I don't think I've ever gone into detail about my grocery budget. (So what if Financial Literacy Month is over?)
A few years ago, I started an excel spreadsheet that is now almost 1000 rows long of each item I buy, quantity, and cost per.
I menu plan first. And I almost exclusively cook in the slow cooker. I've accrued quite a few recipes through blogs, websites and books. Then I heard that emeals was now offering a slow cooker option, so I re-joined. (No, no referral fee or anything. I know, I'm so bad at trying to monetize this blog!)
I keep my grocery list in a note on my phone so that I can add things
during the week as we run out.
On Thursday or Friday, I put together my menu for the coming week and finalize my grocery list. Then I go to my grocery budget spreadsheet.
It has been built one grocery trip at a time. It started with estimates of how much each item cost. Now, I take each receipt and update the spreadsheet with the actual amount spent for each item. Here in CA, we're not taxed on food items, but I do buy more than just food, so I go ahead and multiply the sub-total by the tax rate to come up with a total. I try to use coupons, but I don't always remember to do so, so I do not deduct any coupons from that total. Of course, if the total is over my budgeted amount, then I have to re-think my planned meals or forego a desired, but not needed, product or two.
8 out of 10 times, by putting together my list this way, I spend less than I have budgeted for my groceries. This week was one of those weeks where I went over. By seven bucks. Oh, well. It happens. I subtracted the overage from my "Miscellaneous" line item on my budget.
Previously, I've tried to keep track of my spending while shopping, but that's not nearly as reliable or efficient.
I also only shop once a week. If I forget something, then that recipe will just have to wait until next week. (Though, admittedly, it's not necessarily out of principle; it's more lack of willpower.) I usually have spaghetti or other easy items on hand to make do.
Every so often, I will make a trip to Costco to stock up. I also have a Costco shopping list tab in my grocery budget, but I do not dare rely on that alone. On Costco trips, we keep the calculator tool open on the phone so we can add as we go. I also compare and have found on some items, it is cheaper to buy at the grocery store than Costco so I know which items to leave off the Costco list. I'm proud to say, I have actually left Costco for less than $100.
I am absolutely dreadful at actually using left-overs, so I could still do better when it comes to saving money on groceries. And I wanted to kick myself when I came across a book of coupons from my grocery store that had already expired before I opened them. Still, I do have to balance my free time with saving money. Overall, this method is working for us.