1. We started using mint.com to track our spending. Its linked to our checking account so its very easy to track. No more fishing receipts out of my purse. The only thing that bothers me is when I buy diapers and groceries on the same check, there isn't a way to split that into my grocery and baby categories.
2. I've gotten even better at budgeting my grocery bill. I don't fill up my car very often, and I have no desire to buy clothes until I get back my pre baby body so groceries is the area I have most control over. Here are a couple of tips, some things I've done before and some I've just started:
- Reduce the meat. Not only is this healthier for you, but its way cheaper. Adam and I split one chicken breast (I cut them so they're half as thick. Bonus: they cook faster this way too!) so a pack of 8 will last me 8 meals (Olivia doesn't eat much dinner, so I just give her a few pieces of my chicken) I also use 1/4 pound ground turkey for every recipe, no matter how much it calls for.
- Use low cost staples as the base for your meals. Rice, potatoes, pasta and lentils are all very inexpensive and very healthy, especially if you use whole wheat pasta and brown rice.
- Shop at WinCo, if you can. I used to shop at the grocery store closest to my house because I was a busy working mom, but now I have time. In fact if we can spend more time out of the house that's even better! Its so much cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk and you only have to buy what you need. Plus the produce there is so much cheaper, not always the best quality so make sure you're extra selective.
- When you see a good deal or a sale, stock up. I know I will use at least one can of diced tomatoes a week. I also use a lot of frozen veggies and canned beans so I make sure to always have these on hand.
- Stay away from recipes with a bunch of special ingredients. Heavy cream (bad for you!), feta cheese, artisan bread, expensive produce. Every now and then, these things are okay (I love me some feta cheese) but try not to rely on them too much.
- Find out if there is a farmer's co op in your area. We use Bountiful Baskets here in Salt Lake. We get a lot of produce for only $15. Fun bonus: You never know what you're going to get and its fun to try new things and be creative. :)