Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Virtual Classroom: Grocery Shopping 101

part 1 in a series.
If you've been to one of my grocery shopping classes this may sound familiar. That's because it is the presentation that I do there, with a few tweaks. Hopefully you'll find something new and useful.

Has your income been slashed? Do you have debt to pay off? Do you have six months of expenses in savings? What about an emergency food supply? Or, if you've already taken care of those, do you have something else you'd rather spend your money on than groceries?

There are a lot of reasons why people want to cut their grocery bill. For many families the grocery bill is the only piece of their budget that is not fixed. A phone bill is fixed, a mortgage or rent is fixed, so is a car payment, student loans, insurance payments, sewer, and garbage fees. They are the same every month=fixed.

The gas, electric and water are kinda fixed. You can lower them by turning off lights, using less water and turning the thermostat way down but in my experience a whole lot of money cannot be saved by doing it. I'd have to take drastic measures like installing new fixtures and appliances and insulation--not a quick fix. So, I consider the utilities fixed as well, they are pretty much the same every month no matter what I do, at least in the short run.

Groceries are not fixed, they are variable. The price of groceries changes all the time depending on sales, seasons, availability and more. Some other budget line items that are variable are clothes, entertainment, repairs and maintenance and gasoline. Clothes and entertainment vary because you generally don't NEED them you choose whether or not to shop and go out and spend. Repairs and maintenance vary because {hopefully} things don't break down every month. And gasoline varies because--well, it does {and I don't want to go into the why's and where's and who's of that one!} But of all these variable budget items groceries is the only one that you NEED and that you have control over when, where, how much, etc.

My reason for limiting my grocery budget is so I can go out on dates with my hubby. As stated in the previous paragraph dates and entertainment are not a necessity and were cut from my budget for a while. But we really enjoy spending time together and so found a way to pay for the dates by reducing the amount spent on groceries using sales and coupons.

So, before we go any further, figure out the reason why you should cut your grocery bill. It may help you to write it down but at least name it and remember it. Whether you are doing it to pay for the mortgage, pay off student loans or save up for something special having a careful grocery budget can help you achieve your goals.
Next up, Grocery Shopping 102: The Average American Grocery Budget vs. your average grocery budget. Through the rest of this series we'll move through shopping sales, using coupons, stockpiling, menu planning and everything you need to know to save money at the grocery store.

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