How To Stay On Budget When You Shop

stay on budget

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LEARN WHAT TO DO TO SAVE MONEY WHILE SHOPPING

STICK TO YOUR LIST

Sticking to your list should be a no-brainer!

We all know how “unauthorized” purchases can blow your budget.

Avoid temptations.

Be strong and stick to your list.

No “unauthorized” purchases (anything NOT on your list)!

If you want to make sure you stick to your list and budget, try paying with cash.

Leave the debit and credit cards at home!

TRACK YOUR SPENDING AS YOU SHOP

Along with your list, coupons and sales fliers, you should always take your calculator and a pen with you.

As you’re shopping, be sure to jot down the actual amount of each item you put into your cart.

Yes, this means you must weigh your fresh produce and calculate its cost.

I know, you think that’s too much trouble.

But, it’s not.

Anything you can do to improve your cash flow is an investment in your family’s future.

You know the old saying, a penny saved is a penny earned!

Tracking each item gives you the opportunity to make adjustments on the spot to keep you on budget.

For example, your grocery list shows you estimate spending $1.50 (.75 cent a pound) for 2 pounds of red onions.

And when you get to the store, you find red onions are $1.19 a pound.

To stay on budget, you have three choices.

You can buy less of the red onions, do without red onions, or substitute another less expensive onion.

As you can see, tracking each item as you go along, gives you the tools you need to stay on budget. No more surprises at the register!

ALWAYS CALCULATE PER UNIT COST OF EVERYTHING

When deciding which brand to purchase, calculate the per unit cost before making a decision.

If you have a coupon for a specific brand, be sure to include it.

Here’s an example: Brand A of peas cost .75 cents for a 15-ounce can while Brand B’s can of peas costs .98 cents for a 14.5-ounce can.

To calculate the cost per ounce, you use the formula Price/Ounces = Cost Per Ounce.

We can see the cost per ounce of Can A is  .75/15 = 0.05 or 5 cents per ounce.

The cost per ounce of Can B is .98/14.5 = 0.0675862…..  or 6.76 cents per ounce (rounded).

Clearly, Can A of peas is cheaper by 0.0176 or 1.76 cents per ounce.

Let’s say you have a .35 cent coupon for Can B.

To calculate the price of Can B with a coupon, the formula is Sales Price-Coupon = Price/Ounces =Cost Per Ounces.

Here is an example: .98 – .35 = .63/14.5 = 0.04344 or 0.044 or 4.4 cents per ounce.

As you can see, without a coupon Can A is the better buy but with a Coupon of .35 cents, Can B is the best buy.

Be sure to calculate the per-unit cost before deciding on the best buy.

If you are calculating the cost of something with an individual count like eggs, use the number of eggs instead of ounces.

Also, don’t trust the per-unit price tags displayed on store shelves.

Grocery stores are not your friend.

They are in business to make money.

Some use sneaky tactics.

Don’t be fooled.

Compare the per-unit costs of items before you purchase.

Pay particular attention to “family size” items and “items” bulked together like macaroni and cheese.

FORGET BRAND LOYALTY

Forgetting brand loyalty can save you bundles at the store.

Opt for the item with the lowest per-unit cost.

If there are specific items you won’t compromise on, be sure to stock up when your favorite brand is on sale.

And for more significant savings, combine the sale with a coupon.

BE PREPARED TO SUBSTITUTE OR DO WITHOUT AN ITEM TO STAY ON BUDGET

For the most significant savings, be ready to substitute a less expensive item for a more expensive one.

For example, if you’re planning on buying ground beef for taco night and it’s $4.39 a pound, but ground turkey is on sale for $2.99 a pound, grab the turkey.

If you’re at the store and noticed prices on most items are a little higher than you thought, be prepared to do without an item or two.

The first items you should do without are things like sodas, chips, convenience items, etc.

Maybe you decide to use a cheaper type of nut in a dish or choose to do without that expensive new spice.

Remember, substituting or doing without an item will help you stretch your dollar at the store.

LOOK HIGH AND LOW ON THE SHELVES

When deciding on an item to purchase, be sure to look on the upper and lower shelves.

That’s usually where the best savings are.

Don’t forget to calculate the cost per unit on each item you buy.

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT FROZEN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES FOR SAVINGS

Depending on the recipe, you may be able to use frozen fruits and vegetables instead of fresh.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak freshness which helps preserve their nutritional value.

Be sure to check out the frozen section if frozen is a viable option for you.

Don’t forget to calculate the cost per ounce.

Remember, 1 pound is 16 ounces.

And then compare the price to the fresh produce.

ALWAYS WEIGHT BULK BAGS OF PRODUCE BEFORE PURCHASING

When it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, only buy what you’ll need.

