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If you search on Pinterest you will find numerous posts about budgeting on groceries. I have been amazed by some of them really, wondering to myself “how do they do that?” I mean really, I have read some articles where a family of 5 spends $200 a month on groceries- how do they do it?! For a while I was inspired to try. I was convinced that I could budget and shop in this magical way and our family of 6 could spend even $400 a month on groceries, instead of the average of $1000 we were currently spending. After all, who wouldn’t want to save hundreds of dollars- especially since we lived on a very fixed income.
So many times I tried to lower our grocery spending. I tried so hard to only shop the sales and to eat less meat. I clipped coupons, compared prices, and utilized leftovers. However time and time again I found myself failing and living in constant disappointment that I was doing something wrong! Then the more I failed, the more I began to dread grocery shopping (which was depressing in itself because I absolutely LOVE grocery shopping)
But then I finally came to the realization that there was nothing wrong with the way I grocery shopped and cooked! In fact, realistically, I enjoyed how much money we spent on food and our non-budget. Sure $1000 a month on food is a lot of money and despite our very strict spending this was not a problem. We treated our grocery spending as a bill- a priority. Every month I deducted $1000 along with every other important item we had to pay.
After much thought, I realized exactly why both my husband and I were just fine with what many have called our crazy food spending. This is why I don’t budget on groceries.
We are realistic
Our location is a large factor into why we don’t budget. We live in a smaller mountain community (the nearest large city is 3 hours away). This means that our prices are a bit higher; it costs more to transport food to our location, especially during the winter. During the summer, we don’t have as much access to those amazing summer fruit deals.
We do make a monthly trip to the city where we do our best to stock up on meats and produce. I also have signed up for our local grocery store’s reward & coupon program and I always shop the weekly sales to stock up as well as replenish our most used items. In doing these things, I do find myself saving money, sometimes staying way under budget- like around the holidays when sales are the best. When I do save a significant amount of money I set most of it aside for months when sales may not be so good and I tend to spend more, this way we are not affected by the change of costs.
I always shop the local farmer’s markets
I have always been big on supporting small, family owned businesses. The service is more personal and they always put love & quality into their products. I love buying homemade jams & bread, all natural honey, and farm fresh eggs & produce. Limiting the amount of junk (and words that I cannot pronounce, let alone know what they mean) has always been important to me. I believe in eating right and as natural as possible, but this means I pay more. You get what you pay for is a pretty accurate saying right about now.
Healthy eating Vs. Medical costs
Now I am not a physician and I don’t know a whole lot about health itself, but I am a firm believer that if you eat right and take care of yourself then you will be healthier and less likely to visit the doctor. Now I am not saying eating healthy is a cure all! I realize there are health issues that cannot be controlled by how you live your life, but what I have personally witnessed is that aside from yearly check-ups and a minor surgery my daughter needed, we have not had to visit a doctor in over 4 years and we have not had any major flu in our home in almost 3 years. Since I have stopped buying a lot of junk and tried to switch to more healthy and fresh options, everyone in our home has been much healthier. So the way I see it is that I may spend a lot on groceries but I could be spending thousands a year on medical costs and co-pays instead.
I grew up a very picky eater. Unfortunately I still am and I cannot stand it! I like what I like and that is it. In fact, I have absolutely no desire to try new things. I don’t want my kids to be like this. I want them to try new things and flavors. So I make sure to cook a wide variety of cuisines and expose them to a wide variety of food. I hold the rule “you don’t have to like it but you have to try it”. I have done this since my children were very young and I have seen satisfying results. However, this means I end up spending a little more because of those unique spices or that unique cut of meat. To me this is worth a little extra spending.
Food brings people together
Some of my favorite memories are big cookouts and lots of people. I love putting on a feast for a big game day event or simply to welcome the weekend. My husband and I mingling with friends and the kids running around with their friends. Every great moment with friends meant there were satisfied bellies and the sharing of recipes. There is something about putting good friends and good food together that really just brings people together. So I always make sure there is something that can be thrown together for a get together or for a spontaneous visit. This is a grocery cost that is always taken into consideration.
So as much as I would love to be able to adapt to some amazing grocery savings plan and only spend a small amount each month on food, I know that it just isn’t possible for our family. Rather than stress about the expense, I have fully accepted my crazy non-budget and won’t be budgeting on groceries any day soon.
I would love to know what has worked for you with your grocery shopping and savings tricks!