Thursday, February 14, 2008
Thrifty Thursday---Grocery Shopping tip
I'm sure we've all noticed the recent hike in grocery prices, and I can only attribute it to the rising cost of gasoline used in transport, which has to be passed on to the consumer.
Well, in light of winter being slow season for landscapers, I set a goal a few months ago to cut down some of our budget line-items, groceries being one of them. I shop once a week, and though my menus vary greatly from week to week (or at least the dinner portion), I always seemed to spend the same amount each time. Within about five dollars, my HEB total was extremely predictable.
So what's a girl to do when she puts herself on a budget that is 25% less than normal per week? Well, I did try to incorporate some inexpensive meals into my menu, but I also tried another trick that I think has been even more helpful than changing menus---using a calculator at the store.
I know this isn't exactly a new idea, but bear with me. I stuck a little calculator in my purse, and pulled it out as soon as I started loading things into my basket. With each item, I just keep a running total of my costs. For the first few weeks, I also scribbled a quick note of the price next to the item on my list. (This was mostly because I was paranoid that I'd push the wrong button along the way and lose my tally. I wanted to be able to enter them again if that happened.)
It became like a game to me. I was in a competition with myself, determined to stay under the predetermined amount. As that amount drew nearer, I was a bit more selective about what went into the cart. Suddenly, things I thought were good buys ended up going back on the shelf. They could wait. I never thought I made impulsive purchases at the grocery store, but apparently I had gotten used to getting some things we didn't absolutely need, just because they were on sale or I thought they'd come in handy.
Just the mere fact that I knew ahead of time what my total was going to be was a huge help in sticking to the budget. I mean, think about it: once your items are being rung up, what are you going to do if your total exceeds your budget? You can't exactly make changes at that point. But if you know your total before getting to the check-out, you can easily go back and unload some things from the cart.
I also found it helpful to see the individual prices of my purchases, some of which had gone up significantly since I'd last really paid attention. That comes in handy when I see, for example, an ad at another store and want to determine if it's really worth that extra stop. It also helps me weed out a few items that have just gotten too expensive to justify.
Disclaimer: I do my grocery shopping alone, at night. So I don't have kids vieing for my attention while I'm trying to make calculations. And I can no longer make my phone-calls to my friends while shopping, because I'm just not capable of talking, shopping, and calculating simultaneously.
But since starting this habit, I've consistently been able to keep our HEB bill 25% lower than it's been for the past year or so, so it's worth it to me to look a bit geekish at the store.