$200 Monthly Grocery Budget Experiment in Review
I've now completed a 3 month experiment (March, April, May, 2011) at a tight $200/mo. grocery budget for our family of five.Throughout the experiment, I was able to maintain that $200/mo. budget (at least pretty close to it) each month. This has been a serious reduction in our grocery spending. Knowing what I know now, I'm thoroughly embarrassed to say that prior to couponing (& when we were in what I refer to as "pure grocery cost oblivion"), we were regularly spending in the ballpark of $1000-$1200 on groceries each month. Ugh!
Since couponing & strategic shopping, we've been saving a ton!Right away, our budget was easily slashed to less than $600/mo. & before starting the tight budget experiment, I found I was comfortably spending around $400/mo. Pulling in even tighter for this $200/mo. experiment seemed easier to do than I expected during the first month or so. However, as the months went along, grocery prices have begun to rise and our stockpile has begun to shrink. $200/mo. is feeling a little too tight at this point.
It was great fun & a great learning experience to try this out.If you aren't already doing it, I highly recommend challenging yourself to a tighter budget.
Some of the things I've learned along the way:~I became more picky about the deals: Following this tight budget really helped me to steer further away from the so-so deals. I found that I really zeroed in on the best deals & was not nearly as tempted to grab things that weren't at or close to their rock bottom price.
~I wasn't quite buying enough: Unfortunately, at $200/mo., I found that I was even steering away from buying enough quantity of the great deals, when they were available. I also found that at times I didn't have enough coupons to get the quantity needed to help us last through to the next sale. I'll need to decide whether I want to purchase more papers or order from a coupon clipping service so that I can stock up in larger quantities when prices are at their lowest.
~Shrinking stockpile: Especially with meat and produce prices on the rise, I found that our stockpile (especially of those types of items) dwindled quite a bit.
~Too many nights of "Hmmmm....what should we have": Evenings can be particularly busy for us with karate classes, homework, school events, etc. & I'll admit cooking & meal planning isn't my forte! I tend to (most of the time) throw meals together somewhat last minute. I prefer that our meal includes a lean protein + fruit + vegetable + a little whole grain. As our stockpile continued to dwindle these last couple of months, we were more and more tempted to order out or go out to eat because we didn't have an abundance of great food to choose from.
Where does our grocery budget go from here?~I've decided to loosen the reigns on our grocery budget a bit. I'm thinking somewhere in the ballpark of $350/month will probably be quite comfortable for us....and we'll still be saving over $800/mo. as compared to our pre-couponing grocery spending.