Maple Alps

groceries

How We Cut Down Our Grocery Bill Without Cutting Down on Food

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps11 Comments

The grocery budget. The bane of my existence. I know I can’t be the only one who struggles with the whole grocery budget thing, so I decided to share today about how we cut down our budget without changing our diet.


A few years ago, our grocery bill was pretty much through the roof. For only two people, we were sure spending quite a bit on groceries. Naturally, the bill would be even higher in months like December (Christmas parties galore!) and July (Camping trips, anyone?). We knew we had to make a change and fast.


After we paid off the first third of our student loans back, we decided it was time to really be tight with our grocery budget and we have thus far been successful. In fact, our way of looking at our budget has simplified altogether as a result of this and managing and saving money has never been easier. I decided to focus on the grocery part of things today. Stay tuned for a budgeting post!

How We Cut Down Our Grocery Bill Without Cutting Down on Food | www.maplealps.com




What Is Included in my Grocery Budget?

For us, “grocery” includes anything that we eat and any other expendables such as toiletries (shampoo, soap, etc.). Basically anything you can get at your local grocery store that is a necessary consumable for survival. So if you have kiddos and choose to buy diapers, that would fall under that category, and for a cat, food and litter would also fall under this category.




How Much is in my Grocery Budget?

For our budget, our rule of thumb is $100/month per person who lives in our house. You will probably want to consider pets as well as they have food and waste needs as well. We count our fur baby as half a person at $50/month and we never actually end up spending that much on her. This keeps things SUPER simple, because you’re only thinking about one number to stay under per week!




Being Strict About Shopping

In order to keep this realistic, it is EXTREMELY important that you only go to the grocery store once a week, or once every two weeks. Have you ever noticed that every time you go to the store you end up dropping anywhere between $30 and $50 a time? Yes. That is why you need to be strict with yourself and only go once a week.


I get it, you might run out of milk or something. So write it down, and go to the store and ONLY BUY MILK! Keep those blinders on!


Writing lists also helps you use coupons effectively if you do that to save money.




Related: How Not to go Broke From Buying Groceries




Make A Meal Plan and Shopping List

This is key if you want to stick to the once a week shopping trip. That one time a week trip needs to be guided by a strict shopping list. I get it, you forget to write things down sometimes, but try to visualize everything you will need for the week as you plan and write the grocery list down. Then, when you go to the store, stick to it! We also keep a running shopping list on our fridge. So when we run out of things like ketchup or salad dressing, we can add it to the list quickly and easily.



Meal Planning Guide | www.maplealps.com




Related: Confessions of a Meal Planner




Shopping Our Kitchen

Every few months, we make it a point to shop our kitchen for our meal plans. This essentially means that we try to use up everything in our pantry and freezer before buying more. I know that a lot of people like to keep a fully stocked pantry, however, sometimes this leaves you prone to buying too many duplicates or forgetting what you have. We make sure that our pantry is laid out in a way that we can see everything we have when we open the door. We use clear glass containers so we can see the amounts of everything we have as well. We use up our things before adding them to the list.


By doing this, we have also been able to take better note of what items we use more than others and know what we need to write down on the list. Some items are only bought once for an experiment or special event and never needed again.




Related: Confessions of a Meal Planner Part 2




Eat A Lot of Fresh Produce

Getting in your share of veggies actually helps you keep your budget down! Targeting fruits and vegetables that are in season is really great for your budget, and your body as well! Processed food - especially the plant based kind - can be pricey!



Related: 10 Apps and Extensions We Use to Save Money



Making/Growing Our Own Staples

I’ve learned how to make a few of our staples which has cut down on our grocery bill. Bread is the one that has saved us the most so far, since my husband likes heavier bread being from Europe and all. Things like ketchup and almond milk cost about the same to make as to buy (I’ve done the math and it’s true for our area unless the ingredients are on sale).


I know a lot of people who save a lot on their grocery budget by growing their own food! We haven’t done this yet for ourselves since I have a black thumb...



Shop Sales Strategically

Buy more of your staples when they are on sale, and avoid the sales of things you don’t generally eat - unless you have it on your meal plan or know for sure you will eat it. I’ve seen the tendency of people to buy things simply because they are on sale, only to have them go to waste later!

