WHEN THE CUPBOARDS ARE BARE
Running out of grocery money before the end of the month is heartbreaking for anyone especially families with children.
We all deserve to eat and should never go hungry but sadly this happens every day to people all over the world.
Nobody likes to admit defeat but there are times where we have to step up and ask ourselves why things are going the way they are and whether we can make successful changes to our lives.
The wonderful news is that there are services to help those in need who run out of grocery money in the form of free support in almost every city.
A huge thank-you to those who take time to donate to food banks and other local charities because your support goes a long way to help people in need. There are also other ways to help get back on track financially as long as you are motivated to see results.
I received the following email from a wife/mother of 2 young children this week that I wanted to share with you.
I wanted to know if you could give me some advice about grocery shopping. I’m not a fan of grocery shopping and cooking but I do it because my family needs to eat and I don’t want to serve unhealthy food or eat out all the time.
I have a good job and earn approximately $70,000 a year and my husband works a minimum wage job as cashier. We still have a mortgage and debt to pay off and with all the price hikes in the recent years we live pay to pay and continue to struggle.
Like many people we are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up financially. We’ve never had to ask for help before especially for food so it’s hard for us to ask for help even though we need it.
Just recently I’ve noticed that we’re running out of grocery money every month and the amount of food is not lasting in our house. I’m not sure if it is because our young boys (5 and 7) are growing up and eating more or if I’m just buying all the wrong food products and spending too much money.
We are at the point where there are weeks we can’t afford to buy food because the grocery money has been depleted and we have no savings. I don’t use a grocery budget yet but I did download your budget and plan to start budgeting in hopes of helping us find out where we are going wrong.
Right now we have around $400 a month to spend on groceries for 4 people but it seems that we continue to spend more or need more. If you have any other suggestions we would be grateful.
-Family of 4- Ontario
Dear Family of 4
Thanks for your question and I’ll do my best to answer it with the knowledge that I have gained over the years.
The first thing most people think they should do is “Spend Less Money” and although that may be true there is not just 1 thing that will contribute to helping people of a financial rut. Running out of grocery money or funds to pay the mortgage/rent is a sign that you are in dire need of change.
Most of the time change is met with opposition but if you want to straighten things up you must be willing to jump through hoops to get there. It may not be easy, it may tire you out but at the end of it all you will look back and be proud that you never gave up doing the best you could.
Gaining control of your grocery money
I’m sure I’ve written many articles over the years that will help this family out in my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide plus what I’m going to share today but there are always MORE ways to find your financial focus than what I will tell you.
Take what I say with a grain of salt or run with it and fill in the money gaps that have helped leak your cash into areas where it doesn’t need to go. Let’s take a look at areas you can visit to keep the grocery money going all month and then some.
Take Inventory/Grocery list
The first thing I would do in this situation is take a food inventory of what is in the house. If you buy other products with your grocery money such as health and beauty or cleaning supplies, list this as well.
Don’t just say you will do it! Action provides results.
You need to know how much stock you have on hand and what products you have. Knowing this information you are now armed with ammunition to start your journey.
Every time you go grocery shopping create a list and stick to it you’ll thank yourself for doing this. Having a grocery list with you while you shop is your second defense to combat over-spending.
Budget Your Money
You’ve heard it all before and think that budgeting sucks and you’re right not everyone likes to work with numbers. Budgets can be tedious but it also keeps people from going into debt, gets them out of debt and can help avoid extreme financial measures such as selling a house, car or even bankruptcy.
A grocery budget is simple to make BUT you must also know how much net income you are bringing home, who you owe money to every month and those expenses that only come once or twice a year.
Once you budget all of your numbers you will see how much money you have left to put towards your grocery money. If that number is too low then you have to either cut stuff out of your budget such as cable, cell phones, move somewhere cheaper or find new income sources.
Oh and don’t pay for an online budget if you don’t have to unless you want all the frills. If you are handy with computer programs you can design one yourself or download our free budget.
Earn Extra Money
Whether you like it or not if you aren’t making ends meet you may have to find a second income source or even third if you’ve already explored this avenue. During the holiday season you could take on temporary part-time work at the mall or other businesses who ramp up for the huge flow of customers in November, December and January.
You could also take on a paper route, babysitting or find something you are good or love to do and make money doing it. If you love to blog or write you could easily make money as a freelance writer although it takes time to get your name out there but once you do you can earn big bucks. If you love to garden in the summer you could make flyers, go door to door and offer your services or even grocery shop for other people.
Whatever you choose to do it needs to bring in extra money to help with your budget.
Buy Reduced Food
One way we target our food budget for savings is locating reduced items at the grocery store. Just about every grocery store will mark down food that is close to expiry or quick sale products for over-stock or packaging changes. Typically we will only buy what is on our list but if we see the same products marked down for less we will buy them first. This has come in handy for us as we’ve saved hundreds of dollars in 2015 alone using this tactic.
Always compare the weight and prices when buying food because you may find that the small pack that is on sale is still costing you more money than it would had you spent an extra dollar to buy the larger package. If you can spend the money to buy the bulk bag you will save in the long run.
If you see that your local grocery store has products that are exceptionally priced and you have the money to stock up, do it while you can. It may take a bit of juggling with the grocery budget or even catching up BUT if you are serious about your money you won’t let anything get in your way.
Food Bank and other services
Almost all local communities have a food bank which is where you can go to get free food and other products to help you get to the end of the month. Some people are ashamed to go to the food bank but don’t let your fear of what others may think of you get in the way of living. No one else cares more about you, than you do.
