Author Topic: All-cash budget for groceries?  (Read 3903 times)

WootWoot

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All-cash budget for groceries?
« on: October 20, 2016, 02:02:13 PM »
How many of you have tried an all-cash or envelope budget for groceries?

I'm shocked at what we've spent in the last couple of months. Just started using Mint and we're over the budget for October, with a week to go.

We use our debit card when we go shopping, and I'm wondering if this is adding to the problem.

I've actually been struggling with the "where does our food money go" situation for a long time. I don't understand how two people can spend so much. Granted, I am on a special diet, but...


ooeei

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2016, 02:11:04 PM »
For us the way to make it work was to limit each trip weekly.  Shoot for $50/trip or so.  If you have to go back mid week to get some ingredient, that's okay, but you probably will just make do. 

Throwing away food is obviously bad, but everyone knows that and most people do it anyway.  You have to make an effort to every once in awhile go "you know, we're going to clear out all the random shit in the fridge and have some strange meals for a few days."  If you have a week to go, don't buy food for a week.  Most people have way more than a week's worth of food in their house.  Those year old cans of beans, frozen vegetables or meat you'll eventually throw out for freezer burn, and all the rest of the crap you've got around can be used.  Rice goes with everything.

Tris Prior

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2016, 02:34:29 PM »
We've been doing this for a while. It helped us track our spending, but what we discovered is that for us, staying on food budget has two components: paying cash only AND shopping at cheaper stores.

Once we went cash-only, we realized that even though we didn't feel like we were being extravagant, overbuying, relying on packaged foods, etc., the cash was leaving the envelope WAY too fast, with not much to show for it. This inspired us to do more comparison shopping, at which point I realized that Aldi's prices were literally half what we were paying at the "normal" food stores.


GizmoTX

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2016, 02:42:51 PM »
We use the PlanToEat app. Meal planning is fast, easy, & fun from our recipes on file, & it then automatically builds a shopping list, so we only buy & use what we plan to need. You can quickly delete items from the list that you already have on hand, which saves money & food. PTE also dramatically reduces the time in the grocery store, since it organizes by category (produce, meat, etc), & the planning is already done. I have no association with PlanToEat but think it's brilliant. It is a subscription model, about $35 per year, less for subsequent gifts or you can get a referral credit. We gave a subscription to adult DS so he could have access to our recipes & take advantage of the meal planning & shopping list features. There's a free month's trial that you should do to see if it works for you.

Zikoris

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2016, 02:46:50 PM »
I'm not sure it would have any benefit over just making a grocery budget and sticking to it. Maybe it's psychological for some people?

What I'd definitely recommend doing is to keep all your grocery receipts for a month and categorize it all out. That gives you the best baseline to work from. I do it every year in March and it's always a good exercise.

Lis

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2016, 03:10:30 PM »
I seem to be the odd one out - if I have cash in my wallet, I'll spend it without thinking. I'm better off using plastic. It defies logic.

1: What is your food waste? What are you throwing out? Do you make big meals and don't finish them? Are you buying produce and not using it before it goes bad? Figure this out and adjust accordingly (make smaller meals, either force yourself to eat those veggies or just don't buy them, etc.).

2: Keep track of everything you buy and at what price (most importantly, price per unit). When I was trying to get my food budget under control, I kept track of everything on an excel spread sheet. I bought 1lb of chicken for this. I bought two boxes of triscuits for that. First, it helped me figure out when I was actually getting a good deal on something (versus the store telling me it's a great deal). Second, when I was typing out everything I bought, it made me stop and think - did I really need that? I don't do this anymore, but it helped me set up good habits.

3: Stock up during sales. This might screw your budget up for a short while (I bought a ton of meat on sale in September, so my budget was whack, but I've hardly had to buy meat since). Pantry goods are another that I stock up on during sales.

4: What about your dietary needs is making you spend more? (Not a question you need to answer here, but be aware of it.) With better preplanning, is the cost something you can control?

5: Meal plan. There are a lot of great apps out there, but I just use Google Calendar (I use it for my day to day stuff anyway). I have a second calendar called "Meals" that overlaps with my regular calendar. If I'm good (and I'm not always), I'll try to figure out Saturday what I'm doing for the next week, or at the very least Monday/Tuesday, which are my busy days.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2016, 03:25:28 PM »
My sister and her husband have done it for years but I think part of the reason was that my BIL, who is a SAHD, was simply not to be trusted with credit cards. She took all his credit cards, cut them up, and paid them off when he quit his job, and after that gave him exactly $125 in cash every week, with which to feed a family of 5. (She had kids already and then they had one together.) Anything he didn't spend, he could keep.

If you think it would work for you, it might be worth trying. I'm one of those for whom cash doesn't feel real. Like once I take it out of my account and put it in my wallet, psychologically I have already spent it. But everyone is different.

WootWoot

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2016, 03:33:34 PM »
Oh, if there's cash in my wallet, it will go too. I have had a terrible time with spending all my adult life.

