Start with an inventory of your cupboards and pantry.
Take a notepad and write general headings such as “canned goods, meats, frozen foods, and dairy products. Jot down the names of items and how many of each you have on the shelves.
Plan your menus for the week using only the foods you have in your house.
Pretend that there is no way for you to get to the store until payday. I bet you would be surprised to discover that you can usually gather up supplies for several meals. Try to create enough simple meals to last until the following payday, even if you have to eat the same thing several times.
Now assess your basic needs.
You’ll find there are some meals you could make if you only had this or that item. Begin a “needs” list and add these things to it. Also list other must-have items; the things you cannot do without until next payday, like milk, formula, bread, etc. Be sure to include as needs only those items necessary to nutritiously feed your family and don’t forget nonfood items. When your list of needs is complete, estimate the cost of each item and add the prices together for an estimated total.
Okay, it’s payday. Here’s what you will do.
Write down the amount of your paycheck. Subtract all of your bills and other obligations, like rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, bus fare, car payments, etc. Also, deduct the out-of-the-ordinary but necessary expenses for this pay period, like birthday presents, school pictures, haircuts, etc. When all these fixed expenses are subtracted, what remains is your grocery budget.. (Stop crying and keep reading.)
Take the estimated total from your assessment chart and subtract your grocery budget. The remaining amount is what you can spend on adding to your food storage. Don’t be discouraged if this amount is small. Even a few dollars will get you started. If your finances are so tight that having an amount left over each payday seems impossible, consider this option: Set aside an amount, however small, from each paycheck as if it were another bill. Use this amount as your food storage amount. If this amount is too small to even buy anything, save it up until the amount is larger.
So now you have added a few items to your food storage and it’s payday again.
For the next paycheck (and all paychecks from this point forward), follow the formula you used on the first payday. If you are careful in planning and preparing your menus, you may notice an increase in your food storage amount each payday. But don’t be discouraged if it’s nothing or really small; sometimes it takes several pay periods before you see progress.
Save money on groceries.
To save money on groceries every time you shop, you have to know what a “good” price is. Take a few hours and price-shop a couple of grocery stores. Take a copy of your “needs” list, add items to it that are perishables you buy often, and write down the store prices next to each item. Write only the “normal” prices. Knowing the “normal” prices will help you to know when an item is a good buy and/or on sale.
To consistently save money on your groceries, even the perishables, follow these two rules:
- Buy only when the price is right;
- Stock up as much as possible, using a specific list of items and dollar amounts.
Eventually your pantry should contain enough varieties of foods (including perishables, fresh or frozen) in sufficient amounts that you could survive several weeks with well-balanced meals without going to the store. This should include nonfood items as well.
As you work with your new meal planning and shopping skills each pay period, your pantry will grow fuller and fuller. Now don’t you just feel more in control and prepared?
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