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Friday, July 6, 2018

How I Cut My Grocery Bill In Half With a Family of 5 (Without Cutting Coupons!)



I am writing this post today as a woman who has run the full spectrum when it comes to meal planning and grocery shopping. What I mean to say is that I came into my marriage with almost no experience in cooking or meal planning and bless my husband's heart, he was so patient with me while I was learning. I went to the grocery store multiple times a week with no list and who knows what I even bought? Now, almost 7 years and 3 kids later, I have become a religious meal planner and while my meals aren't gourmet by any means, I can cook.

Even with my fervent meal planning, I have to confess that our grocery budget started getting out of hand as our family grew. We got to where we were budgeting around $1100 a month just in groceries and we weren't even buying anything extravagant! This was just with regular, every day groceries.

I got tired of spending so much and knew I had to figure out how to spend less without sacrificing healthy eating, which is important to me - and also without cutting coupons because you guys, I just don't have the patience for that! You are amazing if you are a coupon queen or king, but it's just not for me.

I've been able to bring our monthly grocery spending from $1100 down to around $620, so not QUITE half, but close. Here's a breakdown of how I did it.


1. MAKE A PLAN 
This is the most important thing that I can share. You have to carve out some time once a week to sit down and make a plan. You just have to. I am kind of a planner by nature, but anyone can do it and it isn't hard - it just takes a bit of time and focus. I like to plan on Sundays because my grocery shopping day is usually Monday. I plan a dinner for every night of the week, Monday-Sunday. I will do another post in the future that gets down to the nitty gritty of how I meal plan, but today I will just keep it simple. I also try and think ahead about what kinds of breakfasts, lunches, and snacks we will have during the week.

I use a whiteboard that hangs in our dining room area to write out our meals for the week. It makes it easy for me to see without having to dig into my planner and it also helps for the million times a week my kids ask me what's for dinner.

                            

It's super simple. I got it for $10 from Hobby Lobby.

Once you have your meal plan then you can make a grocery list. Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer for things that you already have that you won't need to buy. I am a big fan of paper lists, but I also have used grocery list apps in the past that work great, too. I really like List Ease.

DON'T BUY ANYTHING THAT ISN'T ON YOUR LIST.

2. PLAN AHEAD
We go to Costco every 2 months so I make a 2 month plan. We get enough things from Costco to last for 2 months and then the rest of our groceries come weekly from the grocery store.

Things we regularly get from Costco include toilet paper, paper towels, dishwasher pods, laundry detergent, diapers, baby wipes, formula, pull ups, k-cups, bacon, ground beef, chicken breast, lunch meat, sliced cheese, and spaghetti. 2 months worth of these supplies came to about $612 on our most recent trip. My rule with meats and cheese from Costco is that once they are gone for the month, they are gone and we will have to do without them. For example, once we run out of lunch meat for the month then we move on to pb&j.

I'm going to explain our exact budget for the next 2 months and I should note that we just started the month of July and both July and August are longer months so this plan is actually working for 9 weeks. For my regular grocery store visits each week, I aim to keep my spending under $70. This will include anything outside of Costco items that I need for our week's meal plan, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, household items, and toiletries.

To break it down, we spent $612 at Costco. Split into 9 weeks would make it $68 a week. With our extra $70 per week in grocery allowance, that brings our weekly grocery amount to $138. So over 9 weeks (July and August) we will spend $1242 or around $621 a month - a savings of about $479 a month from our previous budget.

3. USE YOUR GROCER'S APP
This piece is critical in making sure that you are keeping your weekly grocery shopping trip in check.

Sometimes I do my weekly shopping at HEB (a Texas grocery chain) and sometimes I will head to Walmart. Either way, I always take my grocery list for the week and input each individual thing into the grocer's app on my phone. Almost all grocery stores have them and they are free to use. You put in the exact store you are going to be shopping at and can make a mock list of your groceries with exact prices listed out.

I put in everything that is on my list and then see what my price will come to with that exact list. Sometimes I am at or under budget without any changes. Sometimes I go over and then I have to prioritize what we will actually need for that week.

