Recently, while pondering where we shop for our food, I shared that our monthly grocery budget was $550. I got a lot of comments and emails from people asking me to share our budgeting secrets. I promised I would… but to be honest I’ve been putting off this post for a while.
I am no budgeting guru.
I don’t have any amazing tips or tricks up my sleeve.
We don’t use any fancy system.
So if you are here looking for life changing budgeting tips, best you click away now, before you are disappointed.
If you are determined to keep on reading then I’m happy to share a few things we’ve done to keep our spending under control, perhaps they will be helpful to others, or perhaps not.
What’s in The Budget?
Ok, lets see what our budget actually covers…
$550 a month covers basic food for our family of six, as well as groceries and staples like toilet paper, cleaning goods etc.
It covers about half the nappies we use, the other half are reusable cloth nappies.
It doesn’t cover the occasional take out meal or after school bakery snack. It doesn’t include anything my husband might spend on snacks or food while at work (though he usually takes leftovers and snacks from home which are part of the budget). We also often buy items like laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent in bulk which is outside of our usual monthly budget.
We are also acutely aware that we can’t maintain this budget forever. Over the past 12 months we’ve upped our budget by $100 and as our children grow and eating 12 nectarines in 24 hours becomes a regular thing, our budget will have to grow with them.
How Do You Do That?
The short answer is…. I don’t know, we just do!
And the long answer? Well here are a few things that I think help us come in under budget each month.
We use the envelope system.
Put simply, at the start of each month we put the grocery money in an envelope and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I’m a visual person. I need to see it to know where I’m at, so this helps me keep track of spending, and stops me just chucking things into my basket without thinking.
We do a big shop once a month.
Once a month we drive into the suburbs and stock up on a months worth of staples at Aldi. I do a basic monthly menu plan and over time have learned how much of things we’ll need to get through a whole month. We pick up fresh fruit and veg and a few other bits and pieces locally each week, but the majority of our shopping is done monthly. My goal is to not end up at the shops every day and to use what we have. This is getting harder to do however, the bigger our kids get, the more they eat and I am struggling to fit a months worth in a single trolley these days!
We try to eat what is in season and we grow some of it ourselves.
Some years are better than others when it comes to growing our own food, but it kills me to pay big bucks for a zucchini in winter when I know that we’ll have more than we can possibly eat at the end of summer, so I just don’t. We are getting better at storing or preserving the things we’ve grown too. Last year we only bought two jars of jam, and we go through at least a jar a month! We also have some lovely friends who are happy to have our excess produce in return for things they’ve grown or have access to. One friend keeps my kid’s three minute noodle addiction supplied in return for fresh eggs every fortnight.
We don’t eat lots of meat.
We enjoy eating meat but right now our budget doesn’t stretch to a lot of it. Instead we eat a few vegetarian meals, we like tuna (a lot), and I usually use less meat than the recipe calls for and make up the difference with things like beans, lentils or extra veg. We also choose less expensive cuts of meat… chicken and minced beef are pretty much our staples. Our kids idea of a treat is a whopping great leg of lamb!
If we can do without, or use something else we do.
I don’t buy many commercial cleaning products, just a lot of bicarb and vinegar. We probably use half cloth, half disposable nappies at the moment. We don’t really buy expensive personal grooming products like face cream, or hair products, we just don’t use them (you can probably tell!). We use cloth instead of paper for things like serviettes and wipes.
I try to make lots of things from scratch.
Our shopping baskets are not 100% free of snacks and treats but I try to make at least half of the school snacks and sweet treats we eat myself. The same goes for things like tortillas, bread rolls etc. This is definitely a work in progress for me, and I often splurge on this stuff when I am feeling stretched and just can’t face having to roll out another darn tortilla.
I’m a tight-arse.
Yep, you read that right. I’m a tight-arse.
I think that is the single biggest thing that keeps our budget in check. I don’t like to spend money unless I absolutely have to. Sure… I can impulse buy with the best of them, and now and then I manage to justify splurging on things we don’t really need, but I get terrible buyers remorse and that definitely keeps me in check. I also get a strange sense of pride for being able to feed my family well and live comfortably within our budget. I dream of one day being able to buy an enormous, locally grownm, organic, leg of lamb every week, and one day, when we are not on a single income and trying to build our own house, we will do just that. But for now, our priorities don’t put expensive food at the top of the list and I think we are doing just fine.
So there you are…. nothing earth shattering really, but that’s how we do it.
How about you?
How do you manage to stay within your budget and feed a growing family?
Got any great tips for finding grocery bargains?
Any recipes that are family friendly and economical?
Please jump in and share your ideas and information in the comments, or if you have a blog post you’ve written on the subject please include a link so we can come have a read.