Through my husband’s tenure in law school, we have learned very well what it means to “pinch pennies.” It has been an excellent faith-building experience for us to truly have to rely upon the Lord to provide our daily bread. We have learned you can live on next to nothing with a cheerful, creative spirit! The following are some basic things which have helped us:
Make a Budget
We would probably have starved a long time ago had it not been for our budget! Before we were married, we sat down and created a budget together. We highly recommend all engaged couples do this, if possible. There is freedom in having a budget because it provides strict spending boundaries. Our budget does not currently allow room for new clothes (I shop at used clothing stores. If you know how to dig and only buy things which are a good brand and in excellent condition, no one would ever know!), eating out, more than one vehicle, dentist appointments (we are looking forward to when that changes, but for now, we can live without), convenience foods (I only buy these if I can get them next to nothing with coupons), vacations, hair appointments, and other such luxuries. Because we made this budget together, we both agreed to the sacrifices we were going to be making in order to survive through law school. Every expenditure must be made with thoughtfulness.
If you do not already have a good budget in place, I would recommend you sit down with your husband as soon as possible and discuss your budget in general and your grocery budget specifically. Ask your husband what kind of meals he would like for you to cook. It is important that we, as wives, do our best to cook meals our husband likes for that is one way we can show our respect and love for our husbands.
Plan a Menu
When you have a menu planned for the week and you have written your grocery list off of this menu, it will cut down on a lot of “impulse buying” when you are at the grocery store. I take my calculator and my grocery list when I shop and stick to the budget and list. When planning your menu, plan simple meals. Fewer ingredients in a dish usually mean it will be less costly. We also do not have a lot of side dishes with our meals as this cuts down on costs as well. I will make a larger portion of the main dish and then just add a salad a bread to round it out.
I plan our menu weekly around the store sales. I either use the store sale flyers or check out our store’s sales online (larger chain grocery stores usually list their weekly sales on their website). As I see what is on sale, I check my coupons to see if I also have coupons for items which are on sale. Oftentimes, if an item is on sale and I also have a coupon, I can get it for literally pennies. I have a large plastic container which houses all of my coupons which are subdivided in envelopes into various categories. I do not have the space here to share about my couponing system (which has saved us thousands of dollars on groceries as well) but perhaps I will in a later book.
Since I have been planning our menu and grocery list this way for so long, it only takes me around 15 minutes or so to accomplish each week. It is worth every minute of that time for the money it saves us!
Shop at More Than One Store
Maybe this seems like a lot of work to you, but it has saved us another large chunk of money over the past two years. I usually only buy the sale items and reduced items at our nicer grocery store and then I buy the rest of the items on my list at a discount grocery store. I do not always shop at two stores. Sometimes there are not any good sales at the nicer grocery store and so I will only go to the discount grocery store. On the other hand, sometimes there are a lot of sales at the nicer grocery store and so I skip going to the discount grocery store altogether.
In order to be able to shop at more than one store to your advantage, you need to know what all the regular prices are for things you normally buy. If you do not know this off-hand, I suggest you take a notebook with you the next time you go shopping and record the regular price of everything you normally buy. After price-comparing for so long, I just know instinctively if something is the lowest price I can get it or not.
Think Before You Spend
This might seem like a no-brainer, but learning to think before I spend has also saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. Ask yourself:
1) Do I have the money on hand to pay for this?
2) Do I need this?
3) Can I buy this somewhere else for less?
Oftentimes, in asking these questions, I will talk myself out of making a purchase! I will realize I don’t really have the money to pay for it or I don’t need the item. Other times, I will think of a way I can purchase this item for less. These particular questions are good to ask yourself before making any purchase, not just when tempted to impulse buy at the grocery store!
Stock Up and Save
When something is on a good sale, buy as many as you can afford in your grocery budget. But beware, just because something is “on sale” does not mean it is a good price – it may still be half that price at the discount grocery store. Do your homework so that you know a good sale when you see one! If your grocery store has double-dollar coupons on occasion, it is imperative you stock up! (Providing you have coupons. If you don’t get the Sunday paper, you can have friends or relatives give theirs to you, if they do not use them. I have a number of people do this, and I am always well supplied.) A couple of months ago, our local grocery store was having “Double Dollar” coupons and I spent $26 and saved $140!! We purchased enough toilet paper to last us for a year!