Having Fun and Being Positive

We allow ourselves to have a few splurges a month (like a pint of our favourite vegan ice cream that costs way too much!), but the best thing to keep in mind is not that you are restricting your budget, but that you are creating a way of life that keeps you mindful of everything you spend and everything you eat! It’s a good thing-trust me.





Controlling your grocery spending can be hard to do, but I believe in you! Reduce your spending and increase your savings! It will be worth it.


 
Meal Planning Guide | www.maplealps.com
 
How We Cut Down Our Grocery Bill Without Cutting Down on Food | www.maplealps.com #groceries #savemoney #budget

How Not To Go Broke From Buying Groceries

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps35 Comments

Food is one of those things that you need to survive. I have not yet met anyone who does not require it in some capacity; it’s just not how we’re made. Unfortunately, groceries are not always the cheapest, and it seems that every time I go out, prices have escalated! With not much extra money to spare, a lot of planning and strategizing goes into our grocery shopping. Being intentional about our purchases translates into our necessities as well, so I decided to share a few of the things we do (and one we hope to do soon) to keep our food bill down.

How Not To Go Broke From Buying Groceries | www.maplealps.com

 

Check your fridge and pantry first!

Shop your own home! On occasion, we have done a “no-spend” month, where we try to use up our staples in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. We will allow ourselves fresh produce because we need it, but it has almost become a game to see how little we can spend.

 

Meal plan

I talked about why I meal plan here and more about my process here. We’ve since added a giant chalkboard in our kitchen where the meals for the week are outlined so that everyone can see. If we need to switch it up or swap some meals, it’s not a big deal! Meal planning is definitely one thing that keeps our grocery bill down.

Make a list - and stick to it

This is so important! So many times I’m tempted to get waylaid by the specials or see items that aren’t on my list that I want to get. Most of the time, if I do get them, they don’t get eaten, which results in wasted money. It is so much better to stick to your list. This is also why I usually do the grocery shopping by myself and leave the husband at home :)

 

Get Creative + Embrace Leftovers

If you have looked through your crisper and see some carrots and celery, think about what kind of meal would use those ingredients. Voilà! One of the meals for the week! You're welcome. Also, embrace leftovers. Don't let food go to waste! Get creative with this too; make new meals out of existing ones, or designate a day in the week where you tackle leftovers (or take them to work for lunch). 

 

Buy in bulk

Depending on the store and product, it is usually cheaper to buy in bulk. Explore your area’s stores and prices, and you will likely be pleasantly surprised! We like buying my spices, nuts, beans and flours in bulk. This has saved us a lot.

 

Use Coupons Responsibly

Use coupons only for the items you are going to buy anyway (and make sure they are actually the best price!). This goes along with sticking to your list! You will end up spending more if you buy according to what coupons are available. Coupons are great, but use them wisely!

 

Related: 10 Apps and Extensions We Use to Save Money

Use Rebate/Coupon Apps

I use a few rebate/coupon apps for my grocery and other shopping. One of my favourites is Ibotta. As I said with the point above, use these rebates responsibly as well. No use buying something only because you have a rebate. When you do that, you are not saving. You are spending extra. PS: Use my referral link to download Ibotta and get a $10 welcome bonus!

 

Grow your own food

We are working on planning our own little garden in our yard. I cannot wait to grow some of our favourite produce and save a bit of cash!

save money on groceries | www.maplealps.com

Check out the farmer's market

Local food is usually cheaper and good for you too! Don't be intimidated; I promise you'll love going to the farmer's market once you try! 

 

Do Your Research + Consider Unit Prices

I had a spreadsheet where I had all of the local stores I frequented (Aldi is a favourite!) and the unit prices for each product or staple we buy listed. I also have the sales prices and vague dates, so I know exactly where to shop, and when to buy what. We have since moved and I haven't updated my list, though we have mostly the same stores to choose from. You can try this too! Opt for a simple notebook and pen to keep track if you don't want to mess with a spreadsheet. You can also keep a photo folder on your phone (taking snapshots of price labels).  Comparing prices can be a great money saver - plus, there is a certain satisfaction you receive when you know you bought something at the best possible price for you. 

