Month 1: Budget Busted

Here is a summary of our food cost for the first 4 weeks of the challenges.

Cost at stores/restaurants:$ 767.12

Used from Pantry, fridge & freezer: about $100

Purchased during these weeks still in Pantry, fridge & freezer: at least $120

Almost $80 over a monthly SNAP benefit. I really need to trim that down quite a bit. 😦

This includes $151.34 for eating out. Even though we didn’t pay for all of that, I have included the cost because we did eat it. I realize food stamp benefits doesn’t cover going to restaurants, but the cost to prepare something similar at home would be a great deal less and make the budget even more manageable. I also did this without coupons. Not because I don’t like coupons, in fact I used to clip coupons every week. I appreciate being able to save when possible and I did purchase things on sale this month. But there are a few reasons that I didn’t use coupons:

  • What I purchase has changed some this summer. Very little of the “real food” I purchase has coupons available.
  • I tend to buy store brands when a good one is available. Coupons are not easily found for store brands, except maybe for some that might print at the register when you are at that store or the store’s ad (usually found online). I also purchase more from bulk bins which are way cheaper than packaged. Similarly, they usually don’t come with coupons.
  • It is summer, the growing and harvesting season. Whether at markets, CSAs or other means, I am getting more food directly from farmers. In fact, our eggs, our meat, a good part of our produce, and some of our cheese and grains we get directly from the farmer. I have never had a coupon from a farmer (at least not yet 🙂 ), though some might offer a discount on a large purchase.
  • My time and health are just as valuable as the amount saved on a coupon. It is summertime and I am determined not to have a stressful summer. I did that last year with too many projects taking way too much of my time. It affected my health, my mood and the condition of my home for the following several months. In fact, I think I’m still trying to get my house fully recovered. I have just been busy doing other things so far. Please don’t think I’m up on a soap box here. I just have seen that some avenues of finding coupons will suck up your time quickly and I want to enjoy my family.

As I said though, I do appreciate saving a buck. It is in my blood and how I was raised. So, I did begin looking for coupons online, searching by the few national brands I do purchase. I found a few $1 for 1 item coupons in a short time. I won’t spend a lot of time doing this, but it will be worth a few minutes. I did this by doing a search with the product name followed by “coupon”. I tried looking at 3 coupon websites, but only 1 allowed me to do a search without signing up and it didn’t have anything for the  products I tried — Sunbutter, yogurt, orange juice, Izze and Cheerios. I know what days the various specials are posted for the stores I shop at and I will continue to look at the ads online to shop sales and for coupons that I will use. Also, I have learned that stores will give a case discount (5-10%). So, if I think we will eat/freeze 2 dozen mangoes before they go bad, great. If I think we will eat a dozen cans of tuna before the expiration date in 2 years or whatever, then that is worth it. Some stores will give you this discount even for sale items. Maybe we can bring the cost of our “real food” below SNAP benefits this month…

I believe a meal plan does indeed save money also, but I have not done well with that at all these last few weeks. I will work on that this month. Not knowing for certain what will be harvested and available, having some flexibility is also good. Finding ways to use even the smallest amount of leftovers saves as well. Hubby used to laugh at me for saving just a couple tablespoons of something. Ingenuity and recipes that can adjust to what you have on hand are great tools.

What other ways do you save when shopping for food?

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