This is an area in which I hope to make vast improvements in 2006: my eating, cooking and food shopping habits. At the end of the year, I’ll evaluate how much money I’ve spent on food this year. I already have a good idea of the amount based on my latest income statement (dining plus groceries) and it doesn’t make me happy.
Luckilly, this article from Money Magazine appeared right on time. The article instructs the reader to shave $150 a week off the grocery bill. Here are some obervations from the article and my thoughts:
Today’s meal planning goes more like this: It’s 4 p.m. and you haven’t thought about what’s for dinner. You dream up something easy — baked ziti! — and run out for ingredients, forgetting that in the back of your Sub-Zero is a block of the same cheese you just bought, right next to last week’s leftover ziti.
No Sub-Zero for me and no time to cook ziti, but the description is similar to my lifestyle. I go grocery shopping about once a month. Sometimes I’ll buy a few pieces of fruit, but mostly it’s meat, pasta, and microwaveable meals. I trick myself into feeling good about the shopping experience buy using my loyalty card and saving about $10 off each receipt.
Here’s the advice the article offers:
Be picky. Evaluate the price differences between the “regular” version of the food item and the “prepared” version. I buy raw chicken breasts but I also buy processed chicken nuggets. I should stick with the breasts, it’s much more economical. Unfortunately, I’ll have to cook the chicken rather than just using the microwave or the oven to warm the nuggets to eating temperature.
Use what you have. I have dried pasta in the house, but for some reason, I keep buying frozen pasta. I think it’s a habit or nervous tick as I walk through the frozen aisle in the supermarket.
Make lists. I make shopping lists, but I don’t think them through thoroughly. I should plan out my dinners each day and list the ingredients needed. The method I use now involves a list of my regular items but I find I “improvise” once I’m pushing the cart around.
Shop online. The only time I purchased groceries online for delivery was when I was sick for several days and was not feeling up to leaving the house. I’m not a fan of delivery fees and there’s a grocery store nearby, so I usually have no problem getting myself to the store.
Make a game of it. This is the first I’ve heard this advice. Apparently The Grocery Game finds the lowest prices and provides manufacturer’s coupons to use in your local grocery store. You have to pay $10 to participate in this “game” for eight weeks, but the website offers a $1 trial subscription and other ways to earn free participation time.
Cutting my food expenses back will improve my financial situation greatly. My attempt in May to begin bringing in my lunch to work every day to save money was a short-lived experiment, so I need to motivate myself to do this properly.
This was also blogged about today by Blueprint for Financial Prosperity!
Updated February 7, 2012 and originally published December 21, 2005.