I'm halfway through my first month's attempt at sticking to our grocery budget. So far I've gleaned a few bits of knowledge, mostly things that I already knew but have definitely been reinforced.
1. I need to stop buying organic milk. This is a tough one for me, because I love organic milk and all that it stands for (the brand I buy, while not technically local, it at least regional; it tastes fresher; and I believe in supporting the organic farming community). But really, my little family goes through at least two gallons a week, usually three. At more than $5 a gallon, that's typically 1/4 of my weekly grocery budget.
2. I spend more when I bring the coupons along, no matter how great I think the deals are. It is virtually impossible for me to stick to my budget when I have the coupons. My $60 a week budget is basically enough for us to buy the fresh food we need and whatever few pantry staples we are out of. I would do better to leave the bulk of the coupons at home and only use those for the things we actually need that week.
3. When I can shop kid-free, I need to shop at a different store. It's true, I go to one of the more expensive grocery stores in the area. Not the MOST expensive, by any means, but certainly not the cheapest. Why? They have two beautiful features - they bag the groceries, and, most important of all, they have PLAYLAND. Playland is like a mini-Disneyland to my daughter. They have amazing toys, she always meets someone new, and she LOVES the girl who works there. So, when she's with me, I either have the benefit of dropping her off there if she's healthy, or if she's not (or if Playland's closed), at least I don't have to worry about trying to bag my own groceries and keep an eye on her. These are things I'm willing to pay a little more for. Also, our inexpensive grocery store has TERRIBLE meat and produce, but I could be shopping there for other things.
4. I lack list discipline. I've known this for years, but when you're trying to stick to a limited budget, it becomes a bigger issue. Case in point - I went to the meat market this morning, to buy hamburger and maybe a package of chicken sausages if they had any. I came out with hamburger, chicken sausage, pork sausage, and chorizo. And spent $7 more than my budget. I need to keep reminding myself that the list rules - if it's not on the list, it waits till the next shopping trip.
Life's a process, right? These are things I know, and so they are things I can work on. In the meantime, I'll be interested to see how we come out at the end of the month, if I continue to be honest with myself and on top of things.