This is how I make sure that we are still able to eat healthy as well. Usually a big portion of my weekly groceries is produce items and then the rest is dairy products, eggs, bread, household items, and any toiletries. If we have extra room then I might get something out of the ordinary, but we try to keep our foods relatively clean and simple. Outside of our Costco run, I don't buy any extra meat items. I have also become a big fan of meatless meals and this is a great way we keep our budget down as well.

The best part is...I almost NEVER use coupons! You certainly could use them in conjunction with everything else, but I don't and I'm still able to keep our spending in check.

These are relatively easy changes that you can make to bring your grocery bill down by possibly hundreds of dollars. If you have any questions or comments or would like to see a more comprehensive meal planning guide, please comment down below!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

We all start somewhere.

Hi everyone! I have blogged off and on for years, but this blog has a very specific purpose. I want to talk about the ups and downs of our own financial journey and document, in real time, our pursuit of our own financial independence. We've come a long way already and moving forward I want to focus on our goals of real estate investing and also share ways to simplify every day life.

As a bit of history about us, I'm 32 and I married my husband (we'll call him Mr. Blueberry) back in 2011. We were living in Colorado, which is where I grew up, and in 2012 we purchased our first home. At the time we used an FHA loan and while it was a rather modest home, it was still right at the top of what we could afford at the time. While living in that home, we had our first child, a daughter, in 2013. By the time we had our second child, a son in 2015, Mr. Blueberry's commissioned job as a real estate agent wasn't supporting us well anymore and we knew we'd have to sell our house and make some changes.

2015 was one of our most difficult years so far, but also our biggest growth year. Mr. Blueberry decided to coordinate a Dave Ramsey course for our church and we took the class at the same time as everyone else. We sold our house in July of that year and because of the way the market had turned up in Colorado, we were able to make around a $50,000 profit off of the sale. We used that money to pay off the small amount of debt that we had and we saved the rest. Since Mr. Blueberry's job wasn't paying well anymore and I was staying home with our kids, we knew we'd run out of money quickly if we didn't DO something.

My wonderful parents offered to let us stay with them while we figured out what to do. It was a squeeze to have all 6 of us, one being a 5 month old baby, in their 3 bedroom, 1500sqft home. It was uncomfortable, but actually just what we needed at that time to realize a different future for ourselves.

We stayed for 6 months while we saved money and continued looking for another home. The cost of living had increased so drastically in Colorado that we felt totally stuck. It seemed impossible to make enough money to continue to live there while also staying out of debt. Despite having grown up in Colorado and imagining raising my own family there, we knew we had to go.

We searched out places that had a lower cost of living and would still offer things important to us like good schools, recreation, decent weather, etc. We landed right in the heart of Texas and that is where we are today.

We came here with no job (or even job prospects), two little ones, a rental house that we had never seen in person, and as the song goes, we were pretty much living on a prayer. I'm happy to report that the prayers worked because it didn't take long for Mr. Blueberry to find a great job and for us to settle in and find our own little community here. We are in our 3rd year here, in our 2nd rental house, and we also have another little one - a 6 month old baby girl.

We recently started to get a bit too comfortable with Mr. Blueberry's new salary and we slowly started falling back into some of our old ways. For the first time in our lives we've financed a car so we now have the first debt that we've had since 2015. A week after we bought the car, things started getting shaky at Mr. Blueberry's job. I still stay home with my kids so while I am not currently making an income, I've decided to make it my job to save us as much money as I can. I've already been able to cut our grocery bill in half and I'm excited to share in a future post how I did it without sacrificing eating healthy.

We are also looking forward to making our first real estate investment soon by purchasing a househack. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a househack is a home that you purchase and rent out part of the space to someone else to help cover your mortgage. Our goal is to buy a duplex and live on one side of it while renting out the other side. We also have a goal of purchasing more real estate for investments in the future.

OK, that was a very long-winded explanation of where we're at, but now that we're all caught up, I hope that you will join us on our journey! I hope to offer some tips and tricks and to learn a lot from you as well. Please feel free to comment or email me anytime.