We definitely throw out way too much produce. For example, we make a falafel sandwich with tomatoes and spinach. We only use a portion of the bag of spinach, and it usually languishes in the produce bin until it's gone bad. We should be making a salad, soup or omelet with it.

We haven't done any meal planning in years. There are only two of us, so I don't have to worry about kids who won't eat certain things. It would definitely help.

I'm a Type II diabetic who uses a low carb, high protein diet as a partial means of controlling the illness. There are a lot of things I can't eat, either because of the sugar or the carbs. I pretty much eat the same thing every day. That includes a couple of Atkins snack bars. I try to use coupons when I can. We also eat "analog" meats at times, like tofu sausage.

I'm all in favor of going over the receipts. I know some of what I am counting as "food" is not. It's toiletries and household stuff like bleach.

We do shop at a Sav-A-Lot and Wal-Mart, and buy generics whenever possible.

I'm just going to have to sit down with DH and figure some stuff out. He does most of the shopping, and like frugalparagon's BIL, I'm afraid plastic in his hands is not the best idea.

It blows my mind that someone could feed a family of 5 on $125 a week.


I seem to be the odd one out - if I have cash in my wallet, I'll spend it without thinking. I'm better off using plastic. It defies logic.

1: What is your food waste? What are you throwing out? Do you make big meals and don't finish them? Are you buying produce and not using it before it goes bad? Figure this out and adjust accordingly (make smaller meals, either force yourself to eat those veggies or just don't buy them, etc.).

2: Keep track of everything you buy and at what price (most importantly, price per unit). When I was trying to get my food budget under control, I kept track of everything on an excel spread sheet. I bought 1lb of chicken for this. I bought two boxes of triscuits for that. First, it helped me figure out when I was actually getting a good deal on something (versus the store telling me it's a great deal). Second, when I was typing out everything I bought, it made me stop and think - did I really need that? I don't do this anymore, but it helped me set up good habits.

3: Stock up during sales. This might screw your budget up for a short while (I bought a ton of meat on sale in September, so my budget was whack, but I've hardly had to buy meat since). Pantry goods are another that I stock up on during sales.

4: What about your dietary needs is making you spend more? (Not a question you need to answer here, but be aware of it.) With better preplanning, is the cost something you can control?

5: Meal plan. There are a lot of great apps out there, but I just use Google Calendar (I use it for my day to day stuff anyway). I have a second calendar called "Meals" that overlaps with my regular calendar. If I'm good (and I'm not always), I'll try to figure out Saturday what I'm doing for the next week, or at the very least Monday/Tuesday, which are my busy days.

NY_steve

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2016, 08:38:29 PM »
The wife and I have a dedicated checking account so use a debit card for groceries and is funded every two weeks, then thats all there is for food, this is paying for anything edible. $200 every two weeks for 3 1/2 people, the 1/2 is my oldest child that only eats home a few nights a week. The rule is if it goes in your mouth it is groceries otherwise it comes out of the regular checking account. Holidays like Christmas or Thanks giving are the only time we go over budget.

doneby35

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2016, 09:01:53 PM »
I think the most important thing is to set a budget. My fiancee and I eat fairly healthy and follow a fitness regimen where we eat more than your regular 3 meals/day, and the healthier the food, the more expensive it is. However, you should be good if you do the following

1. Set a budget (for example, spending no more than $100/week on groceries). You might not get it right the first time or two, but you'll get there.
2. Always cook your own food and forget about restaurants/fast food entirely.
3. Plan a list of a few meals that you like. (If you're planning on having different meals all the time, you'll go over your budget)
4. Create a shopping list.
5. Hit the grocery store and buy everything you need for the whole week. (make sure you get there with a full stomach to avoid making unnecessary purchases)
6. This is optional but I cook my food for the whole week on the weekends, store in plastic containers, then just grab and go. Nothing goes to waste.

Goldielocks

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2016, 10:22:12 PM »
I have, it works amazingly well especially if you are trying to change a habit.

We did it with 2 week spend at a time, extra cash could be added to next month or spent elsewhere.

The difference is that if you are $15 over your $100 in your wallet, you HAVE to put items back. After the first time you figure out how to prevent that, AND you figure out what is a want vs a need on the groceries. ( ok. Cereal and grapes are put back today.. Oatmeal and apples are ok because I need the cough syrup... ).  Things I would have rationalized keeping before.

You MIGHT be equally successful with online grocery shopping, if you keep to your limits, too

Enigma

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2016, 06:01:31 AM »
Someone here listed a shopping list a while back and I was taken back of all the staple foods they buy....  I adopted a couple of the items

For one I buy rice in bulk and have a $15 rice cooker I bought on Amazon about 6 months ago.  Lately I wash and throw 1 cup of rice and come back in 15 minutes when it is done.  1 cup seems to make around 2 cups of cooked rice.  Maybe more....  Anyway I always buy eggs, on sale veggies (which are freezable), cheap soy sauce, cheap meats (lamb chops were on sale lately and so was pork loin)...  This stir-fry meal easily fills me up and it can feed two people easily.

