I spent a couple hours this morning doing my every-other-week grocery shopping trip. I used to go grocery shopping every week, but I have found that by doing it less, I don't spend as much. I'm not sure if it's because I don't buy as much extras, or if it's because I try harder to make things last longer, or because most things are sold in larger amounts than we use in one week, or what, but since it seems to be working, I keep doing it - plus it saves on gas, which around here is pretty important. The only drawback to this is that sometimes on my non-shopping week, there are some good sales that I miss out on. If it's a really good sale, though, like last week's oats, I might go get some anyway. Of course, by then, I've usually spent all my food money for the period, so, like I did last week, I have to take some money from somewhere else, and then I just replace it when I get the next period's food money.
For the last month, I've been trying really hard to lower our food budget even more than I already have. Until now, we've spent $200 a month on food, which is pretty good, but this month I tried doing it for $175. Since I get my food money twice a month, I have about $87 dollars to spend each time. So far, I've been able to do it. My one concern about lowering my food budget was that I wouldn't be able to take advantage of really good sales and stock up like I've been able to do. But since I was able to buy a bunch of oats last week, and it all ended up coming out of my food money, I'm more convinced now that I'll be able to stick to $175 a month. That will allow an extra $25 a month to go into savings! And like they say, every little bit helps!
One thing I do that has really helped me stick to my budget in food, as well as other areas like gas and entertainment, is that I use cash. This isn't a new idea, but it really works for me! In this "easy money" world of debit and credit cards, it helps me keep track of how much I'm spending and gives me a stopping point. It's so easy to swipe a debit card, and you forget how quickly even little purchases add up, which makes it easy to spend more than you want without realizing it. By putting my allotted amount into an envelope, I easily can see how much of my budget I'm using in any single transaction, and I know that when the money's gone, it's gone.
One other way to save a little extra money that I've found to be really easy is by saving change in a jar. I almost never use change at a store. Whenever I get change back, it goes straight into a jar. I have never missed it, and it's amazing to see how fast it adds up! Every few months, I roll up the coins and take them to the bank. I always have a nice little chunk that I either put into my special savings, or that I use to buy something that we needed. It's a nice way to save up for something special without feeling like you're taking money away from something else.