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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Save $5 from Your Food Budget

Food is one category of spending where you have some wiggle room – tuition fees are fixed, and so is rent (once you sign onto a lease).  However food is pretty flexible: eat at home and spend little or eat out and spend lots.

For people with very tight budgets, one concern is how to buy multiple of on-sale items if there is only enough money for this week’s groceries.  The trick is to spend $5 less than your weekly budget (so if your weekly budget is $50, only spend $45); this extra $5 is to be used when there is a great sale of something that 1. you use and 2. you can store and won’t go bad quickly.  For example, if you eat cereal for breakfast most mornings, buy a box or two when the type you like goes on sale, whether you have some left or not; chances are they won’t be on sale when you NEED some.  The same goes for most of your ‘staples’: cereal, rice, oatmeal, cans (soup, tuna, spaghetti sauce, fruit), salsa, pasta, granola bars, cake mixes, cookies, shampoo and toothpaste, toilet paper, tissues and other bathroom products, women’s sanitary products, etc.   Most produce are fantastic buys when they are low-prices, but you cannot store too much of them because they will not keep.  Meats can be purchased when on sale and frozen, but you need to eat them within 6 months or so, so buying 30 lbs of ground beef and completely filling up the freezer is typically not a good option.

Without that extra $5 saved for on-sale items, it’s difficult to take advantage of the sales because you can only buy for the week.  This happens often to people on a very tight budget: they cannot take advantage of sales because then it means not eating vegetables in order to stock pile toilet paper.

In my family, there are some food items we ALWAYS buy on sale: we stock pile when they are on sale, and we never have to go without: peanut butter; butter (we freeze it); cereal (there is always one type on sale so we never run out); shampoo and conditioner; soap; soft drinks; pasta sauce; salsa; and English muffins.  It’s easier for us because we are not on a tight budget; we can afford to spend an extra $10 in order to stockpile when items are on sale.

So save the $5/week; and save in the long run!

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