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Macro-Budgeting: The Anti-Thirty-Day Shopping Challenge

One of my best friends is on a strict budget, yet she went to Whole Foods recently and spent $370 in one grocery trip. Her husband nearly had a coronary. She stood her ground, saying they were set for groceries for the next two weeks. Husband wasn’t placated. He said, “But you bought toiletries there, too. You spent twice as much as you would have at Trader Joe’s or Longs. And this won’t get us through two weeks. A week from now, we’ll go back and get crackers, and then of course the cheese will look good, so we’ll get that … and so much for grocery shopping’s all done for two weeks.”

But what if that works? What if macro-budgeting (buying everything all at once and letting it last till it’s time to fill the shelves again) works better than micro-budgeting (telling yourself you have $20 per day to spend on food)? If you shop only once or twice a month and that’s literally all you buy, will you spend the same amount that you allotted per week on a micro-budget? I’m thinking about trying another thirty-day shopping experiment, just to see if it balances.

Reduce Your Exposure to Cash Registers
Considering that every time you come into contact with a cash register you have the opportunity, and usually the temptation to spend, it might not be such a bad idea. Imagine. You pre-buy even your indulgences. Instead of going to Starbucks daily, you buy the half ’n’ half and premade espresso for the house, and purchase five cookies from the bakery for the week. It would save time budgeting, and save money if you could stay away from those cash registers.

Instead of going to the market every few days, spend that time rifling through the cupboards to see what you can make. If you bought enough food on your biweekly grocery run, you’ll be okay. Look through the recipe book for ideas. Dry goods? Have you thought about a risotto or stir fry? Dry beans and spices? Have you thought about making a chili or bean stew? Yesterday I really wanted to make my favorite quinoa muffins. I didn’t want to go out to the market for the missing ingredients, but I didn’t want to give up the craving. So I got creative. I used maple syrup instead of sugar, and used kefir instead of buttermilk.

Spend a Lot, Creatively
Budgeting at all, macro or micro, is about getting creative. My girlfriend who went on her $370 Whole Foods shopping spree didn’t plan anything. She just bought off the shelf. If you did a great job of meal planning and then promised not to go back to the store, your creativity could give you new dishes every week, and keep you away from the temptations of spending each time you’re in the market. Try macro budgeting and see if it saves you time and money. Come back and tell us how it works for you.

Originally published on Green Sherpa