Wednesday, February 26, 2014

6 Hidden Grocery Budget Busters

Lately, our totals at the grocery store have been on the high side. Not we won’t be eating for the last week of the month because we’re out of money high, more like hmm these grocery shopping trips seem abnormally high, what gives? higher than usual.

The Polar Vortex, blizzards, and a cabin fever kitchen cleaning binge was all the incentive we needed to poke through the cupboards for dinner ideas and stick to our Eat From the Pantry Challenge (AKA Eat This and Give Me Back Cupboard Space Month.) I learned where the cracks began to form in our grocery budget.




6 Ways I Blew My Grocery Budget

1. Buying too much food and/or allowing food or leftovers to spoil before eating or preserving it for later. Actually we are pretty good about this because food waste is one of Husband’s Big No Nos. I’m mentioning it because if I don’t, you will add it to the comments section of this post Smile.

2. Not regularly cleaning out or rearranging food in my organized cupboards because I already thought they were organized. The stuff in our cupboards and pantry is organized how we arbitrarily shoved it in the kitchen when we moved in. It wasn’t until a cupboard clean out that I realized some of my organizing tools weren’t working for us anymore and costing us money.

  • Transferring everything from its box or bag and into glass jars gave me MORE room in my cupboards for food not less like I first thought.  Our staples stay fresher in jar too. This project didn’t cost as much as I thought it might because I did it bit by bit when we emptied food and canning jars I already had.
  • We have out of sight out of mind disease. If we can’t see it plainly on a shelf, we forget we have it and we don’t eat it. Fortunately, there were a few simple fixes that helped change that. 
I made wine cork wall hooks to hang our aprons on the pantry wall because they  hid Husband’s surprise pancake mix and oatmeal stash when they hung off the pantry shelf.


I stored seasonal serving dishes on top of my kitchen cabinets so I have room to store like food items together in the cupboard.  No more extra purchases of items because I thought we were out!

  • I’m using chalkboard labels as much as possible to keep us from accidentally buying doubles we don’t need. They are quick and easy to change since our food storage area is small and changes with the season (in theory.)
3. Big work projects made us too tired to think about, make, or deal with a real food meal. This one is the tiny snowball that rolled down the mountain and created an avalanche. We relied on more premade ingredients (premade burgers, sauces, etc.) and some rare outright frozen entrees (curse you Trader Joe’s Taka Masala for tasting so good!)  In hindsight, I might have saved money if I made a few large real food meals the month before and found a way to freeze the extra without freezer burning it for quick meals during what I knew would be Crazy Time.

4. I grocery shopped when I was stressed. They say you spend more money when you grocery shop hungry. Apparently the same thing happens when you shop after a workday leaves you feeling like you’ve been punched in the face by projects and deadlines. I made more big grocery shopping trips than I typically make during that time. I often went off list and chucked extra stuff into my cart that looked good/was comfort food. I shopped stupid because I was too tired to think.

5. Not shopping seasonally, with a list, or according to store sales. Several times Husband and I made an arbitrary meal plan without a quick check of the online store flyer to see what fresh produce, fish, and meat is in season and on sale. Any time I go with a list in my head instead of written down the final bill gets to oops bigger than I expected level and I usually have to make another trip to the store because I forgot something important like butter. The one time made a quick check and shopped seasonally during Crazy Work Project Time, the shopping trip was shorter and the bill was on budget.  You can learn How to Shop Seasonally and Save Money during Winter here

6. As soon as we ran out of the family favorites and staples, I didn’t poke around the kitchen for alternatives I had on hand first. On the face of it this seems like a no brainer but because of our other budget busters like being too busy and relying on favorite recipes or not grouping like items in the kitchen makes substitutions harder and an extra trip to the store “necessary.”

I’m sure many of you are looking this list and upset you didn’t learn anything new.

It’s true.

Habits are a free and easy way to save money but they are also an easy way to unintentionally spend extra dollars here and there when you don’t follow them. I also learned that as life and situations change, you should check and tweak your habits because they aren’t always one size fits all. 

What are your budget saving tips?

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