When it comes to saving on everything from groceries to home decor, it helps to be a proactive shopper. That means knowing what you need before you need it and buying when prices are rock bottom, rather than when you run out of something and have to buy it at full price. If you’re using a Price Book , you’re already in the mode of being a proactive grocery shopper. Take that same principle a couple steps further as well as learn new ways to be proactive in other areas of your budget.
Create a Master Meals List
Take your price book one step further by creating a list of the ten frugal meals your family eats most often. Write down all the ingredients necessary to make those dishes from start to finish. Don’t forget anything – if you make garlic bread to go with spaghetti dinners also include the bread, butter, garlic, etc. Come up with a master list of all ingredients. These are the items you should focus on when creating your Price Book.
Your master meals list will also give you insight as to how much meals actually cost when you’re making them at home. This list will allow you to analyze the cost of what you’re making to see if you’re making smart choices. Sometimes certain meals (especially casseroles and one-pot meals with many ingredients) are more expensive than you think. A simple meal of broiled fish and a steamed vegetable often costs less than a casserole made with canned soup, cheese, and pasta and other ingredients. Also, pay close attention to the meals you make that require you to buy more of an ingredient than you need. For example, when you make a roast or a stew do you often have leftover celery, carrots, or other veggies? Do they often go to waste or do you incorporate the extras in your menu plan?
Once you’ve completed your master meals list, you’ll want to keep close tabs on the prices of those items for the next several months so you can spot pricing trends. Grocery sale prices hit rock bottom every 12 weeks on non-perishables, and that’s the time you’ll want to stock up. Certain things like fresh produce often hit rock bottom once a year when they’re in season and can be more difficult to stockpile, but it still helps to monitor their prices as well. In some cases you’ll still be able to stockpile them if you can freeze, can or preserve them in some other way.
Create a Master Pantry List
Now that you have a master list of ten standby meals and the ingredients required to make them, you have a great start to your master pantry list. Now, add all the things you need for day-to-day cooking – basics such as milk, flour, eggs, sugar, onions, garlic, etc. Once you’ve added them, you have a master pantry list.
Organize your master pantry list by grocery store department (produce, canned goods, dairy, etc). Then, print out the list and keep it posted in your pantry. Write down the number of boxes/cans you have on hand and take special note when your supply is diminishing. When you take something out of your pantry, adjust your list accordingly. This will also help you see what you have on hand at a glance instead of rummaging through the shelves, making it easier to keep your pantry organized.
Most of us have lots of people on our gift list throughout the year, but it’s something that we often fail to plan ahead and budget for. Keeping a master list of every gift you need to buy throughout the year: not just holidays and birthdays, but teacher appreciation gifts, and other holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, and so on can help you save money as well as stay organized. Write down everyone you need to buy for and when you find a great deal, snap it up and check that person and occasion off your list – no matter what time of year it is. It really helps to have it in spreadsheet form at a gift-giving spreadsheet on your computer. That way, you can also track how much you’ve budgeted as well as how much you’ve spent from year to year. Keep your “gift stash” in one place so that when you need to find the gift you know where it is. You may also want to keep a few generic gifts for baby showers, housewarming parties, and other unexpected occasions.
Kids’ Clothing List
A key to saving money on kids’ clothing is to shop the end of season sales for the following year. The problem with this is that moms often just shop randomly instead of really determining what they’ll need. Consequently, they often overbuy certain things and underbuy others. It’s a good idea to keep a short checklist of what your kids go through in a given season. Your inventory might look like this: Three pairs of jeans, two pairs of dress pants, two sweatshirts, five t-shirts, underwear, socks, tennis shoes, dress shoes, coat, etc. Then, when you see those end-of-season sales, you’ll be able to buy what you truly need and skip the things you don’t.
Ongoing Wish List
This is one that I keep for items I’d like but really don’t need. My list usually looks something like this: pair of brown leather boots, wall décor for living room, sheets for queen bed, etc. I keep my eyes peeled for sales, but realize that I won’t buy these things unless I find the right item at the right price. I know I need to replace the sheets on our bed soon, but I can wait for a 50-75% off sale. I also keep my list handy in my household notebook just in case anyone asks me what’s on my wish list for birthdays and Christmas.