Sunday, May 4, 2014

How to stick to your grocery budget when you've never been able to

I don't know about you, but I can NEVER stick to a grocery list when I go shopping. I always end up adding a few things to the cart that I forgot, or some items that looked so good that I could've sworn they were whispering "buy me!!" in my ear. 

But of course, right now we're trying to spend as little cash as possible because of our debt situation. Going off-list is not a luxury we have anymore. Besides, it's easy to waste food when you buy based on wants not needs. I'm proud to report that for the first time ever we kept to our grocery list! It ended up saving us a lot of money. Normally our grocery bills are around $150 (twice a month). This time?  Drumroll please.....we got all the food below for $95. 

Bok choi, canteloupe, two cans of tuna, organic carrots, bananas, green beans, a sack of oranges, six kiwi fruit, two zuchini, a benzoate-free salad dressing (yay, no allergic reaction for me!), two packages of English muffins....
1/2 gallon ice cream, 1 gallon milk, 1 tub butter, two gallons orange juice
Two large bags of frozen veg, and a pound each of sausage, pork mince and beef mince. 

How to Stick to your Grocery List when You've Never Been Able To

1. Bring a friend or spouse and keep each other accountable. When we shop, the Chief Engineer and point out to each other the things we chose that weren't on the list and then discuss whether we need to put the item back or not. 
2. Remember why you need to stay on track. I intentionally looked at my credit card statement and my bank account balances right before I went to the store. They reminded me how not good our financial situation is right now and those feelings were fresh in my mind when I went to shop. Extra motivation to behave! You could even write your credit card balance on your list, which should remind you of your priorities while you shop. 
3. Try shopping the store backwards. When you buy the frozen stuff first it gives you reason to get out of the store in a hurry because who wants melted ice cream? There's no time to browse for foods that might be interesting -- you just have to get in, get what you need, and get out. 
4. Use alternative transportation to get to the grocery store. The times where we've biked or taken the bus to the store we've bought far less than usual because we can only buy what we can carry. Oreos and other boxes of treats we don't need don't fit in the Chief Engineer's bike panniers!
5. Check what you've already got in the freezer to avoid buying duplicates. 'Nuff said.
6. Reward yourself for sticking to the list. Sometimes I'll add a treat food to my grocery list before I go. If I end up putting something I don't need in the cart, I'm no longer allowed to get the treat food.
7. Make a list of what to get next time while you're doing your current shopping. That way you'll know that you can have that item, just not right away. It then gives you time to think about whether or not you really want that item by the time you go to the store again.  

What's grocery shopping like for you? Do you stick to a list, and how?


  1. All good strategies! One idea I've read about that makes sense is -- don't have your reward be in the form of food (if the goal is a specific diet or health plan) -- or in your case it would be "don't have your reward be anything that costs money". So, you might reward yourself with time instead of something purchased -- reward yourself with whatever activity you enjoy and consider a treat -- a bubble bath, an extra hour of curling up with a good book, a favorite weekend hike, whatever. A soaking bath works for me.

    1. That's an excellent idea, Sue! With my eating disorder, those treats sometimes have turned into emotionally-fueled eating sessions. Time incentives are a much healthier alternative. Thank you for the wonderful idea.

  2. I love all of these! I'm such a list maker that I'm generally good at sticking to the list...except for Costco. I sometimes just find amazing things I didn't know they had haha! Since getting your budget spreadsheet, I've been pretty good at staying close to my target of $400/month for groceries...I think that has been my biggest helper. And I have YOU to thank for that :)


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