03/04/2013

Grocery Shopping

As I wrote about Thursday, Tim and I just began a new family budget plan to help us continue working toward our savings goals.  One of those areas we saw room to save money was in our grocery shopping budget.  I always make a meal plan for two weeks at a time, and then make a grocery list to correlate with the meals.  However, the number of ingredients needed adds up quickly and some of the more elaborate meals can really make a dent in the budget.  When I look for recipes to add to the weekly meal plan, the ones that catch my eye first are those that aren’t just the quickest, but also are the ones with the least amount of ingredients.  To sum it up: the fewer ingredients needed the better.  We are also going to try and improve on the number of impulse buys we make.  I am sure many people can relate to these types of purchases.  My husband’s biggest struggle seems to be in the chips and snacks aisle, and my kryptonite is the health food aisle: almond flour, chia seeds, protein powder etc. can add up very quickly!  We hate to give up the things we love, so we are going to attempt to be more selective and try to only purchase what is on our grocery list.  There is no reason why these fun items can’t make the list, but they shouldn’t go in the cart unless they are written down.  Cutting down on impulse buys is key.

DSCN3084

I also only meal plan the dinners for two weeks, because my family’s breakfasts, snacks and lunches tend to be the usual staples, like:

Breakfasts: Oatmeal, Cereal, Eggs

Snacks: Fruit, Greek Yogurt and Cereal or Granola, Protein Shake, Peanut Butter, Almonds

Lunch: Sandwiches or Dinner Leftovers

Since we basically eat the same thing for these meal times over and over, all of the above ingredients typically make the grocery list every time we shop without even having to think twice.  Dinner though is always planned since that makes it easier for me to know exactly what I need to buy ingredient wise at the grocery store, allows me to mix-up the meals instead of always sticking to the same basics, and takes the guess work out of asking ‘What’s for dinner tonight?” 

 

For example, here is our dinner plan for this coming week:

Monday 03/04 – Ground turkey and marinara sauce, spaghetti for Tim / spaghetti squash for me, and broccoli

Tuesday 03/05 – Leftovers (Probably this recipe I made Saturday)

Wednesday 03/06 – Turkey, Swiss and apple quesadilla

Thursday 03/07 – Turkey sausage, kale and white bean soup

Friday 03/08 – Black Bean Soup

Saturday 03/09 – Leftovers / TBD

Sunday 03/10 – 3-Cheese Lasagna

 

After doing a quick inventory of what we had in our cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, I looked for the recipes that utilized many of the ingredients we already had purchased.  I then began to build our list of the items we needed and also took into account coupons we had and looked at the store’s weekly advertisement for additional sales.  After all was said and done, for two weeks worth of meals including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and drinks, our bill only came to $96.59 after storewide sales and coupons.  Here is what we purchased:

DSCN3086 Veggies: Baby Spinach, Baby Spring Mix, Tomatoes, Baby Carrots, Broccoli, Iceberg Lettuce, Butternut Squash, Kale and Collard Greens

DSCN3087 Fruit: Bananas, Oranges, Strawberries

DSCN3088

 Protein: Eggs, Egg Whites, Chicken Drumsticks, Split Chicken Breasts, Deli Sliced Turkey, Turkey Sausage

DSCN3089

Frozen: A mix of Steamfresh frozen veggies including items like Sweet Corn, Brussels sprouts, Green Beans and Edamame

DSCN3090 Dairy: Milk, Half & Half, Almond Milk, Sour Cream, Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, Greek Yogurt, Fresh Mozzarella, Deli Sliced Swiss Cheese, and Chobani

DSCN3092 Canned Goods/Miscellaneous: Peanut Butter, Orange Juice, Coffee, Wheat Bread, Chickpeas, Capers, and Cannellini Beans

 

When the groceries are all laid out, our trip seems pretty successful and includes quite a bit of items for roughly $100.  Here are some tricks that I find helps us to keep the final bill down:

