Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cutting Grocery Expenses-getting help from the Family

by Janine Bolon

I was on the phone yesterday with a client of mine. She was asking for additional advice on cutting her grocery bill for a family of three. As we discussed her buying habits, dietary needs and the needs of her family, she suddenly blurt out, "Janine, how many items do you have in your price book? I mean, how many do you buy consistently?"

My price book is the core of my system for keeping my grocery budget down and my return on dollar spent UP! (for more information on price books, read this post) As we talked it became evident where her problem was. It was with her family. My average weekly grocery needs was 36 items that we buy consistently. My client then asked, "Okay, Janine, of those items how many are required to be a certain brand?" I laughed out loud on that one. I explained that the only "brand name" item we buy in my house was a specific bar soap for the kids. "Well, that's not my issue. I have to buy 249 specific, brand-name items from the store for my family. They won't accept any generic alternatives to them."

I have to admit reader, I was stunned. I have total in my price book 92 items that I track for keeping my grocery bill down. Of those items, I track consistently 36-40 depending upon the season. This poor woman was desperately trying to cut expenses for her family but was unable to really bring the prices down on her bills due to their demands. What can she do? What can you do if you are in a similar boat? Here's the #1 way my clients handle this particular problem.

List out the (in my client's case) 249 items that are "required" name brands by your family and then check the generic costs for the same items. You know how often you have to purchase these items. Get out a pen and paper and show your family how much money a year you can save if you were to stop buying the name brand items and went with the generic. If you can't get them to agree to all the items becoming generic at least cut as many as possible from the "must have" list. Seriously, folks, for very little time you can save thousands of dollars a year with this one exercise.

Now, I can hear some of you...toilet paper, laundry detergent and shampoo are the top three items that people go NUTS if you mention pulling them away from their name brands. Please, please don't think you must give up these items, but what you DO want for your budget is to figure out which items can be switched out for generic or deleted from the grocery list altogether. Right?

When saving money, make sure you know what it is you really want out of life and then make sure that you are spending your money on the items that truly make your life a pleasure rather than a drudgery. For one thing, you can set up a reward system for the amount of money you are saving weekly at the grocery store. The reason we work so hard to keep our bill low is we love to travel. We are currently saving for a trip to Legoland for the entire family so we have cooperation from everyone about cutting costs since we all agreed upon this financial goal.

Good luck chatting with your family about those name brands! I've found just showing them the numbers is a great way to bring about consensus.


Denise said...

Excellent ideas. I love the last paragraph which reminds me of the reason for all my penny spend more resources on the things most valuable...chips and ice cream are not among them (most of the time!) Thanks Janine, for your tips to include the family in the plan and rewards...very valuable advice for our family with teenagers!

Janette said...

As a long time generic brand buyer, I have noticed the quality has really improved over ten years ago on a lot of items. I know we have saved thousands of dollars buying generic and making from scratch.

thestarforum said...

Sounds like I need to break out my price book again. I've gotten lazy, and my bank account is proof.