There may also be soup kitchens and other local facilities such as churches and community centres that offer breakfast, lunch and dinner for free so ask around because. You can also call city hall to ask them what local services may be in town to help those in need. If they can’t help you then ask them who they might suggest.
Speak up, live the life you deserve.
You may read this and think that its common sense to use coupons but believe me there are so many people who are in the dark about coupon savings. Coupons may not be as wildly popular as they once were a few years ago BUT there are savings to be had at just about every grocery store.
Related: Where to find Canadian Coupons?
If you have access to the internet at your home, local library or own a smartphone you can also sign up for coupon apps that will help you save even more grocery money.
Meal planning is imperative for saving grocery money because you are only buying food that you will need to prepare that day, week, bi-weekly or monthly. My advice is always to consider buying foods that you can stretch or switch up into different meals.
Buying a whole chicken will give you a lovely roast chicken dinner but you can use the bones and other bits of chicken to make a chicken stock. You can then use that chicken stock to make a homemade pot of chicken soup. You can add beans, pasta and vegetables to stretch that pot of soup even further.
The same goes with buying cuts of meat like ham, beef, pork and so on. Think big but also consider how many meals you can get out of what you are buying.
Minimize and sell what you don’t need
If you are in need of fast cash have a look around your house for items you can sell and make money. There are many places on the internet where you can sell or auction what has sat around collecting dust. If the weather is nice you could also hold a garage sale to get fast cash where selling online may take a bit longer depending on your prices and demand.
Short-term fixes that could fail or help
Not everyone has extra time to get another job so they may end up doing one of the following below.
- Get a Loan
- Credit Card
- Line of Credit
Although I’m not a huge fan of using a loan, credit card or line of credit to balance a monthly budget some people are in-between jobs or are waiting for money to come in so these services may come in handy to help you get through the month especially if you are running out of grocery money. Keep in mind the consequences of further debt if you don’t pay back the loans so this could help or hinder your progress.
We use a credit card to pay for all of our groceries BUT we pay it off in full every month. The interest rates on almost every credit card and most loans are outrageous so if you plan on holding a balance plan on paying more over the long-term. Pay it off as fast as you can and steer clear of friends and family loans as that could cause further issues on a different level if money is not paid back in a timely fashion.
Cash is always best.
The most important thing to remember is that an emergency savings fund is crucial for survival in this world. Prices are only going up including utility bills, rent and everything that has dollar signs attached so don’t get caught in the fire. Saving even a few dollars every month is better than having an empty wallet when you need something the most, like grocery money.
What other tips can you suggest to help someone who finds they keep running out of grocery money?
November Grocery Game Challenge posts
Join in the Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and if you have any questions feel free to email me.
New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only.
NEW!! If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN via PayPal. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week here for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. This makes posting a bit easier although all you need to do is click on The Grocery Game Challenge on the homepage sidebar and you will see them all.
- Top 5 Christmas Baking Ingredients to stock up on Now
- 10 Breakfast Ideas That Are Budget-Friendly
- 3 Ways You Can Have A Food Shopping List With Variety And Save
- 7 Expensive Grocery Shopping Habits You Should Stop
Free Grocery Budget Tools
Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.
I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE. CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet for FREE.
NEW!! You can now download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.
If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.
2015 Grocery shop results
Yearly grocery budget for two 2015: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $235 per year or $25 per month.
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month:
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $32.40
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $140.00
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 87421
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0.98
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Snap Groupon to date: $28.00
- Zweet to date: $18.00
- Checkout51 to date: $7.00
Grocery Shop This Week
- 2 x Dozen Eggs $3.09 each
- 2x Philadelphia cream cheese $2.97 each
- 1 x 3.25% milk $4.97
- 1 x 2% milk $3.97
- 2 x Astro Yogurt $2.49 each
Total Out-of-Pocket: $26.04 – rounded $26.05
- Total to spend this month
$235$188.10 (overspend from October to catch up on)
- Stockpile budget 2015 ($25.00): (Jan/Feb) $50.00 +$0 (Mar)+$16.94+$25.00 (April)+$25.00+ May $25.00+ June $25.00+July $14.44+Aug $25.00+Sept $25.00+ Oct $25.00+ Nov $25.00
- Stockpile budget used this month: $23.82 =$1.18=$25.00
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $34.50
- Total in-store discounts this week: $0
- Total in-store discounts to date: $676.52
- Total spent this week: $26.05
- Total spent so far this month: $249.04
- Total over/Under spend this shop: over
- Total over/Under spend for the month: over -$60.94
- Total left to spend for the month: $188.35 over budget by $34.90 for the month
- Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $166.49+ Feb $261.51+ Mar $231.02 + April $258.44+May $218.12+ June $235.67+July $212.16+August $118.15+ September $130.37+ October $281.89+ November $249.04
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)
Well we needed to pick up a few bits as expected but didn’t spend too much this week. Instead of using our PC points we are saving them for December although we may get lucky and not need to use them. With only 2 weeks of groceries to buy for we should be able to crush our 2015 grocery goals. Fingers crossed!
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?
No new coupon finds this week but there are lots on the Loblaws Coupon Board so don’t forget to check your local President’s Choice stores for coupons.
Grocery Game Challenge FAQ’s
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it all together. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?:
YesNo, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year so we can plan accordingly for our budget. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
- Canadian Coupons: Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading out but mobile coupon apps are the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households have gotten involved with their new mobile Save.ca app joining forces with the many apps that are already out there.
- What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.
You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.
This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.
If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2015 get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.
Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general.
If you are brave and want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2015!
Join in and become money savers and take control of your grocery budget.
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