  • Join the Rewards Program at your grocery store, (If one is offered).  This is how we save the majority of our money.  For example, we saved $23.00 yesterday just on store-wide savings by using our Kroger Plus Card.  We also saved another $4.00 using coupons that Kroger sends to us through the mail.  These are my favorite coupons to use since they are geared to the things we buy all the time like produce and items at the deli counter.
  • Store Brands are your Friends.  Don’t be afraid to buy store brand items, especially canned good and dairy products if you do not solely purchase organic.  This is a great way to save a ton of money and most of the time the items taste the same, or can even taste better.  Store brand items also seem to be on sale more often than the name brand versions.
  • Make a List.  Planning your meals and making a list is key.  If you go into the store without a plan, it will be difficult to pass on the items you don’t really need.  This also allows for the ability to cut down on wasting food, because you are more likely to eat everything purchased when each item has a particular purpose for a meal.
  • Look for Manager’s Specials.  They may be called something different in your grocery store, but these sales are awesome.  If you look in my veggies picture, you will see that the spinach and spring mix both have Manager’s Specials tags.  This does mean you will have to eat these items faster since they are nearing expiration, but these two items cost more than 50% less than the original price.  Besides, buying these items forces you to eat your veggies, so why not purchase the cheaper version when available?
  • Avoid Impulse Buys.  Enough said.  Impulse buys can easily cause your bill to rack up right before your eyes.  Be selective in your purchases and try to buy only what’s on your list as often as possible.
  • Shop the parameter of the store.  You have heard this before, but shopping the parameter of the store can save a lot of money just by avoiding those middle aisles.  The pre-packaged items are where the costs really add up, as opposed to fresh veggie, fruits, and dairy.
  • Shop Less.  We try to go only once every two weeks since it really forces us to eat what we have, which eliminates wasting food.  Plus the less you go the store, the less often you will be tempted with impulse buys and treats.

 

I hope today’s post provided some insight into how we grocery shop and how we plan to keep saving money every time we go.  My goal was to also show that it is possible to buy healthy foods on the cheap.  Eating light is not always more expensive, and can even be less so when not eating a diet filled with preservatives, artificial ingredients, and cheap fillers.  There is always room for splurges, but make those choices absolutely worth it and fill up the rest of the time on fresh fruits, veggies, and other healthier items.

 

Talk to Me!

  • What is your favorite grocery store?  Does your store offer a Rewards Program?
  • Do you meal plan and make a grocery list before shopping?
  • What are the staple items in your house that are purchased every time you go to the grocery?
  • What tricks and tips do you have for saving money at the grocery store?
03/01/2013

February Review + Weekend Reading List

Is anyone else as excited for it to be Friday as I am? Also, does anyone else think it is crazy that today is March 1st? Where is the time going! Before we know it spring will be here, and winter 2013 will be nothing but a distant memory…crazy!  Before we dive head first into March though, here are a few of my own favorite posts from February:

 

Weekend Brunch: Mom’s ‘Sweet and Nutty’ Granola

 

sweet and nutty granola

 

L-O-V-E

 

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Imperfect Perfection

 

1 corinthians 6 19-20

 

Healthy ‘Hot Cocoa’ Waffles

 

hot cocoa waffles

 

Fall into Financial Love

 

financial love

 

I also just wanted to thank everyone for their comments and tweets on yesterday’s post about finances in relationships. It seems like a lot of you could relate to how Tim and I handle money in our house. It seems pretty unanimous too that finances can either bring a relationship closer, or tear it apart; one more reason why being fiscally responsible is so important!

 

I enjoyed writing last Friday’s post about some of my favorite links from the week, so I decided to carry on the tradition today as well. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite reads of the week:

 

weekend reading material

 

Blogging

Google Reader & Bloglovin’ Tutorial via Peace Love and Oats

 

Giveaways

Beautiful, Cozy Workout Clothes – a Giveaway via Nutritionella

(You have until Monday to enter!)

 

Relationships

Living Together: 5 Decorating Tips for Couples by Alex Gariano via www.LaurenConrad.com

 

Life

Love is Louder than the Pressure to be Perfect via Chaarg 

(Read this post to show Molly support for sharing a very personal story to encourage others)

 

Fashion

4 Ways to Wear Spring Trends from the Bottom Up via Rue La La

 

Organizing

Home Office Storage & Organization Solutions via Better Homes and Gardens

 

Quote of the Week:

“Stop looking to everyone else to make you happy and start finding ways that you can make other people happy.”

 

 

Have a great weekend!!

 

Talk to Me!

  • What are you looking forward to in March?
  • What are your favorite memories from February?
  • What was the best read from the week that you found?  Feel free to link up!
02/28/2013

Fall into Financial Love

I mentioned yesterday that Tim and I had sat down together Sunday to discuss the current state of our finances, budgets, and savings. Since Tim began his new job, we thought this would be the perfect time to see where all of our money is going and plan for the future. This is never a fun conversation to have, but it is always a good reminder for making sure we are on track, and if we aren’t, it offers us the ability to get back on the right path. We usually try and have this conversation at least quarterly, or when we are contemplating a large purchase, like we did last year before we bought our cars. However, we hadn’t talked it all through in awhile, so after we purchased our new washer and dryer last month, we realized we were overdue for a financial discussion.

After Tim and I first got married, I remember thinking that combining our finances was a huge step in our relationship, and it turns out that this was truer than I even knew. Combining our accounts and sharing with each other any debts and all our individual savings was extremely nerve wracking initially. Have you ever heard the saying ‘what’s mine is yours?’ Well in marriage, it doesn’t ring truer in any area than it does in the area of money.

