Since I launched my ecourse, Become a Food Budget Boss, I’ve heard from a lot of homemakers that they have trouble managing the non-food parts of their budget.

I know how frustrating it is to be trying to budget and not being able to get into a groove because little things keep tripping you up, so here are my best tips for including non-food items in your budget without overspending!

Create a separate budget for non-food items

If your budget is right, it can be overwhelming to think about adding in one more thing, but I’m not saying you need to increase your grocery budget. Just allocate the items you’re already using into a budget and use the average of that money to buy non-food stuff each week (or however often you grocery shop). My grocery and food items are combined I have one line-item in my normal budget (the one my husband sees). But within my grocery budget, I have a few subcategories:

  • Household (non-food) items
  • Bulk purchasing
  • Regular groceries

That helps me a lot, because buying in bulk is one of the biggest ways I save on my groceries, but before I was putting money aside for it, I just couldn’t find room in my budget for it. I was having a hard time balancing between saving money, but not spending all of my time cooking from scratch.

How I got started saving for bulk purchases with a tight grocery budget

When I realized that I had  to do something different with my grocery budget because it was completely out of control, I knew I needed to make things easier for myself, but also needed to be responsible. So I started comparing the prices of places like Jet and Boxed. I had ____ different strategies.

  1. The first time I ordered, I only ordered items that were the same price as the grocery store, but offered a larger quantity. That means I wasn’t saving
  2. I also switched a few things I am usually brand-loyal on to the generic, like dish washer tablets (we hated the Kroger brand. I do not recommend them) and used a cheap brand of laundry soap.
  3. The next week I skipped buying meat completely and bought things like my husband’s work snacks that were way cheaper online in bulk, and that saved us a lot on the next few weeks of groceries. And don’t tell me you can’t do it, I am the most meat-loving person out there.
  4. After that I was pretty good with my grocery budget, but I wanted to make a large purchase to really get the ball rolling so I did a pseudo no-spend two weeks. I did buy my basics, milk to make yogurt in the Instant Pot and fresh produce, but not much else. We ate a lot of meals with beans and rice that week, but I was able to spend half of my usual grocery money on bulk purchases that saved me a lot. 

All of those changes took me 6 weeks.  If I had been a little more extreme I could have shortened it a lot, but I have been spending a lot of time working to create sustainable habits and systems, and since the road to burnout is a short one for me, I decided to take my time.

Okay, so once I got to ordering the bulk foods, I started keeping track of the big ticket items that were costing me a lot of money and making sure that I was getting them cheaper. Some items I don’t buy in bulk online because they aren’t cheaper.

  • grains
  • legumes

A lot of the other items on my grocery list aren’t consistent, which is why they aren’t on either list. Some things have been cheaper every time like:

  • coffee
  • laundry detergent
  • dishwasher tabs
  • snack foods for Ian at work
  • feminine products (I don’t actually use disposable ones anymore, but I know a lot of people do and would like to save on these!)
  • razor blades (we also switched, Ian and I have a straight razor we use with disposable blades that cost $0.10 each, but again…. I know that’s not the case for most people so I keep an eye on prices)

After you start buying in bulk, that frees up a lot of room in your regular budget to keep the ball rolling. I have some of my best tips that will help you know which products to pick to have the biggest impact on your budget immediately.

Tips for knowing what products to start buying in bulk for the biggest budget impact

Once you’ve got the money to buy in bulk, here are the products you should start with to help you get the most bang for your buck:

  1. Things you’ll need really soon
  2. Items you use all the time
  3. Convenience items

Of course, if you’re low on something, you’ll need to buy that first. That’s pretty common sense, but it’s easy to look at the selection of things and go “oh! I use paper towels all the time!” and realize you still have 5 rolls in the kitchen. Not helpful for immediate savings, even if the price is good.

The next thing to look add to your cart are the items you would buy regardless of their price. For me, that’s PB2. Breakfast is a pretty set ritual for me, and I almost always have yogurt with PB2, cocoa and Slim to help me control my appetite. Now that I buy in bulk, I make sure I always have PB2 in the house. Whatever you have in have in the house, that’s the next thing to add to your list. Things like toilet paper would be a more normal example for people who aren’t PB2 addicts. 😉

After that, stock up on convenience items. I don’t eat high-carb meals right now, except on my once cheat day a week because I’m following Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Body diet plan. (Yes, PB2 is technically a cheat because it has some sugar, but I’m okay with that.) But my family loves mac and cheese. Loves it. So I buy it in bulk for cheat days and for meals for everyone else when I have easy lunches for myself already made. If it makes your life easier and you’re well within your budget, get some easy snacks or lunch items.

I really hope this is helpful to you! I know managing your grocery budget is a huge way to save money, which is why I created the free ecourse Become a Food Budget Boss. I have done everything wrong and while I know there is no one-size fits all solution to saving money, I hope you get something out of this and it has as big of an impact on your budget as it has on my family’s!

If there is anything else you’re struggling with, please leave a comment and tell me or join in the conversations happening in the Budget Bosses Facebook group!