Over the last few years I've had the same request from friends and coworkers as soon as they hear my grocery shopping weekly budget is only $60. They all want to see my reciepts. Well, reciepts are one thing but I think the far more important piece of paper I can show you is the list I make.
Big Daddy and I had an (almost) teenaged wedding, and after awhile the old folks did indeed wish us well. Young as we were, we made a lot of mistakes. The first was putting Palmolive in the dishwasher the very first night we moved into our first apartment after our honeyoon. (Side note: bubbles and Little Mama do not mix well. I have filled MANY rooms thanks to my habit of abusing Mr Bubble.) That mistake was bad, but one of the most harmful to our newly-joined checking account was this item:
Now, the list items are CLEARLY all essentials, there's no problem there. The real issue is the lack of forethought into the shopping venture. This isn't even the shopping list of a woman with a meal plan, it certainly isn't the list of a woman with a shopping budget!
Behold, my actual, honest-to-God shopping list for this very week. Every single penny of my budget is accounted for. Inlaid formulas calculate every item's tax, coupon savings, everything. The budget is split into my 5 main food categories so that I am sure I am buying balanced. As you can see, I will be getting approximately 32 pounds of produce, 6 pounds of meat, 4 gallons of milk, a pound of natural cheese, a dozen eggs, 2 loaves of bread, a pound of honey, a pound of butter, and 4 pounds of rice for just shy of $60. That includes tax, and a whopping 5 coupons. Not bad, eh?
Every single Wednesday when the loss leaders arrive in my mailbox I clear out the spreadsheet from last week, get out my lovely pink coupon folio and sit down at the kitchen table to plan my budget. I go through and find all the items in every loss leader that is tasty-looking and under my budget limits ($2/pound for meats, $1/pound for produce, a minimum of 50% off any non-essential processed items, cheapest available for staples like milk, flour, honey, etc.) and load them into the spreadsheet. Once they are in I am able to delete and add as needed, change quantities to take full advantage of sales, and add coupons in.
A bonus to the spreadsheet is the ability to price-match in the stores For example, if I go to Aldi first to picck up the milk advertised in the loss-leader and notice a non-advertised price on strawberries that beats the advertised Kroger price, I will buy those strawberries right there in the Aldi. Often I have come home having spent less that I originally budgeted this way.
I still use the old piece of paper on the fridge to list staples we are out of and a few special requests from Big Daddy, but they get transferred onto the spreadsheet come Wednesday.
Is the spreadsheet more work than slapping a quickie list on a cutie-pie paper list? Yes indeedy. Will you ever leave the grocery store having gone over budget or without an essential? NO YOU WILL NOT! This spreadsheet took some time to set up, but it has saved me SO much money and time! Give it a try for a month and see if you ever go back!
Happy penny pinching!