Before I begin, I want to give you some background information on our journey…
When I made the decision to quit my job, Rick and I had to make some serious sacrifices to be able to survive on one income. When we lived in the DC metro area, this was HARD. The cost of living was so high there that, even though he worked for the same company for over 10 years and had a management position, AND we rented from my dad at the cost of the actual mortgage (nowhere near what others were paying at the time), we struggled to keep food in the house. One summer, Rick survived an entire month on raw tomatoes (that were given to us by a friend who gardened) and oatmeal. True story. I hated that he would not eat with the rest of us, but food was so precious to us at the time, he would not eat a thing that the kids would eat. In case you were curious, we were desperate enough at the time to apply for governmental assistance, but we were turned down because he made too much. Go figure. Rick actually remembers that time fondly as the best he ever felt in his life, so don’t feel too bad for him. We learned a lot of lessons that summer that we never forgot. We pushed to get our finances in order, became debt-free, and moved out of state.
By the time we arrived in our new home state, we had some savings. This turned out to be a good thing because Rick was not able to find a job for some time, and the savings dwindled down to nothing. When he did find a job (where there are always low prices), he started out in a part-time position. The first year we were here, he made around $10,000. Though we had a hard time doing it, we did end up applying for and receiving governmental assistance at this time because we did not want our children to go without food. Rick was in college full-time and working as often as he could. Our family had also started working cleaning our church, and I was teaching full-time in the church’s Christian School on a volunteer basis in exchange for my children’s tuition. At the end of the year, I told the school I could no longer teach. I started looking for a job, but could not find one that would pay enough to even cover the child care that would have been required.
I share all of this way you so you understand how we came to this point. When we lived in the DC area, Rick and I combined had a significant income. Making choices that brought us to the point of accepting government assistance for food was humbling. I knew I was going to remain a stay-at-home, homeschool mom until our children were graduated. Rick was not going to take a position that required him to work on Sunday or Wednesday evening. That really limited our income opportunities. Because our choices were the reason for our limited income, we did not feel it was fair to expect others to provide for our family. After much prayer, we decided to end our dependence on assistance. The Lord provided. Soon enough, Rick graduated from his college program, and our expenses dropped. Around the same time, Rick was given a full-time position, and our income reached the point that we were more easily able to sustain ourselves. When we ended the assistance several years ago, we qualified for around $400 a month in food stamps (and as our income hasn’t changed that much, I am sure we still qualify for a significant amount of help). However, we quit accepting help when we only had about $100 in the budget for groceries. We felt strongly about not accepting assistance as a way of life, and we were willing to take the hit to our groceries. It then became my task to make sure that we had adequate nutrition for our family of 5 for under $100 a month. Since we shop bi-weekly, I try to keep the two week budget under $40.
So, How did we do it? The tale is too long for one blog post, so I will have to give you all of the information in pieces. In Part 1, I will tell you about the foundation for saving on groceries- discipline and organization. In Part 2, we will talk about having a menu and an inventory. In Part 3, we will talk about shopping. In Part 4, I will share how you can use your groceries to make them stretch. In Part 5, I will share other ways to make the most of your grocery budget. If you have any specific questions, please be sure to click the comment button above and ask away. I want to be sure I cover all of the information you need.
PART 1- Discipline and Organization
Anyone who knows me know that my favorite verse is…
1 Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
Organization comes easily to me. When I was in high school, I competed in forensics, and my favorite competition was Student Congress. For this competition, I created a binder with relevant magazine articles organized in such a way that my forensics coach was in awe of it. She showed it to everyone she could whenever we traveled. I could use that information in the binder to make a point when arguing for or against a bill. I was pretty proud of it. Because of that binder, I was able to compete well. In the same way, I attempt to keep information organized on my home. By having everything I need at fingertip length, I am better able to provide for the family.
You need to be organized if you are going to feed your family on less than $100 a month. You have to know what you can make, what you have on hand, what you need, where you can get items at the best price (and what the best price is for each item you need), what you can get for free, where you can stretch, what your calendar looks like, what events you have coming, and what you are expected to provide, among many other things. It is the details that will make or break your budget. For instance, today is Memorial Day, and we were invited to a cook-out a while ago. When I went on my bi-weekly shopping trip, I had to consider what I needed to purchase for the cook-out. Here’s a copy of my receipts totaling $52.02. I did go a little over budget, due to the extra expenses (we have a lot of activities this time of year). Going over on this trip means I have to cut back on the next trip. That brings me to discipline.
Discipline is hard. I am disciplined enough that I have generally done well in school. I make sure my house is clean, my children are educated, and we have everything we need. The one area where I have the most trouble with discipline is food. It’s hard. However, if you are going to get your spending under control, you have to acquire some discipline. You will need discipline to develop a meal plan, keep a meal plan, and most important of all- STAY UNDER BUDGET. At the end of the day, you have control over your behavior. Let me give you some advice about discipline and saving on groceries.
#1- Keep your grocery budget in cash.
Keep the cash on you, separate from any other cash you may have on hand. Only use this money for food. When it is gone, spend no more. Resist the temptation to break out the debit card.
#2- Plan your trips to get food.
You don’t want to waste the money you could potentially save by spending extra gas money, anyway.
#3- Don’t go to the store (or farmer’s market or wherever you purchase food).
Make do. Use what you have. Once you enter the store, you will find 10 other things you need (but didn’t realize you needed them until you entered the store). Just don’t go. Don’t do it. Seriously.
#4-Don’t step away from the menu plan.
If possible, switch up days on the plan, but do not break the plan. If you do, you run the risk of getting into the habit of setting the plan aside altogether and there goes the budget. Stick to the plan.
We pray before every meal, but have you or your family members ever truly been thankful for it? Our culture is so used to getting what we want that we rarely have an opportunity to be thankful simply for what we are given. Every ounce of food that enters our house is a blessing. I try very hard to make meals that everyone enjoys. In fact, every week that it is possible, I ask every member of the family if there is something they would like to be put on the meal plan. If I can accommodate it, I do. Just because what is served is not exactly what someone wants at the moment is no reason for complaint. We have told our children on several occasions that they need to be thankful for what is given to them, and sometimes I have had to tell myself. We have never come to the point where we did not have something to eat. The Lord has always provided. So, we will not allow anyone in our home to speak negatively of what is served at our home. It is a gift, and when we pray, we should really consider how wonderful it is that we have been provided for so bountifully.
Organization and Discipline go hand in hand. I could create the best plan in the world, but if I don’t use it I have made no difference. For you, things may be different. You may struggle creating a plan. If you do, I would suggest making use of printable plans that are ready made and discipline yourself to create a plan regularly. Perhaps, once the plan is made, you will find it easier to execute it. Whatever is the case with you, you will need to gather yourself in the areas of organization and discipline before we begin. Make a commitment here and now. Then, and only then, will the details be of any real assistance.
Are you ready to get to the details? Next week for Part 2, we will create a menu and get an inventory.
**This series is now complete. Be sure to check out each part of it!
NEW!!!!!! We make a video update every six months, and the new one is just out. Check it out to see us grocery shopping and take a peek at our bi-weekly grocery haul. Here’s the video-
You can also find the bi-weekly menu plan on the blog. Click HERE to check it out!