 

Take Your Calculator to the Store

Just in case your store doesn't display unit prices and your mental math doesn't go that quick.

 

Learn How To Store Food Properly

If you do not store your food properly, chances are it will go bad before it has to. Increase the life of your groceries by learning what is best kept where and how.

 

How do you save money on groceries? I would love to hear your tips, and I hope you have been able to add to them with this post!


 

12 Necessities We Are Intentional About Spending Money On

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps24 Comments

The biggest discussion in our house at the moment is definitely the topic of my student loans. It’s a struggle I don’t even want to think about, but here I am, pouring out my heart and soul on the internet. Go figure.

You see, when I went to school, no one ever told me that student loans were not a good idea for me to get involved with. The only thing we were ever warned about in school were credit cards and bounced cheques, so I always made sure to stay on top of those. However, no one ever showed me math or gave me any reason to be wary of student loans. There are definitely some cases in which these types of loans are beneficial, but in my case, they were not. If I could do it over, I would do things differently, but all I can do now is buckle down and conquer these loans and become debt-free as soon as possible. We have come up with a long-term plan for getting rid of them which requires a bit of sacrifice now but will benefit us in the future. 

I do use the word sacrifice loosely. We are not starving or wearing clothes ridden with holes. We are, however, very mindful of what we spend money on, and cut costs when we can. Here are 12 things we are intentional about when it comes to spending money

cessities We Are Intentional About Spending Money On | www.maplealps.com

Eating 

Save money by meal planning and reduce the amount you eat out. I went a long time without ever eating out, and even though it cost me socially, my bank account was thankful. I’m okay with eating out once in a while now but avoid it when possible. Pack a lunch for work. Make your own bread and other staples. Find a cheaper grocery store. Use Ibotta or other rebate and coupon apps. There are many ways to save on groceries.

Utilities

Be mindful about the utilities you use. Do you really need every light in the house on when you’re only in one room? Should you really keep the tap going as you’re brushing your teeth? Are 20 minutes in the shower completely necessary? When is washing just one shirt in the washing machine a good idea? Can clothes be hung to dry? Think about these things and be creative when saving on utilities. We make it a game every month to see if we can get utility bills lower!

Clothing

I have so much to say about this topic but I’ll leave you just with ideas to save like I promised! While basic clothing is a definite necessity, I found myself with much more than I needed (or could wear!). Now that I've purged and have what I need and love wearing, I don't feel the urge to buy more. Try selling newer clothes in good condition that you no longer wear or look at. When you have an event or a theme party to go to, before shelling out extra cash for items you’ll likely only wear once, try being creative with what you already have. You could also borrow something from a friend! I’ve been known to wear things until they have holes...you do you. If you get totally bored with the clothes you have, why not try having a clothing swap with some friends? Chances are they have some great pieces to exchange.

Toiletries

Since learning about the harmful substances in toothpaste and many other toiletry items, I have taken to making a lot of our products. This has not only reduced the chemicals in our home, it has also proven to be much more affordable! Check out some of my natural living posts here. 

Fuel

Carpool, combine trips and get a fuel-saving car. This has drastically saved our fuel costs and the extra money goes right into loan repayments.

Phone Bill

Reevaluate your phone bill and find a cheaper one that works. Research pays off - especially when you're brutally honest with yourself about your phone usage. You would be surprised what kinds of deals are out there! 

Credit Cards

Do not to spend what you don’t have. Many credit cards have interest rates of 18% or higher, which is a lot! Pay your credit card off in full every month, or don’t use it at all. Because we get cash back on our credit card, we primarily use it. However, after over one year of use, we have never paid interest because we pay it in full every month. Free money? Yes, please! Do what works for you, but avoid credit card interest like the plague.

10 Every-Day Things You Can Start Saving On Today! | www.maplealps.com

Bank Statements

Check and balance your bank statements monthly to make sure that every purchase was made by you or whoever has access to your account.  Unfortunately, fraudulent purchases occur. This has happened to me; foreign purchases were made with my credit or debit card and I was able to get money back that I never spent in the first place. I would have never noticed, had I not been checking my account regularly.

ATM Charges

Don’t ever pay for these. Just, please don’t. Not necessary.

