Saturday, February 7, 2009

Grocery Budget Definition

This will be my third week on the Grocery Cart Challenge Shopping Diet. I've had quite a few of you girl friends email me with questions and pointers about what I'm doing, what's included in my budget, etc. So I decided to just put them out here for everyone to read.

Couple points on what the definition of "grocery budget" is in our household and how I do things:

  • Food, basic toiletries, paper goods (TP, papertowels, girl stuff)

  • Right now I'm keeping make-up, spa-type needs in my "personal" spending budget. Neil has his own too. I use department store stuff and if I run out of base and mascara in one week, our grocery budget is shot. Since most of you know I'm not a fashionista when it comes to clothes, this is one area I allow myself to splurge. I like nice makeup and skincare stuff. :-)

  • We keep pet food in a line item with other pet stuff (grooming, medical, litter, etc.)

  • We keep baby things in a line item with other baby stuff (diapers, wipes, cuppies, formula, etc.)

  • We keep baby gifts for baby showers in a line item for gifts. The simple fact that we have this as a line item shows you where our social circle is right now. Ha! If that budget line item doesn't get used for the month, we continue accruing it every month for special needs. There is always someone in your life that could use some financial help. And when you've automatically been saving every month for that purpose, when a need arises you're not scrambling for cash. It's already there. I imagine at some point, this could also be used for a charity, should we feel led down that route.

  • So what does this mean if I need diapers, kitty litter, and groceries at the same time? I ask the clerk to make three different transactions. This might be trouble-some to some of you, but for me, I'd rather do this than try to figure out general ledger changes once I'm home. If any of you know me, I'm REALLY bad at math. Talk about confusing. I'd have our budget so screwed up.

  • Do I ever purchase pre-packaged snacks? Yes. Admittedly, not much. I purchase just enough for the week. Why? Because Monkey goes to school full-time, his tuition provides him breakfast, lunch, and two to three snacks a day, as well as all the milk he wants to drink. So we don't really need a lot of snacks in the house. But if we do, stuff we have is: dry cereal, goldfish, pretzels sticks, cheez-its, soda crackers, fresh fruit. Simple stuff we always have in the house, although not all of this at once.

  • Do I spend more because of my allergy issues? Yes. I try to keep things manageable, but that's just one of the things I need to consider in my list. Gluten-free items are expensive. A box of penne pasta for N and Monkey costs me 88 cents. For me, $3.59. Just part of the deal. Eat cheap and get sick, or eat healthy and it cost more. *shrug* I will say that Monkey prefers the gluten-free stuff. I've attempted saving money by cooking two pots of pasta, one for me and one for the family. But it hasn't worked. He refuses to eat regular glutenous stuff. Not sure why, but again...another thing I just have to consider in my list.

  • I don't really cut coupons. I simply don't have the time or patience right now. The only exception to that rule is the diaper coupons I get mailed to me. I will say a pointer I learned on another money-saving blog: keep the coupons IN THE CAR. How many times have you been to the store and realized your coupons are at home? Agggg! So anytime I get coupons, I put them in an envelope in the car. Same with those 20% off coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond. What good are they at home?

  • As of right now, I only go to Target and Sprouts. I haven't found good enough deals to make an additional stop to CVS or Wahlgreen's, as they are rather out of my way. With working full-time, I literally have about 45 minutes a week to shop at my two stores before I pick up a baby from school, so my time is pretty limited. Should I find a deal that I cannot pass up, I'm sure I'll adjust for the week. But if I make this too complicated, I will say it won't be fun anymore and I'll quit. And right now, it's important for me to stay in budget and do it EASILY, otherwise I'll give up.

We might find these things changing at some point, but that's how it is for now. I've read Gayle's GCC for around a year now, feeling inspired every week to do something, but just haven't had the courage to actually put a plan into action. Part of why it took me so long was that I was expecting my plan to look exactly like hers. Which I finally realized, I JUST CAN'T DO. We have different circumstances, different needs, different goals. So I decided what I WASN'T going to do is look for perfection. This was going to be something that I could tweak, change, and mold as our needs were discovered through the process. When I mentioned this in a previous blog post, Gayle emailed me and congratulated me simply on the effort and confessed that it took her about 6 months to figure out what was best for herself. SO...with that...I felt even more permission to do what was best for our family. Nor more pressure, no more guilt, I am in charge of this and the only expectations I need to meet are mine. Which I've finally loosened that ridiculous noose around my neck and decided to let this be an experiment for awhile. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But so far, it IS and I'm learning a TON of stuff in the meantime about our spending habits. (Like, that first I really need to buy two pounds of chocolate covered candies. Holy cow, was that embarrassing to post on my list. LOL!)

All of that to say, if you're reading my Weekly Menu Plan and Shopping Trip journals every week, wondering if you can do this, JUST TRY IT. I encourage you to NOT be like me and wait until next year before you realize this is YOUR program. Do not expect yourself to do what the W household does, like I expected me to do what Gayle does. It probably won't work, which means you'll get discouraged and give up before you've really given yourself a chance.


  1. I'm so intrigued by your shopping journey! One thing I've noticed at least at my Target, is the receipts are broken up into categories now...very helpful for budgeting!

  2. I might could help on the coupon issue. What I have noticed with Kroger (my main grocery store due to how close it is to home) is that they send coupons periodically based on your purchases.

    I don't know what "regular" grocery store you typically shop in, but if you shop in Kroger and use your Kroger card, they periodically send you coupons based on your previous purchases. I got a handful the other day, and I used one for a free box of cheerios and the other was $1 off 5 cans of Hunt's tomatoes, which I will use in the future. All of the coupons were for things I do buy, though, so I will consider using many of them.

    Maybe other stores do something similar, I'm not sure, but I know Kroger will do it. Just be sure your mailing information associated with your card is current and correct.

  3. Very good plan!! I second the coupon thing. I'm not great at cutting them out all the time but I do get the Sunday paper about once a month and cut anything I see that we use on a regualr basis. I stay away from "good deals" on stuff we don't really use...even though there is a coupon it is probably something I don't need anyway (like a coupon for $1.00 off one box of cereal if you buy 10!) Like you, I am most focused on coupons for baby needs...especially diapers and wipes. I have to go a step further and keep any coupons I have in my wallet because I will even forget they are in my car! lol

  4. Thanks again for being an encouragement on this whole thing. As I told you before, it is proving VERY helpful! And given that we have to deal with a lot (well, more:-) of the same allergy stuff, it's even more encouraging. The thing I have going for me is that the schnitz doesn't actually know what he's missing in a lot of areas and so it gives me a bit more "wiggle-room" in terms of snacks and meals.

    You know a snack you might try that's pretty good (he loves it!)? Get the Rice Chex, now that they've made it gluten-free, and throw in some dried cranberries...yummy:-)

    Keep it're doing great!