Sunday, February 16, 2014

Family Financial Challenge Week 2: Food #SavingMadeSimple #PGmom

We're at the end of the second week of the Family Financial Challenge, and this week was all about food. So, I sat back and thought about the ways my family saves money in this area. Feeding the family is a big chunk of the monthly budget, so it's important to make good decisions. Flyers, coupons, meal planning, and awareness of real costs all come into play.

We used to spend way too much money on ordering take-out or eating out. Life is busy, and after a long day at the office it is really tempting to just stop at the pub for dinner on your way home, especially if you didn't start the day with a plan for what you'd make for dinner. I can't tell you how much money we threw away doing this when Hubs and I were both working downtown. I'm making a point of planning our meals now and having a home-cooked meal on the table at the end of the day. We do still eat out as a sometimes treat, or order in pizza once in a while, but we do it as part of a plan, not in a moment of stress.

Saturday mornings I like to go through the flyers and see what's on sale where. I have a favourite store where I do most of my shopping, but if there are great sales somewhere else on things we need I am open to a change. What I won't do is drive all over town to get different deals at different stores. I think I lose more in gas costs and the value of my time than I gain in cash savings. Based on the sales, what's in season, and what coupons I have, I'll make a plan for the week, create my list and hit the store.

The common wisdom is that buying in bulk, or at least larger sizes, saves you money. But this isn't always the case. I appreciate that my regular grocery store, Metro, provides a per unit cost on their shelf tags. This is a great tool to help you compare value across brands using different size packaging. It also lets you assess the value you can get (or not) by buying a larger package. Check out these cereal examples.

Case Study #1 - This Oatmeal Crisp costs exactly the same per 100g in both package sizes at the regular price. If you don't need the larger package, stick with the smaller and save some immediate cash. Especially since the smaller package is on sale this week.

Case Study #2 - These Cheerios get less expensive per 100g the larger the package you buy. So if your family will finish the larger package before it goes stale, it makes sense to buy more now and save in the long run.

Along with meal planning, a great way to avoid impulse take-out nights is to have ready-made meals on hand for those super busy nights. I don't mean processed, store-bought meals, but good homemade options that you've stocked up on. I like to make freezer batches of things like spaghetti sauce, chili and soups so I can grab them and re-heat in a pinch. Making a lasagna or meatloaf? Make two and freeze one for another night. If you know you have a yummy option that just needs to be thrown in the oven, you'll be less likely to pick up the phone or stop on the way home.
Just a small portion of my stash of freezer meals - ready to defrost and re-heat.
With eating at home comes cleaning up after eating at home, and finding the savings on cleaning products is important as well. P&G's value line offers great results at a lower price point. Dishwasher?  Cascade ActionPacs with the grease fighting power of Dawn rinse away residue and leave dishes sparkling clean because they are 4X concentrated compared to powder or gel to help clean better. Or if you wash by hand, watch out for diluted dish detergents. Ultra Dawn is concentrated and cleans two times more greasy dishes while suds last, so you can use less to get the job done. And for those spills while you're cooking up a storm, try Bounty Basic paper towels - they are 50% stronger when wet versus the 11" x 9" bargain brand, so they'll last longer and pick up more, meaning fewer needed to get the job done. All of these savings add up!

What about you? Do you have any tips to share on saving on the grocery bill?

Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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