Originally, I just cooked up this plan to save time at the grocery store. I had no idea that it would also help save us money in the end- Hooray for new-on-top-of-new-ideas.
I hope it helps you, too!
First and foremost, I started my "plan" by making a chart that I wanted to use for a grocery list according to the lay-out of our nearby Kroger Grocery store. When you enter our store, produce is to the right- meat, on the back wall, etc.
After printing it as a word document, I write my meal plan on the far right rectangle (the one with no label). As I write a meal down, I then divvy out the ingredients I need onto the list (if I don't already have them at home).
Next, I write the estimated price next to each item. I try to account for tax, things that are NOT on sale, etc. I also try to over-estimate the price by about 50 cents, just in case.
In other words, I round up.
Then, I add up each category (produce, meat, canned goods, etc.) and put it in the corner of the "aisle box" (so if I'm spending 10 dollars on produce, I put a number 10 in the bottom right-hand corner of the produce box). Then, I add up my estimated total and write it on the lower right-hand corner of the page.
As I'm shopping, I try to take a different-colored pen with me to mark down "real" prices. I also continue to check the estimated prices. If it is something I have under-estimated in terms of price- I usually don't buy it if I don't absolutely need it.
For example- if I mistakenly think hummus will be on sale that week, but it's regularly priced, I will probably skip it. No big deal.
However, sometimes- the stars align and I undershoot many items. Then I spring for the hummus, avocados and expensive creamer...cause that's just how we roll.
Finally, I add everything up and see how well it matches. I might be way off occasionally, but as long as I'm under the $100 budget, I don't stress too much.
Below, is a list I've recently used. The items I needed/meals I planned to fix are in blue. The accurate prices are in orange. This week's list was SUPER short because of the holidays. I already had a lot in the stock (like the tilapia). Plus we've eaten with family a lot and shared leftovers. And we may or may not have started sleeping through breakfast...
If I know I am going to be UNDER budget (like this week- yipee!), I toss in a gift card for us to use so we have some extra room in our entertainment budget OR I go home and transfer the leftover grocery money into one of our other accounts (emergency savings, down payment for a car, travel, etc.).
All in all, the list saves me time because it is organized according to the lay-out of the store. It also helps hold me accountable.
I enjoy the splurges because I've prepared for them.
Also, I'm content to say "no" to certain items because I know that will free up money for other items I might encounter as I shop.
For example, if I skip the almost $4 hummus- but later I see that holiday coffee creamer is on sale for around $2, I'll pick that up instead.
Just remember to do this in moderation. You don't want to spend $20 extra just because you said "no" to one or two items.
Using this method, I have been able to build everything from potted mums to wrapping paper to holiday decorations into our grocery budget.
I know it sounds like a lot of work up front, but you really will catch your stride. I usually spend about 2 full minutes tucked away by the dairy aisle- checking over everything. Once you start to see the savings AND see how much time it saves you, it really will motivate you to stick with it.
If you want a copy of my chart/list that you can edit yourself, I can email you an attachment and you can re-type your own aisles and categories in.
What do you think of the list? Did I miss anything? How are you going to make it work for you and your family/budget?
Love and one dollar avocados,