A few years ago that was a regular occurrence for me. I found that I was often spending more than I thought I'd spend, impulse buying, forgetting items I needed, etc... It's so frustrating when you go to cook a meal for your hungry family and then realize you're missing something you need!
I started revamping the way I shopped and the way I made a grocery list. Since then, I walk into the store knowing exactly what I'm going to spend and I have to say that 9 times out of 10 I'm right on the money and I rarely forget what I need to get.
When I make a grocery list I start by writing down the days of the week at the top of my paper. I write in what meals I'm going to cook each day. I save a lot of money and have less waste by choosing meals that share ingredients, especially fresh produce. I also try to plan at least 2 meals that will have quite a bit of leftovers so that my hubby can have some food to take for lunch every day.
Once I determine what I'm going to cook I start making my list, I go one meal at a time and write all the ingredients I'm going to need for that meal before I move on to the next so that I don't miss any needed ingredients. I section my list out in a couple columns and try to group everything according to it's location in the store so I'm not running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. After I have all the ingredients I need for my meals, I fill in my extras (breakfast stuff, diapers, snacks, etc...)
Then I make a price next to each ingredient. I don't know the exact price of everything I shop for but I know close enough to estimate: Yogurt 4, Hamburger 8, Chicken Breasts 7, Onions 3, Milk 3, etc... I round down items that are only slightly over the dollar amount and round up when it's over by .$50 to the next dollar. When I'm done I add it all up and have an idea of what my cost will be. This usually gives me some wiggle room, if I grab a few extras while shopping (pack of oreos, ice cream, etc) I still don't go over.
I spend an average of $100 - $120 a week for a family of 5 including diapers for 2 kids and paper products, I cook a meal pretty much every night and I don't use coupons. This year I plan to start to venture into the world of coupons and hope to save even more. Last year I started making some of my own cleaning products and laundry soap and that helps too. I'll share more on that later.
Here is what my grocery list looks like: