Waaaay back in June I recommended a book to you and conveniently tagged that post “book recommendation”. (Here it is, if you want to check it out). Seeing as how it is August, it seemed time to recommend another book for your reading pleasure.
I should clarify that “reading pleasure” is completely subjective. Maybe a good number of you would rather vomit than read a book on the topic of…wait for it…SAVING MONEY ON GROCERIES!!!
Several months ago I was at the library and saw the book “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family”, by Steve and Annette Economides (not joking on the last name). This is a genre that really appeals to me. Along with books on organizing, living in small spaces, and simplifying. I am so on that bandwagon. The promise to cut my grocery budget in half definitely grabbed me, so I checked it out.
Here’s what you should know about me: I can be a real cheapskate, if I let myself. A tightwad. One of the more intense and most often cited fights in the course of otherwise marital bliss was over a $.69 can of black beans. I kid you not. I come from a long line of tightwads on my mother’s side of the family. The women in my family can stretch a dollar like you would not believe. It’s in my blood, people! The promise to cut my grocery bill in half… well. Do they know who they’re talking to? I’m no credit-card swiping fool. I’ve been tracking my monthly spending for about 10 years now. But sure, Economides. Bring it.
Right away you learn that the Economides family is a family of 7 (two adults, 5 children) who spend about $350 a month on groceries. That’s it. No more.
Before anyone blows them off because surely they only eat crappy food and some processed crappy food on the side to go with it, you should know that their meal descriptions are (mostly) healthy and balanced. Some crappy food here and there but- hey- overall it’s mostly real food. I don’t eat organically grown kale chips every night for dinner, either. Tonight’s dinner was Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Booyah.
So here’s a few tips I liked:
1. Shop less. The less trips to the grocery store, the less impulse buying occurs. The statistics for impulse buying are pretty remarkable, and if you head out to the store two or three times a week for “just one thing”, chances are you’re returning home with more than just that one thing, and a bigger grocery bill to show for it. If you don’t enter the store, you won’t see those extra few things that you forgot you needed. Consider your last shopping trip and tell me this isn’t true. Target, anyone?
So if you’re going to the store three or four times a week, good night please stop because that wears me out just to think about it. Try to cut it back to once or twice a week. If you are a once or twice a week’er, see if you can go a week or a week and a half between trips. The Economides family grocery shops once a month. If anyone else out there does that please let me know because the very idea is pretty fascinating.
2. Pay in cash. Okay, I don’t really remember if they make a big deal out of this or not. I read the book months ago. But I can’t really emphasize this enough. If you’re not paying in cash, I guarantee you’re spending more on groceries per month than you think you are.
Since the beginning of our marriage, the hubs and I have had a cash budget system. At the beginning of each month, we pull out cash for various categories, such as vacation, car repairs, home improvements, and groceries. We know how much to pull out because we’ve tracked our spending long enough to know how much to allocate to different areas. As these things come up, we pay for them in cash. When the cash runs out, we stop spending (I mean- in theory. Ahem). Nowhere is this more notable than with our grocery budget. As you watch the physical cash dwindle, you are more mindful of how much you are putting in your grocery cart.
Allow me a little illustration: Last winter we were on vacation with my husbands’ family and we went to go pick up a few things at the grocery store. We didn’t have our trusty little grocery envelope, so we put it on the credit card. This happened a few times over the week or so that we were together. No problem- I’ll settle up at the end of the month. Well, that month turned into the next month and we just kind of kept doing the same thing. Spending out of our cash envelope every once in a while, but using the credit card when it was more convenient. When I finally got around to sitting down and looking at our stupid credit card bill, I saw that we had spent well over two times what we usually spend on groceries in both of those months. And for no good reason. We had not hosted any parties or fed any small villages in Africa with that money- nope, just sort of getting whatever we wanted and not paying much attention. I’m pretty sure the majority went to beer and ice cream. And elastic-waisted pants.
Having cash in your hand does not permit this sort of tomfoolery.
True story: One of the bigger fights in our marriage started over a $.69 can of black beans. I thought we had some at home already, he did not. He wants to just buy those beans, willy-nilly, as if we’re made of money. I want to save every little penny and not buy things we already have on hand.
So now there’s probably more than one person reading this and thinking “What a pain in the ass. Who wants to pull out cash and be constantly reminded of all the stuff they can’t buy? Who wants to put half of that good food back on the shelf just because the stupid little envelope is looking a little thin? THAT’S NO WAY TO LIVE!”. Well, that is true in so many ways. If obedience to a grocery cash envelope and a $.69 can of beans leads to a big fight, than you need to have a stern talking-to with yourself. Because you’re right- that is no way to live.
However, if you want to save more in the area of groceries and this whole idea sounds freeing to you (Knowing where your money is going! Saving a little more each month! Giving away a little more each month!) then maybe this whole cash thing/going to the store less thing is an avenue toward that for you.
Okay I know I said I would list a few things that I liked from the book but right now I cannot muster up the strength to put any more coherent thoughts together tonight. More about “Saving on Groceries” in part II…