One of my biggest budget busters is those last minute runs to the store. Today I made a lunchtime run to the big box ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ grocery store near my office for a certain number of essentials: diapers, cat litter, cat food, light bulbs and toilet paper. You can imagine how uncomfortable life would have been at our house otherwise…
I try really hard to stick to a regular shopping schedule, but despite my many attempts at finding the perfect combination of shopping times, preferred stores and preplanned vs impulse buys, I’m still far from having it all down pat. Things have changed too much over the past year or two (new house, new job, children’s schedules) for me to be able to find the perfect, workable solution and stick to it.
What do I do that works?
Well first of all, I try to make sure that I have dedicated areas for different supplies so that I can tell more or less at a glance when I need to buy more of something. This is one of those times that being organized really pays off, frugality wise. Three bottles of milk in the cupboard? Check. An extra roll of garbage bags in the drawer? All set. One of the failures of this system, however, is due to that all too common factor called the existence of a husband human error. Case in point: my husband changed the litter box the other day (good man!) and thoughtfully left some litter still in the bag, for the next time. The thing is, however, he only left a spoonful or two… yet I had seen the bag in its place and assumed we still had enough so that I didn’t need to buy more. He ended up making an emergency run to the grocery store that evening!
Another thing I do that seems to work well for me is to combine a variety of stores according to the coupons they accept, their ‘discount’ days and the kind of prices they have in general. I order heavy things and refrigerated items from the store that delivers. This way I can do my shopping at 11pm in my pajamas and have it delivered Saturday morning (again while I’m in my pajamas. Scary thought: if I could go to my neighborhood store in my pajamas, would I?). I buy things that the on-line store doesn’t carry from either the big box store near my office or my house, but only when I can use a coupon or my discount store. And then a lot of stuff I buy at the neighborhood discount store, which has surprisingly good deals on fresh fruit and veggies as well as dairy products.
The biggest thing that helps in not running out (both of and for food) is a certain, let’s call it, flexibility in how I cook. I often start out a recipe with just one ingredient, and add to it as I go along. This way, if I use mostly sour cream instead of mayonnaise, or maybe bulgar instead of rice, it doesn’t really matter. Of course it also means that I can’t really reproduce the same meal twice, but hey, eating’s supposed to be an adventure! Isn’t it?
How do you manage to not run out, both of and for groceries?