However, I think combining finances really helps to bring a couple even closer together. You have to learn to trust that other person, you make sacrifices together where needed, you plan for the future together you want down the road, and you become an open book financially. All these things, if done right, can make a relationship become that much more secure and trusting. If trust is broken from a financial point though, it can be hard to repair, but not impossible! I am no expert on finances, but here are a few golden financial rules that my husband and I try to follow in our house:

 

FYI -We are not perfect and have certainly made money mistakes along the way, but thankfully we are learning young and are working to improve ourselves from a fiscal perspective every day! Remember though, you are never too young or too old, too poor or too rich, to take a good hard look at your spending versus savings!  Also, these suggestions can be used for everyone, whether you’re single or in a relationship; share an account or have your own.

 

financial love

 

1) Be Honest

This is the number one rule we try to follow. Being honest about how much we are spending, individually and as a couple, helps keep the trust alive in our financial marriage. Sneaking purchases, bringing in money the other person is not aware of, or being downright untruthful when it comes to any financial issue can be a recipe for disaster. Make sure you are both aware that honesty is a key priority not only in your relationship as a whole, but also in your financial one.

 

2) Write it All Down

Writing down every dime that is brought in, as well as every penny that goes out, makes it that much easier to track your expenses and find out how much you have left after the bills are paid. This can be truly eye-opening once you start realizing how much everything costs. Here is a list of expenses Tim and I take into perspective when tracking our money:

  • House – includes mortgage, tax, insurance, maintenance
  • Electric, water, trash service, etc.
  • Cars – monthly payments, tax, insurance, maintenance
  • Health Insurance, HSA / FSA Accounts, Dental Insurance, Vision Insurance, Life Insurance, etc.
  • Retirement, 401K
  • Cable / DirecTV, Internet, XM Radio, newspaper, other media, etc.
  • Phone Bill
  • Groceries
  • Gasoline
  • Pet – food, grooming, boarding (during vacations), Veterinary appointments
  • Credit Cards
  • Student Loans
  • Extra Monthly Expenses
  • Savings Account
  • Finally…Fun Money!!

Whoa! It is truly amazing how much everything adds up, right? Seeing it all on paper though allows you to visualize the big picture, which makes it impossible to ignore the expenses you would prefer didn’t exist, like student loans for example…!

 

3) Look for Ways to Save

After we write down all of our expenses, we look for areas that we can save a little more. For example, our current goals are to cut the grocery bill by $100 per month, (A $50 savings every two weeks.), cancel the movie channels from our DirecTV to save $50 per month, (We currently have Netflix and a Blue Ray and we can rent a Red Box movie for $1.), pay off credit card bills to save $150 per month, (We have a furniture store account open that is interest free and will be paid off by the end of the May, which will be 2 ½ years before the 4 year no-interest rate is up!). There are a few other areas we are looking to save too and when it was all added up, it came to over $600 worth of potential savings we would have missed if we hadn’t wrote it all down and discussed together.

 

4) Don’t Skimp

I know this seems like an oxymoron, but I encourage you to not skimp on the important things, including: Good health insurance, (I work in this field and I know how important medical coverage is!), depositing into an FSA / HSA account, (Again, I see this every day. You know at some point you will have medical expenses, so you may as well start saving now and if your insurance is with your company, FSA / HSA accounts should be pre-tax!!), investing in a 401K and other retirement accounts, (try to invest at least the matching percentage your company offers, again if it is offered from your company it should be pre-tax), and placing money into your personal savings account. Obviously when you are young, your income is tighter and it’s not as easy to save, but try and set goals and put away $50 per month if that’s all that is possible. Every little bit helps!

 

5) Relax

If there is one thing I am learning, it’s to try and not get overwhelmed by the current state of your finances. If you are honest with yourself and your partner, write down all expenses and incoming dollars, look for extra ways to save, and don’t skimp on the important stuff, you will be on your way to a stress-free financial future. It may never be perfect, and it may take fifty years until you are debt free, but if you keep working on it and stay positive, things will begin to look up. Plus, having less financial stress is a huge burden to keep out of a relationship. If saving is worth anything, a peace of mind might be the biggest bang for your buck you can get!

 

Let’s Talk!

  • Do you share a bank account with your significant other? If so, did you find this to be a big change for your relationship? What have you learned about sharing finances so far?
  • Do you ever write down all your incoming and outgoing expenses? If not, how do you stay on a positive financial track?
  • I am always looking for new ideas to save. Tell me, what are some of your favorite ways to save money? Do you have any unique or different ideas out of the ordinary?
  • For me, things like health insurance, retirement accounts, savings accounts, etc. are important areas that I don’t like to skimp in investing. Tell me, what are some of your ‘no skimp’ areas that are important to you?