When I first started reading the frugal blogs two years ago, and practicing my own version of kosher coupon shopping, I went through a range of … emotions.
I felt relieved by the possibility of being able to (drastically) reduce our food budget, but at the same time I was stressed out by how long it was taking me to plan our meals, make my lists and cut my coupons.
I’d hit the stores and feel invigorated by getting all these great deals. Seriously, I’d be buzzing for days thanks to a few free tubes of toothpaste.
But that couponing high would crash down when I’d look at the big frugal bloggers and read about how they were managing to feed their family of five on less than I spent on one stinking piece of brisket. These bloggers were spending $35, $45 and even $75 a week — all of which seemed like impossibly low sums of money to spend on any kind of food, let alone kosher food.
I’d check out the pictures of all their best shopping trips and feel pangs of jealousy. Actual jealousy, as crazy as that may sound, over their doubled coupons. I’d think: I will never be able to get my budget that low, so why even bother?
Well, I still don’t think I could ever possibly spend just $35 on a week’s worth of food, but I have managed to significantly shave our budget down over the last two years. Twenty four months ago, I was spending at least $1000 a month on food and household items. Today we spend between $400 and $500 per month, including our bulk orders of meat. That’s a savings of at least $6,000 a year. In my book, that’s real money and I’m proud of what I’m doing for my family.
By being so open about what we spend on food, I am hoping to encourage those of you who are struggling with your food budget. I do shop with coupons and I do stockpile our frequently bought products. But most of all, I just pay attention. I have (mostly) managed to stop the slow leaks by no longer turning a blind eye to what we are doing at the stores.
What I don’t want to have happen on this blog is for you to feel like I used to feel: “Oh I can’t ever possibly spend that little. What’s the point in trying?” Odds are, we will never spend exactly the same amount, because what works for my family more than likely isn’t going to be what works for your family.
Maybe you have two parents who work outside of the home, so you need more convenience foods or just don’t have the time to deal with shopping every week.
Maybe you host more often on Shabbat or chag, so you need a bigger entertainment budget.
Maybe you have food allergies in your family on top of kosher food, so you must buy more costly gluten-free, dairy-free, or peanut-free prodcuts.
Maybe you have more kids, older kids, younger kids, or no kids. Maybe you have grandparents living with you.
Maybe your spouse is less vegetarian-(during-the-week)-friendly than mine is.
Each one of us has our own families and our own finances. We all have to do the best we can with the time, money and energy we have. But if you’re struggling under the weight of your food budget, I firmly believe that couponing can help you.
I know that the learning curve can seem steep, but start where you’re at and keep taking baby steps as you move forward. I have no doubt that even with small steps you will see big savings!
Okay, experienced couponers: Do you agree that the learning curve is masterable? Have you seen significant reductions in what you’re spending at the store as a result of strategic shopping?