The novelty of shopping for two can lead some newlyweds to allocate too much cash to the filling their grocery carts. As you settle into married life and work on feathering your nest, look at the ways money moves in and out of your bank account. You may be surprised to find you are actually eating much of your earnings -- a grocery budget can help you get back on track.
Decide how much you can spend. Add up your household income and subtract your other monthly expenses when determining how much cash you want to allocate to filling your grocery cart. Once you arrive at a figure based on a month’s worth of expenses, divide this figure by four to set a weekly grocery budget.
Check your current grocery spending. Label an envelope “Grocery Receipts” and tuck all of your food-related register tapes into this holder throughout the month. Include all receipts, even little ones, like those from a midnight snack run. At month’s end, add these receipts up and divide the total by four to determine how much you spend at the grocery store on an average week. By doing this, you get a more accurate picture of how much your actual spending deviates from your goal.
Open up your cupboards and go over your records. Highlight any purchases that could be eliminated -- anything still sitting in the cupboard gathering dust, as well as any luxury items. Allow the amount by which your actual spending exceeds your goal to determine how many items you need to cut. If your numbers are far apart, you may have to highlight all unnecessary items to get your spending in check. If the numbers are closer together, you may be able to reconcile them by cutting out a bottle of wine or a bakery treat or two.
Create, and stick to, a list when shopping. If you're a little flexible in making up your menus for the week, you'll save by consulting the sale ad of your preferred store when you make up your list. When moving through the grocery aisles, don’t place anything in your cart that doesn’t appear on your list, regardless of how tempting it may seem.
Take a calculator to the supermarket. As you place items into your cart, type their prices into your calculator. By doing this, you can stay on top of how much you will be expected to fork over at the checkout. If you are using coupons, subtract the discount from your item price before typing it into your calculator.
Monitor your success by keeping receipts. Periodically, add up your receipts to make sure you're on track. It can be hard to get a handle on your total spending if you make several small trips to the grocery store throughout the week, so keep a running tally. If you discover that you were a good little budgeter, you may even want to reward yourself and your spouse with a night on the town using the money you saved.
Leave the plastic at home if sticking to this budget proves challenging. Instead of allowing yourself to charge your perishables, visit your bank and take out the amount that you have allotted yourself for weekly groceries. Leave the cards at home, and you make it impossible to exceed your budget.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.