that we described in Part 2 of this series. Good luck!