- I always respect people who take action. This will be a long response - sorry.
First, I would strongly recommend personal financial software such as the basic version of Quicken. If you prefer not to spend $30 bucks or so on that I would suggest creating a spreadsheet. My wife and I have used personal financial software for over 15 years. It is invaluable for guiding the personal financial ship. It is also extremely enlightening. To start with groceries are one of about 15 major expense categories for us so groceries are a great start but there are other considerations.
Automobile, Bills, Charitable Donations, Clothing, Dining Out, Gifts, Groceries, Healthcare, Household Expenses, Insurance, Leisure, personal Care (such as haircuts), Pet Care and food, Taxes and Vacation.
• In the last three years since we both retired we have contacted every place that bills us such as AT&T, Dish Network, Verizon and saved monstrous amounts – and those savings multiply month after month.
We enter every expense – 10 minutes per week or so… It is crucial.
In the last year groceries make up 18% of our expenses. Taxes account for nearly 42% of all of our expenses (and that does not include sales tax which we do not track so the number might actually be closer to 45%)
So the first suggestion is to begin tracking all expenses and see where your areas of the greatest concern are. It might take 3 months to see where trouble areas or areas for improvement are. It was through this process years ago that my wife and I discovered just how poorly we were managing our tax situation. Since then despite taxes accounting for 42% of expenses what we saved through modifications pays for our groceries 2 fold per year – but everyone’s areas for improvement are different.
Back to groceries. Changing a shopping pattern is an opportunity to not only save money but also purchase the most nutrition for your dollar and your body. Costco is Excellent! We purchased their 12 pound or organic rice and keep it in the refrigerator and make about 1.5 cups per week and keep it in Tupperware cooked in the fridge ready to reheat quickly and portion out. I make a very large batch of red beans and freeze it (without the rice) in 2 cup containers. Thaw, add rice. Substitute Ekrich Turkey Sausage and now you are eating delicious food which is also nutritious. Costco also sells Nina Italian Plum tomatoes in a 106 ounce can. This is perfect for making a large batch of spaghetti – again – freezing in two cup containers. What’s great about this is you do your cooking a few hours on Sundays and you are set for the week.
Costco sells Nabisco Graham Crackers in a 4 box case (they are on sale in a few weeks for about $6 for the 4 pack. We split the cracker in ½, spread peanut butter and place one on top. Make about a dozen of these and throw them in the freezer and you basically have homemade Nutter Butters. Avoid high priced Steak such as NY Strip and such. For a treat? Sure but when times are lean a family pack of ground meat broken up into 8 ounce portions and frozen in Glad bags is another great way to be ready to make meals. Just thaw one in the fridge the night before.
Buy in bulk – portion out. Try to avoid buying cheap food – in the long run it will have the same effect as putting cheap gas in your car. Costco has a nice big tub of Hummus – excellent for snacking.
Rules – We almost NEVER purchase items close to the register like candy bars. We have a monthly dining out budget that includes all fast food and we are religious about it. If we hit our budget amount with a week left in the month – no dining out for the week. Every time we pull out a wallet or purse we think about it – “Do I need to spend this $1 on bottled water?” Those little decisions add up.
Oh – Recommended book (you can find in the library and don’t have to buy it) – The Ultimate Cheapskate by Jeff Yeager. It’s made national headlines and he is from Sylvania OH.