This is a little LONNNNGGGGG – hang in there!
I’ve had friends ask me how I keep our grocery budget between $40 and $50 weekly (we have a family of 5, and this includes all toiletries, diapers, paper products, etc.) First, I think I’m a little genetically predisposed to living frugally. If you visit my Dad’s house he’ll probably tell you to use only half of the 2-ply toiletpaper – I think he’s kidding but I’m not completely sure! Also, my husband provides very well for our family so that I can stay home with our kids, and I hate to see his hard earned money wasted on consumable groceries that don’t last. So I work really hard to spend as little as I can on groceries, because I’d rather have money to do the things we really enjoy, like giving, cute clothes for our kids, and vacationing (we love that one!)
In everything our family consumes, I try to think of ways to use less. We rarely use paper napkins (I have a huge stash of cloth ones) and we use rags instead of paper towels as often as we can (my hubby hates this one). I don’t run my dishwasher until it is completely stuffed (saving on dishwasher detergent, water and energy), and I use half a dryer sheet instead of a full one or a very small amount liquid softener (even that’s a luxury, when I’m being really cheap I just use vinegar). I rarely use disinfectant wipes to clean because they’re just too expensive, instead I buy cleaners at a really good price (less than $.50 per bottle) along with good ole’ fashioned rags and each bottle lasts quite a while. I also try to use grocery sacks (the plastic ones) as often as I can for trash bags so that I use fewer garbage bags (I can never find a good garbage bag deal!)
When it comes to snack foods I hardly ever purchase snack sized bags. My kids have to take a snack to school each day, so I usually stock up on the very cheapest snacks I can find (they’re getting a little tired of Chex Mix, but it’s just so stinkin’ cheap!) and pack it in small plastic containers that I found at the Dollar Tree so I don’t waste Ziploc bags. I also sometimes bake homemade muffins or snack mixes and they have those for snacks. My kids don’t get juice boxes or water bottles, instead they get plain old tap water in plastic bottles. (I did pick up some of the BPA free ones in the fall, so I feel a little less anxious about that whole plastic thing!) We really do stick to milk and water in our house and very occasionally orange juice when I find a great deal on it (except for my Publix diet cola addiction!)
When I see a good price on meat I stock up on lots of it (like the $1.99/lb chicken breast and $.69/lb whole chicken this week!) I also stock up on any basic pantry items when they’re really cheap, such as pasta, canned goods, frozen veggies, and frozen bread. If I have leftovers of meat that won’t get eaten, I freeze it for another meal. It really does hurt me to see food wasted, so I constantly think about ways to eat up everything we cook (another one that my hubby doesn’t always enjoy, but he’s willing to sacrifice!)
Finally, my Publix is pretty generous with their couponers. I’ve never had a problem with them accepting my $5/$25 drug store or grocery competitor coupons. I try to plan at least two Publix trips each week after the kids go to bed, so I separate my deals into 2 shopping trips for a total of $10 off my weekly pre-coupon totals. I’m also a little addicted to finding as many deals as I can, so if there’s a money maker to be had, I’m busy hunting it down! This takes a little more time to plan, but I kind of enjoy the thrill of the hunt (I really do get an adrenaline rush when I walk in the store!) And I try to pick up our toiletries when they're really cheap or free, which usually means a CVS or Walgreens run.
I sometimes worry that my kids will have way too much to talk to their therapist about after growing up with this penny pinchin’ mama, but every once in a while I see glimpses of penny pinchin’ even in them. They love it when I come home with a new fun freebie (the free Nesquik was a big hit last week!), and they’re always excited to sample something new when I find a coupon on an item we haven't tried yet. I really hope to teach them that we don’t always need everything all the other kids have, even when we sometimes could afford it if we chose to. And along the way maybe they’ll learn that we’re called to use wisely what God gives us, and to share with others, hopefully creating lasting, meaningful joy (you can't get that in a juice box, even though my 2 year old would disagree!)
These are a few things that work for our family, but I know they won't work for everyone. I also know that a lot of you do way more than this to save money – do you have other penny pinching tips that help your family? I'd love to hear them!
Update – Our local Publix stores no longer accept drug store coupons, and I have to confess that as I've gotten busier these last six months I have purchased (*gasp*) pre-packaged snacks! I don't do it often, but I did grab quite a few at the beginning of the school year 🙂
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