Throwing away produce is like throwing money in the trash

But if you need 3 pounds of apples and decide to buy a 3-pound bulk bag with a set price, don’t forget to weigh several bags before purchasing.

It’s not uncommon for the actual weight to vary by as much as 6 ounces to 8 ounces.

You want to be sure to buy a bag with at least 3 pounds if not more.

Some stores don’t have scales in the produce section forcing you to take their word that there are actually 2 pounds of Apples in that 2-pound bag.

I have a problem with this but that is a rant for another time!

I have often found that the weight of the actual product is less than the stated value.

How do I know this?

Because I would come home and weight it on my scales.

Yes, I did that. Just to prove I was right! 🙂

Then, I got smart and began carrying an inexpensive portable scale.

If you want to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth, you may want to consider purchasing an inexpensive portable scale similar to this one.

You can set the scale in the corner of your cart and use the sides of the cart to stabilize bags of produce for weighing or you may consider a hand-held hanging fish scale like this one.

Before you purchase a portable or hand-held scale, consider the size and the items you usually buy in bulk and choose one that will work for you.

If you’re looking for a workhorse of a scale for home, this one by Oxo is by far my favorite.

And it’s definitely worth the investment.

I’ve had mine for years and it still works like a champ.

Did I mention that I LOVE all things OXO?D

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THE BULK BIN SECTION

Many stores have bulk bins for grains, nuts, and dried fruit.

Don’t forget to compare the cost per ounce from the bins to prepackaged items on the shelves.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF DRIED BEANS

Dried beans are often cheaper than canned.

They last a long time and are a great addition to your emergency stockpile.

If you have time to cook dried beans, you should consider purchasing dried over canned.

If not, be sure to compare the cost per ounce before you select your canned brand.

ALWAYS CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATES

Don’t forget to check the expiration dates on every item you purchase.

Be sure you will be able to use the item by the expiration date.

Don’t be afraid to dig around on the shelves to find a later date.

ALWAYS INSPECT PACKAGING BEFORE PURCHASING

Always inspect canned items for dents, especially around the seams.

Don’t buy any damaged cans.

Also, be sure all boxed or bagged items are intact and not torn or open in any way.

ALWAYS GET YOUR RAIN CHECKS BEFORE YOU CHECK OUT

If your store is out of an item that is on sale, be sure to ask for a raincheck at the Customer Service Desk.

A raincheck is a slip of paper allowing you to purchase the item at the sales price within a certain amount of time, often within 30 days. 

It’ll list the item, sales price, and the quantity you are allowed to purchase.

Be sure to get your rainchecks before you check out.

Too many times, I’ve forgotten to stop by the Customer Service desk after checking out and had to walk back into the store.

Trust me, make an effort to get your rainchecks before you check out.

It’ll save you some time and frustration!

ALWAYS HELP OUT THE CASHIER

It’s best to make a cashier’s job easier.

By doing so, you also ensure everything rings up correctly, and no coupons are forgotten.

As a bonus, you’ll get out of there quicker.

You should hand the cashier all your coupons and reward cards (if applicable) before they start ringing you up.

Be sure to hand the cashier any rainchecks and coupons where they must enter the price (for example, coupons for a free item) separately.

And make sure you have those items grouped and ready to be rung up first. Doing this makes things easier for everyone.

Pay attention when the cashier is ringing up items.

Be sure they don’t scan an item twice and that all your coupons scan properly.

When the cashier gives you your total, it should equal yours.

If it doesn’t, make sure the difference is something like taxes you didn’t account for.

If there is a discrepancy, take a few minutes and compare your receipt and list to find the problem.

Once found, you can go to Customer Service or the cashier to correct any errors before leaving the store.

STAYING ON BUDGET DOES MORE THAN HELP YOU MAINTAIN A COST-EFFECTIVE KITCHEN

Like I’ve said before, eight out of ten families live paycheck to paycheck.

I’ve been there. It sucks!

It’s scary, especially when you have little mouths to feed!

If you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck, you must get your finances in order.

I believe getting your family’s food budget under control is a great place to start.

And you do that by maintaining a cost-effective kitchen.

One aspect of maintaining a cost-effective kitchen is to set a budget and stick to it.

And then, focus on buying the best food you can within that set budget amount.

Time and effort spent staying on budget will be worth it in the long run!

Don’t let this scare you.

Yes, it requires time and effort.

But, it’s really easy once you get the hang of it.

I assure you, putting in the effort to get your family’s food budget under control will only help your family.

Remember, if all this seems overwhelming and stressful, take it slow.

Try to implement one small change at a time.

Practice progress, not perfection. Happy Shopping!

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