Summer is a very expensive time for the McDivitt clan. From the months of May-August (in just our immediate family; our parents, siblings, and the children) we have nine birthdays, as well as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Devin’s birthday, our girls’, and mine are all within this timeframe, making things like gift buying a never ending mountain we have to climb over. So I had to become creative with budgeting.
Devin is our only source of income, so with things like medical bills (from mostly pregnancy), family events, and activities it can be financially draining. I get very little funds each week for my own personal bills, groceries, and my everyday expenses. I’ve been doing the envelope system for close to a year, you can find that post here. I have loved this system and have really learned how to stretch my money. In the past I was setting aside $100 a week for groceries; this includes toiletry and cleaning items needed for the house. Like I previously stated though, with the extra expenses that come with summer that $100 a week grocery budget is a little harder for me to swing. I have been paying close attention to my spending in groceries in the last couple of weeks and noticed I was not spending the full $100, so I decided that I was going to lower my budget to $75 a week.
I don’t have very many tips, but these are the biggest ones I have found the most helpful in cutting your expenses:
Buying in Bulk:
Most people hopefully live within driving distance to a store like Sam’s Club or Costco. I live about an hour away from a Sam’s Club. Bulk item or wholesale stores can be your biggest friend in the budgeting game. Stores like these require a membership fee, but in my opinion it is totally worth it. I will admit, I don’t actually own my own membership card, but both my parents do. I’m not sure if Costco is the same, but at our Sam’s I’ve never had an issue using my parent’s card so that is a huge help not having to pay that fee (but I still highly recommend having a card if you aren’t in the same situation as me).
Buying in bulk can be a little tricky, when you are on a fixed weekly budget though. So you really have to keep a very good stock of what you have and plan out in advance what items you will get at each visit. With a weekly budget it’s a little harder to stock up on bulk items when you only really make monthly or even bi-monthly visits. Last time I went I stocked up on cleaning items, the next time I go we will need paper products. When I grocery shop, I always keep whatever I don’t spend in the budget, that gives me a little cushion to be able to afford the bulk items when I need them.
Now I don’t buy all my grocery items here. The only thing I would suggest not purchasing here is fresh vegetables and fruit (unless you have a big family at home and are able to go through it before it goes bad). But here are a few of my must buy bulk item:
- paper goods.
Items like paper towels, toilet paper, etc… are my biggest must buy item at bulk stores. At our Sam’s it’s a little above $17 for 15 rolls of paper towels (150 sheets) for their Member Mark brand. At Walmart for the Bounty brand, which I would say quality wise is similar, it’s almost $20 for 8 rolls (165 sheets). I did the math, you get almost 1000 more sheets for $3 less.
Bulk meat can be pricey. But the wonderful thing about it is it can be frozen. I still will only tend to buy it if it’s on sale. Chicken or frozen seafood are usually the two things I buy most often when I am there.
I use a lot of spices. I tend to buy my most frequently used ones in bulk because you will never run out. Most spices can last up to three years if stored properly and I haven’t bought things like; salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, or cumin in at least a year.
- frozen foods
Scarlett is a picky eater. She basically lives off of French Toast Sticks and Taquitos. On the weekends, I do make homemade french toast, but it is easier during the week to feed her the frozen kind. I pretty much buy these once a week. I have’t done this yet, but the next time I go to Sam’s I will be purchasing these items in bulk.
- cleaning supplies
I buy all my cleaning products in bulk. They don’t expire and you’ll definitely use them especially with children! I buy my Tide pods, dish pods, dish soap, disinfectant wipes, and sprays all in bulk.
- freezable dairy items
I don’t do this all the time, but I do buy dairy products I can freeze from time to time; mostly butter.
Meal Plan Similar Meals:
Another way I save money is meal planning using the same items in each meal. Try to keep your meats the same for each meal. I usually buy two different main meats a week then a meat like bacon or kielbasa sausage. Here’s an example of our meal planning for a week:
Wednesday-dinner at in-laws
Thursday-carved turkey & cranberry paninis
Friday-carved turkey & cranberry paninis
(this is our current week meal plan)
For these meals I’ll reuse the same bread, produce, and condiments for all of the meals. I only have three primary meats; ground beef, turkey, and bacon. While bacon can also be used in the other two meals. This meal planning method not only saves you in cost of groceries, but also saves you from potential food waste.
Don’t be afraid to repeat meals or the dirty word “leftovers”. I am not the biggest leftover fan, but luckily I am married to someone who couldn’t care less about them. So I have changed my outlook; I wasn’t afraid of reheating meals, I just didn’t like eating the same meal more than once for dinner and liked variety. But now for both ease and cost I repeat meals or make enough for leftovers pretty much every time I cook a meal. I usually cook about 3-4 different meals a week and then repeat the meals for the other days.
As I stated above, I don’t have a ton of tips, but the ones listed are a for sure way to get your budget down to a realistic amount when costs have multiplied during the busy times of year. I just went grocery shopping for the above meal plan and odds and ends needed for Scarlett and it was UNDER $75, so it is definitely achievable! At the end of the month I will look at the funds I have left over in my envelope and either keep it in the grocery fund or use it towards summer items we may need.