Dec 3, 2008

Brick #1 - Start with what you know

Welcome to the first installment of Bricklaying! I've had a lot of people asking me how I'm managing to keep my budget so low. Especially in Massachusetts, the grocery costs are awful and most people I know are lucky if they spend less than $200 in a week. I hardly consider myself an expert, but I have definitely laid the foundation for good habits, and I do follow pretty basic guidelines when I'm shopping. I thought it would be helpful to share those bricks and help you build your own budgeting safehouse!

So let's start with an easy exercise:

1. Sit down and make a list of your family's must-haves.

Every family has different tastes. Some like spicy. Some like savory. Some are vegetarians, and some are meat-atarians :) Many people are dealing with dietary restrictions, either self-imposed or because of a medical issue. Take a little time and make a list of absolute necessities for your pantry - be realistic (while beef may be on the "needs" list, sirloin is not) and be aware of what you use on a very regular basis.

Here are a few starter questions for you:

* What are the top 10 items you use EVERY week? Stay pretty general - brand loyalty is great for the big companies but flexibility with brands can be a huge expense-cutter
* What proteins are absolute staples in your diet?
* What convenience foods are you buying on a regular basis?
* What do you buy outside the home regularly that could be replaced by something from home? - think about trips to the coffee shop, regular lunches or dinners out, snacks from the convenience store...all those little expenditures add up fast!
* What are you buying pre-made that you could make at home? - Check the list at the end of this posting for some great links that may help you in this area!

The list you end up with should be about 20-25 items (don't include spices and seasonings, just basic foodstuffs). These are the items that should be targets for stocking up when they go on sale. (When I started really pushing the grocery budget, I was totally overwhelmed by trying to hit EVERY sale and EVERY coupon, and it was easy to buy lots of stuff that I had to force myself to use.) Putting to paper the things that are your family's "essentials" will give you a starting point toward smart stockpiling.

Next week, be ready for a little homework. Start looking for all of those grocery receipts!

Some helpful links:

Make your own Lunchables

Options for healthy snacks

Make your own baby food

10 Expenses that add up fast

10 Painless Ways to Save $100


Keely said...

Ugh, I wish I could be better about this, but hubby thwarts me constantly by 'going across to the grocery store for a few things'. Which are usually half things we do need and half things that are pre-packaged and expensive and go to waste.

Lisette said...

These are really good tips. I do quite a few of these things already,but there are a few I could try in the future. We currently spend $50 a week on food for a family of 5.