I’m not sure exactly when it happened. Sometime after I got my first real job post-college and was paying my own bills, I became an independent adult. I valued my hard-earned money, and I wasn’t one to spend it frivolously.
I got the frugal gene from my mom, but I never realized it until I was on my own. When it came to spending money, my parents always put my sister’s and my needs first. My mom hardly ever seemed to spend money on herself, and when she did, it was always with an incredible deal. I don’t really remember paying that much attention to her money-saving efforts, but somewhere along the way, my mom’s coupon-clipping and clearance-rack-scouring habits rubbed off on me.
Fast forward a couple decades, I am now a proud money-saving mom, and I like having a budget. Most days I am thankful I married someone even more frugal than I. I thought I was pretty thrifty before we had our daughter, but I continue to discover ways I can save money for my family.
My husband and I have always had a budget, but when times have called for us to stretch our dollars, I found that having a weekly grocery budget – and sticking to it – was key. I used to be a pretty big coupon clipper, and I would stock up on items when they were on sale. But I found myself buying items I didn’t necessarily need at the time and spending way more money than I intended to just because I felt like I was getting a good deal. By having a weekly – or monthly – grocery budget, I am able to better control how much I am spending. Some people find having cash envelopes helpful so they don’t spend more than they intend to.
My not-so-secret grocery shopping tip: shop at Aldi. A sister store to Trader Joes, Aldi is known for its affordable prices. I’ll be honest and admit that I held a stereotype about the store and assumed it would be similar to a Walmart shopping experience, but after giving it a chance I realized I had been missing out for years.
Aldi is able to keep their prices low by offering fewer products, stocking generic brands, keeping items in boxes rather than using shelves, not taking credit cards (they do take debit), and having consumers bag their own groceries. You also put in a quarter as a deposit for your shopping cart. Not only is this a way to cut down on staff time and expense chasing down carts, it also helps keep the prices low and the store organized.
My favorite Aldi items are the staples: canned goods, bread, cereal, dairy, and even produce. My husband claims the off-brand cereals are better than their name-brand counterparts. And my 16-month-old doesn’t have too many complaints, either.
I do have to shop at a couple other stores for a few other things Aldi doesn’t carry and things I prefer to purchase elsewhere, but I love how much I save each week by buying my groceries at Aldi. I get excited price-comparing and knowing how much I’m saving. Yes, I am a budget nerd.
While I have professed my love for Aldi, I must also add how you can save at Target and Hy-Vee. Target has their REDcard, which saves you five percent on every purchase, plus you can use their mobile app Cartwheel for additional savings. When I shop at Target, I typically receive coupons based on what I purchased that day. Hy-Vee has their Fuel Saver program, which saves you money on gas when you buy certain items. Be careful with this, though – it’s easy to buy things you don’t need for the gas savings.
Keeping a grocery budget helps my family save, and I like knowing exactly how much I am spending each week. I’ve found some of my favorite budget-saving recipes and other money-saving tips from Money Saving Mom. I also enjoy Iowa Girl Eats, and my friend Kelly over at Food Pusher has some great sweet treats, Mexican, and gluten-free recipes. (While you’re checking out food blogs, make sure to visit DMMB contributor Suzy at The Mediterranean Dish!)