A couple months ago (actually, about the same time I started GAPS) I started taking cash out weekly for groceries. I had previously put all my grocery money in an envelope for the month (we are doing Dave Ramsey's program and use cash for most things), but too often ran out of money before month ~grin~. In an effort to keep on track with our budget, and still have a good variety of food to eat at the end of the month, I switched to taking out money each week and then sticking to that. I take $100 out per week, on Saturdays. So if a month has 5 Saturdays, we spend $500. This dollar amount is what works for us right now, every family will be different.
I started the weekly shopping vs monthly as an experiment one month, and found that it had benefits that I wasn't anticipating.
- At the end of the week as I run low on money or groceries, it kept me to using things up. At the end of the week when the fridge is empty, I see the forgotten bag of broccoli or plate of leftovers on the bottom shelf before it has a chance to go bad.
- We don't have the 'feast or famine' approach to grocery shopping any more. Each week we usually have enough for something fun; ingredients to make a special dessert, a big tub of cashews, avocados, or a bag of Sun-Rype at Costco.
- I don't forget to set aside money for Wednesday's fresh eggs.
- We have the same amount of fresh produce each week, so it's easier to stay in the habit of using it.
Because it makes me pay attention to what I'm doing while shopping. I stick to the list because I know that's what I have enough money for, rather than having items meander into my cart and then surprise me at checkout.
What about credit cards?
Sometimes because of the amount of money different families spend on food, they depend on the 30 day delay that a credit card has to float their food budget. If this is the case, you can still do 'envelope' grocery shopping, just buy gift cards to the stores that you shop at (most stores that take credit cards also have gift cards available) in the dollar amount that you set aside per week.
We bought part of a (grass fed local!) cow a couple months ago, so I have over 100 pounds of beef in my garage freezer. To allocate for big expenses like this, I 'pay myself' the cost per pound into a cow envelope from my groceries every time I take beef out of the garage freezer and put it in the kitchen freezer. Yes, I'm a bit of a nerd. But it allows us to spend more money at once on something like this without throwing the budget off kilter.
Monthly vs Weekly
I know that for some people shopping once a month works best, and that's what I did when we lived 1-1/2 hours from a major grocery store, but I prefer to do it once a week. When we shopped once a month we'd eat all the fun and easy meals in the beginning of the month, and seeing how much food we had, we tended to eat more than we needed to.
Which way works for you?
10 Ways to Find More Grocery Money
What do you eat on GAPS? (A relatively recent weekly grocery haul)
Part of WFMW and Pennywise Platter Thursdays
And staying within your budget is a Finer Thing!