When I look at how to reach FIRE, I see 2 ways to get there. Make more money or control your expenditures. Most people try to do the former, but you have to realize we’re limited by our time and/or our energy. There are a ton of side hustles out there that can bring you in extra income, but I’ll save that for another post. Today, I’m going to focus on how to control your spending. Some people view setting a budget and controlling what you spend as restrictive. I view budget setting as more liberating. The reason I say this, is because if I know how much I’ve budgeted to spend, then I don’t feel guilty when I spend it.
In this post I’m going to dig into the area of grocery shopping. This is one of those areas that every person has to do, but many people dread. I sometimes get crazy looks from people when I tell them that I have a grocery budget of $40/week/person. Many ask how I do it. So here’s how:
Shop from a list
I know many people who go into a grocery store walk up and down every aisle and just pick out things they like. What many people don’t realize is that this leads to impulsive buying of things you really don’t need, at full price. By shopping off a list, it keeps you focused on getting what you need. And the nice thing about a list is that you control what goes on the list. So if you want something, just add it to the list. I’m not saying you can’t treat yourself to cravings, just plan for them. Another benefit of shopping off a list is that you’ll be able to get in and out of a grocery store quickly. There is no need to go down aisles that don’t have things on your list.
Review the Weekly Ads
Buying things on sale is the best way to save money. Grocery stores put things on sale every week to drive traffic to their stores. I usually look over the weekly ads every week and find things that I need or want and just add them to my list. Did you know that when grocery stores advertise a Buy One, Get One free, that you don’t need to buy 2 to get the 2nd one free. You can just buy one item and get it for 50% off. Thus you save on not having something you don’t need or have the space for. Many of the staples that people need are constantly on sale at least once a month, if not more.
Shop between multiple grocery stores
I live in the South and keep my shopping to Publix & Kroger. Rarely has there been a time, when one of those stores doesn’t have something I need on sale. And since they put their weekly ads out on Wednesdays, I can either buy something on Tuesday or Wednesday for when it will be on sale. Kroger even puts a preview of their weekly ad out on Tuesday, so you can see if something you need will be available the next day.
Invest in a deep freezer
I buy my meat on sale and then put it in my deep freezer. This allows me to buy in bulk and when I’m in the mood for something, I just grab it from my deep freezer and let it thaw. Today, you can buy deep freezers that are as big as a full size fridge or as small as a mini-fridge. And the cost of these deep freezers are under $150 and cost very little in electricity to run. When you can buy chicken breast for $1.99 a pound and ribeye steak for $6.99 a pound, you’re getting a good quality of meat for a very low price.
Buy store brands
For many of people they buy national brands for their meats and ingredients. But I don’t know if I could tell you the difference between a National brand flour or the store brand flour and the price for this name brand sure does add up. This also goes for meat. I feel that once you season and prepare your meat, the store brand tastes pretty much the same as the national brand. I know that a lot of people shop at Whole Foods, but for me, I just can’t justify the higher prices they charge for something I can barely tell the difference in.
Well there you go, this is my secret for living on $40/week/person. I track my spending and when I went to look over my grocery expenditures for the last 3 years, it averaged out to just over $2000 a year. I mostly take my lunch to work and cook my own dinners. I eat out on the weekend nights, but overall a vast majority of what I eat is what I cook myself. What’s your grocery budget for you & your family? Any tips or secrets out there they you can offer up to others. My point is that getting the most value for your dollar is just as important as making more money. It also means you’ll need to make less money to enjoy your FIRE lifestyle.