Back in January, I shared here that I was taking a grocery budget course (affiliate link). I finished up the course a few weeks ago, and I’m back to say I loved it!! It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it.
The course includes 13 lessons, covering topics like meal planning, creating a price book, comparing grocery stores, avoiding food waste, and a number of other helpful topics which you can check out here.
In our home, Ben has always done the grocery shopping, partly because he can do it after work and save me an extra trip into the city, and partly because he is so much better at it! He can remember prices, knows when stuff is on sale, and can figure out the best deal much quicker than I can. Also, I am allergic to Superstore – for real. I walk in there, and immediately, my nose runs, my eyes water, and my head gets so fuzzy I can’t even think straight. I don’t make wise decisions under those conditions, so it works out great to have Ben be the designated shopper.
This made a grocery budget course interesting, because I was the one taking it, but he’s the one shopping! So we ended up talking about stuff a lot, and we also started doing a lot of our grocery shopping online, which is absolutely wonderful! Superstore has a “Click and Collect” site so you can place your order the night before, and pick it up the next day. It’s very convenient, and it’s also allowed us to spend more time talking about what are the best purchases – Ben shares all his shopping secrets with me, and I share everything I’ve learned from the Grocery Budget Bootcamp.
The first month, we saved $50 on groceries, and the second month, we saved $70. I was secretly hoping for more dramatic savings, but the interesting thing I learned was that we were already doing pretty good before taking the course. Part of the course includes calculating what would be a reasonable budget, taking into consideration where you live, what stores are available to you, how many people are in your family, and what kinds of food allergies you’re dealing with. According the the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, our family “should” be spending $1140 on groceries per month! We were averaging $720, so our savings didn’t end up being as extreme as some of the other people I was doing the course with, because we’re already saving a lot. Also, shopping in the states sounds crazy!! We just do not get the same kind of deals.
But Ben and I worked really hard, and it was great to get our budget down a little. I’m also pretty confident that as we get better at the shopping strategies we learned, our budget will go down even further.
The biggest game changer for us was tracking prices for food items in different stores. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal that butter is a dollar more expensive at Superstore than Costco, but multiply that by four for the month, and by 12 for the year, and suddenly you’re looking at saving $48 over the year. I would love it if somebody handed me $48. So we’re making sure to only buy butter at Costco. We have our list of what’s better to buy at Costco, and what is cheaper at Superstore, and are trying to do one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month so that Ben only needs to grab a bit of fresh produce each week. We are tracking prices on Google Docs so both of us can access the list from our phones while shopping.
Ben made an interesting observation – I asked him why he thought the course was worth taking, and he said it made us much more intentional about our choices, which flowed over into other areas of our budget as well. This speaks to how versatile the course is – I was worried it wouldn’t be applicable to our specific situation with food allergies, but the Grocery Budget Bootcamp is all about studying the way you shop, and doing it more intentionally, no matter what you’re buying. I’ve read countless resources on grocery budget tips, and often they involve the hassle of coupons, and buying cheap, convenience foods that we can’t eat at our house. I didn’t want another course telling me to stockpile granola bars and canned soup. We buy our food in it’s original form, which makes it expensive, because how often does fresh produce go on sale?? Well, more often than I thought, it turns out! My favorite day of the week is now Thursday, because all the new grocery flyers come out, and it’s a treasure hunt to find the items we buy regularly at the best price possible. This course is all about shopping smarter, avoiding waste, and being a good steward of your money and your food.
It’s a lot of work to save money on groceries, but I keep thinking about my two favorite pieces of wise financial advice I’ve heard over the years. The first came from Ben’s dad – he said, “If you are having trouble living within your means, you have two choices: make more money, or spend less.” It’s pretty straight forward, but it was something we needed to hear when we were first married. It’s related to the second piece of advice: “It’s better to put your energy into spending what you make wisely, than to use your energy trying to make more money.” One leads to greater contentment, self-discipline, and intention, while the other leads to a constant desire for more. I think about this often as I try to change my mindset about what it means to manage our home wisely and within our budget. I never want to take it for granted that Ben can earn a good pay cheque, and I get to stay home with our sweet kids. That privilege comes with the responsibility of being smart with our money.
I’m so looking forward to improving my ability to budget and shop better, and make wise choices which will benefit us for many years to come.
If you’re interested in learning more about Grocery Budget Bootcamp, you can check it out right here. The deadline for registering is tomorrow, so jump on it while you can! And then email me to tell me what you’re learning – discussing grocery shopping strategies has become one of my favorite things!:)