Grocery Fail?

I manage my family’s finances. I will be writing a post in a few weeks going into a few more details about that, but for right now I’m focusing on one thing.

Groceries.

I became curious about what peoples’ average grocery budgets were after hearing someone say their weekly budget was $40. After I picked my jaw up from the floor and reattached it to my face, I became worried that I was failing miserably at shopping smart. I’m not afraid to divulge my family’s grocery budget:

Approximately $125.00 a week.

It didn’t always used to be this way. Back when it was just me and Josh, we could get by on $50.00 a week. We also blew tons of money eating out. I’m talking 3-4 times a week. As we tried to eat healthier and I began a weight loss regimen, it increased to $75.00 with us still eating out a few times each week. Once Nellie came along, it climbed to $100 and now that she’s eating solids and snacking a lot more, I usually spend about $125.00 a week. That’s what I budget for. I sometimes go under which is great, but I rarely exceed $125.00 in one shopping trip.

Before you go thinking that we are rich (because we. are. not. Not even close.), we rarely eat out. And by rarely, I mean maybe once every two weeks. It’s usually more like once a month. We’ve been doing really well with not eating out as much as we used to.

I got to thinking that I was a grocery shopping failure because I’ve been doing everything I know to do and my grocery budget still seems to exceed that of people I’ve asked. Before my shopping trips, I make a meal plan for the entire week – dinners only. I write down what I’m going to make, and then I make a list of ingredients I’ll need. I set a budget of what I’m allowed to spend per item ($2.00 for carrots, $5.00 on soups, etc) and try my best to stick with that. After I have my list of essential ingredients for my meals, I’ll add other things like “milk” or “bread” or “Vaseline and motor oil” (just checking to see if you’re paying attention). This works way better than my old method of grocery shopping, which was push my cart around and randomly throw shit in there until I’ve accumulated $100 worth of stuff. And when I get home, I unpack my groceries to find that I have 5 frozen lunches, three boxes of Triscuits, a half a gallon of milk, a block of cheddar cheese and some olives and I’m left scratching my head wondering what the hell happened to my $100.00.

So, menu planning + budgeting = win. It’s easier, helps me get in and out faster and I find myself with ingredients for actual meals and not just frozen pizza. I’ve also taken to going to a place called Aldi first, which has insanely low prices. I get everything possible at Aldi (they don’t carry everything I need) and then hit Wal-Mart to pick up the rest. When I do this, I usually can keep my grocery bill around $100 which saves me close to $25.00. It’s hard to hit two stores, especially when I’m shopping solo and have Nellie in tow.

I don’t coupon. I don’t have the time and I don’t really have the interest. People say to stalk the sale papers, don’t shop all in one place, hunt down the bargains, etc. But here in Chattanooga where it takes you 15 minutes to get anywhere from anywhere, I honestly wonder if saving $1.00 on a pack of turkey is worth the gas mileage I’m expending to get from point A to point B.

I don’t have a real point to this post (big surprise) other than to lament and wonder if I’m just horrible at grocery shopping, or if there is something huge and DUH that I’m missing when it comes to being a smart shopper. What about you? Do you care to divulge your grocery budget? How do you save money (if the answer is ‘coupons’ I will be a sad pony)?