As I mentioned in my last article, I experimented with paying cash only for my October groceries. I had only one goal in mind: Spend less on groceries so I could save more money each month. Well, my little experiment opened a whole can of worms.
Basically, I always try to keep my grocery spending in check, but I usually don't limit quantity or variety of food based on the budget. With that in mind, I think it is important how I picked my budget of $500. I didn't look at my past spending. I didn't do any research to see what a normal amount is for a family of five. Nope, $500 just sounded good. And it sounded easy enough to stay under budget. I wanted it to be a challenge, but I didn't want it to be too difficult, either. Also, the $500 was for any food, whether I bought it at a restaurant or intended to eat it at home. We also raised some chickens and I even included their -- how do I say this? -- "processing" costs in with our $500. The experiment didn't end the way I expected. I failed. I spent around $600 -- and I really tried hard to keep my spending in check.
What I learned and what I changed
Since my husband is a farmer, October is a really busy month for us. Knowing that I would usually be juggling all the kids, kitchen clean-up, and the bedtime routine by myself made me jump on the meal-planning bandwagon again. As always, meal-planning helps me save money because I waste less. For the first two weeks of the month, I kept to my normal spending habits, except for one thing: We didn't eat out at all. Even though I did look at prices, bought store brands, checked different sized packages for the best per-unit value, I was aware of what I spent, but I didn't change what I would normally buy. Around the two-week mark, the chickens were "processed" at over $50 more than I had estimated. Also, butter jumped to $4.49 per pound. It is usually priced at around $3 per pound, and we eat a lot of butter. My grocery envelope got thinner, and I got a little panicky.