This is a post by staff writer Michael Sitarzewski, currently CEO of Callisto.fm. He is a veteran entrepreneur with a specific focus on web based software and services. He considers helping people understand and leverage technology his life’s work. His family enjoys a debt free lifestyle, and loves sharing simple ways to save.
This story starts several years ago with the realization that being in debt, and making questionable decisions with money was stifling our family’s financial success. One fine fall day, as happens to many couples, we had the “We make too much money to live paycheck to paycheck” discussion.
Fast forward â€“ today we’re debt free (except for our mortgage), and have been doing well with money. The IRAs are fully funded, we’re on track to pay the mortgage off 24 years early, and have everything we need – two paid for cars, a new patio, new computers, and more. When we need/want something, we can pay for it with cash from savings. The funny part is that our income has increased a mere 10% over the last four years.
We’ve accomplished all of this by changing our perceptions about money, and by doing things that most other people don’t; or won’t. Today I’m sharing one of our more recent money saving discoveries – a discovery that will save a ton of money on your grocery bill – without much effort.
A few months ago, my wife and I decided to do a budget. Based on our Quicken reports, we were spending an average of $720/mo at restaurants. Add to that the money we were spending on groceries and our food spending for a family of three was outrageous – about $1,100.
Now each week, we sit together an plan our meals. We typically eat four or five dinners at home, we’ll plan a few lunches, and breakfasts Saturday and Sunday. The process is pretty simple: what do we want to have, and what ingredients will each meal require.
One week we took meal planning to a new, entertaining level. Instead of simply buying things we needed for each meal, on sale if we could, we would plan our entire week’s meals using the circular from our favorite grocery store. We chose one store – that was an important step for us – more than one was too complex, but if you can handle it you’ll save even more money.
Each and every Tuesday the circular arrives in our mailbox. And each week we follow these steps – it’s really simple, you’ll love this. Repeat these steps for each meal you’re planning:
- First, pick a meat for the meal. It’s really helpful to plan a couple of meals around the same meat. Say, for example, if chicken leg quarters are on sale at an incredible price – you might make a meal from them on Wednesday and Saturday.
- Second, pick a vegetable (preferably fresh) or two to go with the meat. In our circular, there are enough vegetables to choose two – and there are usually several varieties of canned veggies on sale, too.
- Third, choose a bread for the week to have with these meals.
It’s really that simple. The key is to plan no further than a week out, and buy no more than you need for that week. We as humans get carried away sometimes with buying more than we need (and not just with groceries) because we found a great price. Buy only from the circular, what you need.
My wife, son, and I had a great meal (chicken leg quarters, broccoli, and two slices of french bread) for about $1.40 per person. An argument I hear frequently is that you can’t eat at home cheaper than you can in a franchise fast food restaurant. We do it nearly all the time using this plan.
If you decide to try this, I’d love to hear how it works (or doesn’t) for you. Leave a comment – I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.