Home Decor

A fresh paint of coat or removable decals go a long way in making your home feel new. Instead of buying expensive furniture or decorations to add to your dusting pile, DIY some projects or put out some fresh flowers and candles. There are inexpensive ways to decorate your house to your liking and personally, I think less is more!

Hobbies

I know it's weird I consider hobbies as a necessity...but, everyone has their thing. It’s hard when one has expensive hobbies. I sure do. If your hobby requires supplies, try using everything in your stockpile before getting something new. The best is when your hobby can make you money. Sell handcrafted goods or stock photography. You could even create a course or blog to teach others. Your hobby can serve you!

Cable/Subscription Costs

Re-evaluate what is important to you; this is a huge part of living intentionally. We choose not to have a TV in our house, so naturally, we do not have cable or satellite to pay for.  Since we are also very particular with what we choose to spend our time watching, renting a movie on iTunes every once in a while is much cheaper for us than paying for a Netflix or Hulu subscription.

 

What are some of the ways you save money on necessities? We would LOVE to read about them! Leave a comment with your tips - we read every single one!


 
 

Meal Planning in a Few Easy Steps

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps24 Comments

A few weeks ago, I posted about why I meal plan and today, I'm going to be sharing how I go about meal planning. I know I said I would post this earlier, but it has been a crazy couple of days. Since it's the beginning of the month, I thought I should get to it. 

The process of meal planning itself is a pretty easy one. I plan for the entire month. It used to take up to two hours, but now that I'm better at it, it goes by much quicker - usually no longer than an hour.

How to Meal Plan in a Few Easy Steps | www.maplealps.com

1) Check the Fridge, Freezer & Cupboards

I do this first because I can then determine what needs to be and can be used. I also do not wish to buy duplicates unnecessarily, so this step usually eliminates that. I also check on my staples to see if they need refilling. 

 

2) Gather My Recipes

This is my favourite part! I love going through the recipes I love and the ones I haven't tried. In addition to checking my repertoire, I open my Pinterest boards and my Pocket feed to see what recipes have interested me, and what I might be determined enough to knock off the "try list." Note: Our breakfasts are usually pretty standard because of work schedules, so we usually have fruit and whole grain cereal or bread. I don't bother planning for that because they're staples for us. A couple of times a month, we will have a free morning in which we can be a bit more adventurous though! 

 

3) Get Out the Calendar

I print out a blank monthly calendar to place my meals on. Eventually I want to make and use a reusable one. First, I block off the days where I don't need to worry about preparing food (days we're out of town or eating out, etc.). Next I schedule any grocery shopping trips (usually two). This helps me determine what ingredients I need to last longer. By the way, we personally only eat twice a day (one large breakfast, and an early supper/late lunch). If we are dying of hunger, we'll have a light snack later on.

 

4) Group Together Meals

I don't necessarily group meals that have overlapping ingredients if I don't plan on making enough to have leftovers. Sometimes we do though, and a lot of ingredients are versatile anyway. Making sure each meal for the day adds up to the recommended amounts of nutrients (more on that in the future!), I start putting them on the calendar. 

 

5) Make a Shopping List

Being sure I double check the things I already have, I make a list! It's easy. I write down every thing I'll need for each meal I'm preparing and take a poll, so to say. This way, I can be sure I'm getting enough of a certain ingredient. Note: I usually make two shopping lists. One for each shopping trip I need to take. This also helps me make sure that produce will last long enough, etc. Plus, I don't have to take extra time later on to make a completely new list. I can add to it if I run out of a staple or two during the week. 

Note: I group my list into sections according to what store I will be visiting. This way, I'm not jumping between sections and wasting time. 

 

6) Execute!

The one thing I really like about this system is that it's flexible. If I decide I don't want a certain meal one day, or if something comes up where we don't need to cook after all, it's easy to change it up and move it. It's basically just for my sanity. 

 

Meal Planning Opt In.pngConfessions of a Meal Planner | www.maplealps.com
 

What do you think? Easy enough to try yourself?
Do you use another method? Comment below- I'd love to hear about it. I'm off to meal plan for this month now - a few days late... I'm a little behind in life these days :)