Earlier this fall, I posted about a goal I set to save money on groceries. I had become very discontented with the amount of money that we seemed to drop every week at the market and wanted to do something drastic. I decided to try to cut my grocery costs in half from Halloween until New Year’s. Over time I’d noticed that I seemed to spend within a range of $A and $B, so I set a goal of keeping my grocery costs between half $A and half $B for the rest of the year, in hopes of starting some new thrifty habits that would last me into 2012.
So how’d I do? Not bad! With only a couple of exceptions, I managed to stay within the budget I had set for myself. Even the weeks that I went over-budget, I still spent less than I otherwise might have. The weeks I fell short of my goal? Hubby’s birthday week (the dinner I prepared for him involved an expensive ingredient, but it was worth it to make him so happy); one random week that I can’t really explain, except to say that we were low on a lot of staples that week; and the week leading up to New Year’s, when I was preparing to host guests. Those “over-budget” weeks balanced out with a number of weeks that I came in well under-budget, and a few weeks that I didn’t buy anything at all because we were traveling. So, overall, I’m calling the experiment a success.
Here’s what I did well: I was generally very good at sticking to my list and saying “no” to treats. I managed to save a lot by making my own hummus – we eat a lot of it in this house and it’s significantly cheaper for me to buy the chickpeas (I always have tahini and lemons on hand) than it is to buy prepared hummus. I was particularly proud that I managed to rein myself in when it came to produce – we even ran out of fruit and salad greens at the end of the week a couple of times – that’s a good thing; it meant we didn’t throw anything away! I also did a good job of checking the crisper drawers on market days to see how much produce I had left over from the previous week and making recipes that used those items first.
Here’s what I can still improve on: I didn’t always make my own hummus from scratch; there were weeks when I caved to the convenience of having hummus already made for me. And while I clipped coupons a few times – and noticed some real savings when I did – I went without coupons for the majority of weeks. I will definitely try to improve upon that in 2012 and hope to see more grocery savings as I do better at creating a habit of using coupons. (Again, and as I mentioned in my post setting the challenge, I only use coupons on items that I buy anyway – like Greek yogurt, legumes and low-sodium veggie broth. While I may stock up on lentils when I don’t really need them because I have a coupon, they keep and we eat them. I don’t use coupons as an excuse to buy chips – that’s not saving money or calories.)
So, overall, I’m happy with the results of my thrifty challenge and am planning to continue mindful marketing in 2012, in the hopes of saving even more money! Stay tuned next week for some tips on saving money at the grocery store, based on my experiences of the past three months.