As we pay off debt, save for a house, and take care of our living expenses, my new husband and I are always on the lookout for ways to save money. One place we've been working hard to save money is on food. We've gone from eating dinner out whenever we feel like it to navigating the grocery store scene with purpose and skill. Not only has this helped build up our savings, but it has also helped build up our marriage relationship! Here are five tips to help you do the same.
1. Budget. Work together to set a grocery budget at the beginning of each month. Whether we spend it in one grocery-shopping extravaganza or make several trips throughout the month, my husband and I hold each other accountable for spending only our budgeted amount for groceries each month. We limit the frivolous purchases (although he looks the other way when I grab the ice cream, and I pretend I don't see the case of Mountain Dew), and we've cut back the impulsive trips to the store to stock up.
Newlywed Benefit: Budgeting gives us a feeling of shared responsibility when it comes to spending wisely. My husband says he always thinks twice before spending money on something unnecessary because he knows it will affect me. We feel more disciplined with our spending, as well, which adds a sense of security to our marriage.
2. Make a list. One way to save money while grocery shopping is to go in with a list and make yourselves stick to it. Sit down and decide what meals you would like to have over the course of a month. Try to choose meals for which you already have some ingredients in the pantry, and add any additional ingredients to your shopping list. If you find the list looks like it's going over the budget, figure out where to cut back before you go out into the trenches.
Newlywed Benefit: Making lists helps with our foresight and communication. We're learning that in a marriage it's important to think ahead and have conversations about the future, and making a shopping list for the whole month's gives us an opportunity to practice doing just that.
3. Scout the sales and coupons. You can save money on groceries by knowing what's on sale ahead of time. Cut out coupons, check the specials at local grocery stores, and open any available discount card accounts. You might also want to buy in bulk. My husband just bought two giant packages of pork chops because they were two for the price of one. It seemed absurd to me at the time, but as he stashed them in the freezer in meal-size portions, it became clear how many meals we could get out of that one purchase.
Newlywed Benefit: Looking for sales and coupons helps us with our problem-solving skills. We always feel like a victorious team when we save on our grocery bill.
4. Live on leftovers. I made hot chicken salad for dinner two nights ago, which means that was what we had for dinner last night and tonight, as well. (Good thing I know how to cook!) One great way to save money at the grocery store is to plan to cook big meals that you can eat over the course of a few days. This beats having to buy ingredients for many separate meals, as well as allowing last night's leftovers to mold while you indulge on tonight's fresh treat.
Newlywed Benefit: Cooking big meals that will keep in the fridge as leftovers is a fun way for the two of us to spend time together in the kitchen. If only one of us does the cooking, it gives us an opportunity to be grateful to the other. Not to mention, it's building up our arsenal of recipes for when we have children!
5. Try the off-brand. Sure, the names are a bit corny, but the off-brand is always worth a try. Substituting the off-brand for the name brand can save you a lot of money while grocery shopping, especially when a grocery store offers automatic discounts on its own brand. Usually they taste just the same, if not better, than their name-brand counterparts.
Newlywed Benefit: Buying the off-brand helps us to sacrifice for the good of the other. If I'm not able to eat my name brand cereal this month, I'll know that I'm "taking one for the team" to help my new family get ahead.
While you're trying to save money and get out of debt, give some of these tips a try. You might be surprised how quickly the savings add up, while you gain a sense of teamwork, accomplishment, and discipline in your newlywed relationship. It might not sound romantic, but that's the stuff that will last!
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