and what to do instead.
Your family needs to eat, right? As a mom, you probably take your shopping list, go grocery shopping, and make meals for your family on the regular.
And that grocery budget is a thorn in your side. So you’ve looked for ways to save money without having to eat rice and beans or ramen every night, right? There are lots of ways to feed your family on a budget and you may have even looked into couponing. Those extreme couponers make it look exhilarating with their articles on “how I feed my family of 12 on $32” and pictures of their stockpiles, right???
Full disclosure here: I was into it at one point. It’s a thrill to get things at such a low price. I remember going to CVS one time and getting 4 bottles of lotion, 5 shampoos & conditioners, razors, and a few other things for only a few bucks. It was exciting!
Some do it for that same thrill, some do it out of an extreme financial necessity, and some just really enjoy it. But today, I’m talking to the person who is cutting coupons because they feel it’s their only option to save a lot of money on their grocery budget.
Extreme couponing is not the only way to save money on groceries, and here’s why it’s killing your budget.
IT’S A WASTE OF MONEY & TIME
Hold up, hear me out on this one.
I define waste as having anything you don’t need or use.
That dress hanging in the back of your closet that you never wore = waste of money.
The books you bought at the library book sale that you never read = waste of money.
A box of shells you collected from the beach 3 summers ago (<– personal experience!) = waste of space.
Waste doesn’t consider how much you paid for it. It doesn’t care if it was on sale, if you bought it at Goodwill, or if it was free. It just says
“you didn’t use me so I’m wasted”
Buying groceries you don’t need just because you have a coupon = waste of money and time.
Stockpiling toiletries you will never get a chance to use = waste of money, time, and space.
Driving to multiple stores every week to get all the deals = waste of time and gas money.
But it only costs 12 cents, Elisa.
I don’t care. It’s a waste of money. And I can’t get behind something that wastes any amount of money (even 12 cents!) just for the thrill of the deal. There are better ways to save some dough.
And more importantly, it’s a waste of time and you should protect your time with everything you’ve got!
YOUR TIME IS WORTH MONEY
I have a little rule (shocking, right?) that I use when I am trying to decide if a chore (or some other basic duty) is worth me doing.
The rule is basically this: A chore/activity/event needs to “pay me” at least $10/hr for it to be worth it to me (lately though, because I’m being stretched in so many directions my hourly wage has gone up to $20!). I use this rule for everything: laundry, snow shoveling, mowing the lawn, cooking dinner, etc!
This helps me decide if I should keep doing it, eliminate it, reduce the time it takes, or I should pay someone else to do it.
So. Am I going to save $20 in coupons for every hour that I spend on it? I found out that I was not. I kinda’ enjoyed cutting coupons and looking through the sales flyers every week, but as a single mom time is my most valuable commodity! Did couponing help me save money on groceries? Sure. But I knew all the time I was spending cutting, printing, searching, and shopping could be used more wisely and still stretch my budget.
What did I do, you say?
Glad you asked.
SET A STRICT FOOD BUDGET
I’m going to be honest here and tell you something I haven’t told many people. There was a time, not that long ago, that my family of 3 received SNAP (previously: food stamps) benefits. And let me tell you, thank God for that program! I was barely scraping by with other bills so it was such an extreme blessing to not have to worry about feeding my family.
And, because of that I know that I can feed my family on $511 per month and that’s what I base my food budget on. Just to give you an idea, a family of four spends an average of $785 per month on food so take a hard look at what you currently spend (including take-out and eating out) and make an effort to reduce that.
How, if I’m not cutting coupons?
You saw that one coming, right? Just checking…since you are on a meal planning site! I’m kinda obsessed with meal planning and for good reason. It’s the simplest way to save a lot of money, a lot of time, and your sanity.
Gosh, I hate wasting money. Like really hate it.
My budget was a constant source of stress and sleepless nights, as you can imagine, since I was barely getting by.
Setting up a simple meal plan was the best thing I ever did to help all of it – it helped me save time during the week, it helped me save money, and it helped me be a better mom because I wasn’t stressed out every night. Freezer meals is the easiest first step into the world of meal planning – being able to shop the sales, buy meat in bulk, and bag up some dinners ahead of time will seriously help your budget and your time.
Another way to save time?
GROCERY SHOP ONLINE
There are lots of reasons to shop online: convenience, access to special ingredients or health food that’s otherwise not available, the freshest meat and produce,…I could go on.
But the main one? You’ll save money in multiple ways:
- Gas money
- Getting only what’s on your list
- Not having the kids shop with you
- It will force you to have a meal plan ahead of time (which will save you money!)
So now the question is: Where to shop online?
– Your local grocery store’s online program (either delivery or pick-up), like Peapod.
– Walmart Grocery
– Amazon Pantry & Amazon Fresh
– Thrive Market
Cutting coupons doesn’t address the real problem.
Time is money and you don’t have unlimited time to make dinner every night. Or unlimited patience.
Does this sound familiar?
The frustrations of the entire day always seemed to gather at 5 pm where everyone is a little more snappy, a little more touchy, or just plain cranky. This is the witching hour where temper tantrums, meltdowns, and sibling quarrels are at an all-time high.
And, for crying out loud…
you don’t have time for this.
You have to get dinner on the table.
That’s no way to live. Don’t spend those precious hours with your kids every night just getting by. Spend them laughing, talking about their day, reading a book, watching a movie, playing a board game.
If you felt like you were cutting coupons because you thought you needed to, or it was something you should do since you have a limited budget, please know you don’t need to.
I give you permission to cut couponing from your life. hahahaha, see what I did there???
Do the things that will help you not only in your budget, but in your time and your stress level.
Set a strict food budget.
Meal plan (and freezer meals).
Grocery shop online.
Trust me, it works.