Groceries can be one of the most stressful things to put on a family budget- everyone’s got their favorites, and after these (usually) non-necessities have been added to the grocery list, there may not be much room left for the things you need to actually prepare a complete meal. A grocery budget is the best way to make sure that when you go into the grocery store, you walk out with exactly what you intended to buy, with a minimum of impulse purchases. Of course, having an unhappy toddler in the shopping cart or unruly kids scouring the aisles for their favorite cereal can easily bust a budget, as well. For this, you may just have to work quickly.
Budgeting will allow you to get into and out of the store remarkably quickly. Gone will be the moments of indecision as you try to determine what you’ll buy and what you won’t. This lack of excess time may be just what you need to keep the kids from blowing the whole shopping trip. The truth is, though, adults can be just as much trouble in the grocery store as young ones. You and your kids may be throwing anything and everything into the shopping cart, and grocery stores may be laid out to take advantage of impulse purchasing, but a strict budget doesn’t allow for the pleasantries of browsing-style shopping. Think of it as your mean aunt who never buys you candy, just carrots. While you may hate her now for not spending money on you, when she kicks the bucket, you’re going to inherit a fortune, and you’ll have great eyesight and all your teeth, to boot.
Making a grocery budget and then sticking to it are two different beasts that have to be fought on their own territory. In order to be successful, your budget has to be realistic, have a little wiggle room, and incorporate at least a few wants rather than just needs. That way, you can avoid heavy “splurge” spending that could result in all your expenses becoming splurges before long.
For one month, try this trick: Make a daily menu out for every day of the month. When you’re done, decide what you’ll need, then shop the grocery stores for their best prices. Once you know where to find the deals, you may be ready to put your budget down on paper. Since these meals will likely be the ones that you usually have, you can pretty safely assume that you’ll be able to stock up on quantities for the month without worrying about things going bad and having to be thrown out. Stick with this and you’ll be saving on groceries without starving the kids.
Grocery stores are conveniently laid out to take advantage of shoppers working without lists, coupons, or plans. Most keep regular dairy necessities like milk and eggs as the back of the store so that anyone seeking just these items is likely to stop at several points and ask themselves if they don’t need some other things as well. Even the traffic flow of a store is carefully directed to engage shoppers and entice them to spend.
Try this next time: shop only for basic ingredients first with a calculator beside you. Be mindful of your coupons, but keep a tally of how much you will spend. Not only will you avoid a cash register surprise, but you’ll be less likely to pick up mindless impulse items as well.