Of Calculators and Lists

I am currently reading Living on Less and Liking it More by Maxine Hancock.  There isn’t much in it that I haven’t heard before, one way or another.  However, it is a good reminder for what we should strive to be like, striving to be content rather than rich, to have love rather than things, to work together as a family rather than blaming each other for the financial woes in our lives, etc. 

She was relating a story of how one week they had no money for groceries, and very little food left in the house.  They received a small sum of money in the mail from an overpayment and a reprint of an article she had written.  They took their small amount of money to the grocery store, and spent it as wisely as they could, to get the most from what they had.  This story reminded me of our shopping trip last night.

You see, we had exactly $63 left for groceries this week.  At the beginning of the month, we spent a little more than necessary on luxury items (you know, pizza pops, cookies, that kind of stuff), as well as we had to buy a tray of beef and a tray of chicken (which was about $35 combined – meat sure does take a chunk out of the grocery fund!).  So we were left with a little less for this week.  Last night, Rob and I made a grocery list, and put on it everything we were out of or low on.  Then I pulled up the Hillybilly Housewife Low Cost Emergency Menu.  I used some of her suggestions to plan our week’s meals, but lets be honest – I don’t cook breakfast or lunch like that, so I was able to take some things off the menu and substitute it with other things.  Also, groceries cost a lot more here than they must in the States…  Flour, for example, is about $1 per kg (2.2 lbs), whereas she has it listed as $1 for 5 lbs.  I planned out our meals, added the things that we would need to our shopping list, and then looked at the list again.  I knew I had only $63 to use this week, so I had to cross off all the things that I figured that I could do without. 

It was actually a tiny bit fun to go around the grocery store and get the things that we needed for the week, and to add everything up on my calculator.  It reminded me of when I first lived on my own, and my oldest brother gave me $200 in gift certificates for a local grocery store.  I spent those gift certificates down to the penny.  I would add everything up, making sure that I got the best prices on everything.  I don’t think I’ve ever shopped so wisely as those few months with the gift certificates.  Anyway, in making sure that we knew exactly how much everything cost, we were even able to get a few things that I said that I wouldn’t (ie. butter, chocolate chips for baking).  We did sacrifice a few things (ie. I’d bake bread with the supplies I had on hand, rather than buy it), but in the end, I don’t think that any of us went without the things we needed… just the things that we wanted.  Rob didn’t buy any candy, I didn’t buy any chips or pop, and Kitten didn’t get any fancy finger foods that we really just can’t afford (and that she doesn’t need). 

I just wanted to encourage others who are finding this financial crunch time to be hard on the grocery budget to persevere, and try not to use your credit cards.  I understand how tempting it is just to put down our plastic and get the things that we’re used to.  But with a little more work, and a lot of preplanning, it’s not too hard to make do with what we can afford.  The nicest thing about paying with cash is that there is no bill the next month.  No one really wants to pay for their groceries for years on end, and why would we want to make already high grocery prices higher by paying interest on them? 

If we all share our ideas on how to save money, then each of us will have a lot of different ideas.  What are ways that you’re saving/spending money this week?