I have used my rice cooker more than 100x so each time I use it, it pays itself off (15cents per meal), rice (5-10 cents per meal), meat (25-50 cents per meal), veggies (10-20 cents per meal), soy sauce/spices (5-10 cents per meal), 1 egg (8-16 cents per meal) - This is an example of a meal for two costing around $1.25

If I was a diabetic then I would opt for whole grain rice such as brown rice, which is rich in vitamin B and antioxidants and steer clear of starchy white rice.  Which is a recommendation on diabeticlivingonline.  Rice takes the body time to break down which won't spike insulin levels

You will save money on groceries when you have a staple cheap meal that you consistently make.  Also you will have your type 2 diabetes under better control with a healthy standardized meal.  (My grandmother and mother are examples)

If this was the staple for two ($1.25 x 30 days x 2 meals per day) $75/month of course you build off of your staple meals for other meals that you love or like.

notactiveanymore

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2016, 06:35:27 AM »
We spend $340 a month on groceries and that usually includes one large meal for about 15 people and a few treats like a six pack or bottle of wine. Two adults in a medium COL area.

Whether you do cash or debit, the power comes from cutting yourself off. When we first got married and got on a budget, we thought we would do cash only for groceries. But we would forget the cash at home when we made a quick stop to get something that was out of stock at our main trip and then you're depositing $6 cash in the bank and it's just weird. We switched to debit and the first couple months we'd have to do a running total on our last trip to make sure we didn't go over. It's super easy now to stay in budget, especially because paying attention to prices has given us real insight as to when something is a good buy and we should grab 2-3.

The power really comes from not allowing yourself to go over. If cash helps with that, go for it.

Now on the actual behaviors of shopping, I already see a bad pattern that we used to fall into as well. Bags of spinach. Do not buy these. Buy the spinach bundles instead and you'll save a ton. We just got a huge bundle of spinach for $.99 meanwhile a bag of lower quality spinach is probably at least $2.99. Same goes for things like cheese. Don't buy pre-sliced or shredded cheese, buy blocks of cheese. And look at the price by ounce instead of just the total cost. Buy generic store brands whenever you can. Every once in a while you'll find a generic alternative that you don't like (generic Honey Nut Cheerios for me) but for the most part, they are indistinguishable. Spend less on drinks be they alcohol or diet soda or expensive "healthy" juices. Finally, you need to meal plan. It's the biggest determiner for staying on budget and not wasting food. When you meal plan you can say, hey we're picking up bacon for that buffalo chicken sweet potato casserole, so we should do breakfast for dinner this week to and use up the rest of the bacon. OH, and take a look at your lunch spending and see if you could save a bit with more planning and cooking ahead.


ubermom4

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2016, 08:45:28 AM »
You are doing a great job looking at your grocery bill and being sad. This is where change begins. We use cash for all discretionary expenses - it keeps both parties honest and clear. We have done it for a few months now and it took some getting used to. It works for us and has significantly cut our expenses. There are a lot of good suggestions already listed. Whatever works for you is great -- we are all different.

Meal plan -- saves trips and money.

Leanne Brown -- Good and Cheap. She has lots of recipes that are designed to be cheap, nutritious and easy.

If you are spending the cash in your wallet, when you go to the grocery store only take the cash for the grocery store for that week. No more. It is hard to change personal behavior.

If you are throwing out extra fresh produce ( a common problem), buy only what you need for that particular meal from the salad bar area. Instead of buying a huge bag of fresh spinach, only buy the small handful you need for that meal. No waste. My elderly mom does this also because the veggies are already chopped for her. Great idea.

Plan to use your leftovers for lunches, etc. Meal planning really helps with this.

Make staying on budget in to a game -- how little can you spend for food each day? Eat things in the pantry and freezer -- there is plenty there.

Hope this helps you.

HipGnosis

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2016, 12:22:13 PM »
I seem to be the odd one out - if I have cash in my wallet, I'll spend it without thinking. I'm better off using plastic. It defies logic.

Not at all.  I'm (basically) the same way.  But I've learned it's wise to keep some cash in there.

I got that/this way by cussing myself out when I put ATM withdrawls in my check register and not knowing where any of the money went.

OP; you're only looking at one facet of the $grocery paragon.
You need to look more at the $/grocery options.
Can you make more from scratch (there are hoards of websites with low carb recipes)?
Can you use coupons?
Can you buy in bulk?
Can you stock up when things go on sale (magnified by keeping track of prices)?


WootWoot

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Re: All-cash budget for groceries?
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2016, 10:14:03 AM »
Thank you all for the great suggestions! I like the idea of a dedicated account for food spending. Although I am still leaning toward cash on the barrel head.

I am also considering doing a "pantry raid." This comes from The Simple Dollar blog. It involves taking everything out of your cupboards, doing a freezer inventory, etc., and deciding what meals can be made from what you already have. If there are spices or anything that need to be added to make a recipe work, they go on the shopping list. I know we have a lot of stuff in the house that needs to be used up (or sadly, thrown out).