Monday, March 27, 2006

Grocery tips

A couple of people asked about my food budgeting tips.....
This is based on a family of 8 (with 3 pets).

I spend, on average, $240 every 2 weeks. I seldom go over that amount and usually spend closer to the $225 mark.

My two biggest budget savers? Meal planning and list making.
I shop according to 2 weeks of meals, planned according to 'specials' or in season produce.
For instance, if fish is on sale - we have fish a bit more than usual.

I plan all 3 meals, which makes my life so much easier!

I cook complete meals and do not rely on pre-packaged foods. I keep a well stocked pantry and have an inventory sheet on the inside of the pantry door. If something is used, it is marked off. I add it to the shopping list. I do the same thing for the big freezer in the garage.
When something is on sale that we use often (example: tomato sauce -- I stock up).

We are not milk drinkers, so we save a bundle right there! We go through, on average, 1-1/2 gallons a week, mostly on cereal or for cooking. Besides, too much milk is not healthy
(but that is another post...)

For meat, I am blessed to live near a large Amish community. I get fresh, free range chicken (cut up or whole) for $1.29 a pound. I also get my cheese from their little shop, as well as most of my eggs ($1.50 for 18). In the summer, I get most of our produce from their stands or my own garden. I can, dry or freeze the surplus, which comes in handy in the fall/winter.
I also buy the bags of skinless, boneless chicken breasts when they are 'buy one get one free' at the store (which usually happens every 6 weeks). When that occurs, I buy 4 bags (and get 4 free).

For other meat, when it is on sale, I stock up. I use my Food Saver for freezer protection. This summer, Jeff and I are going to go in with another family and purchase a side of beef and pig. The meat is locally raised, free range. It is fairly priced and will store beautifully. If that sounds like something you would like to try - check out your County Extension office (usually connected to a college).

For paper products, I do use quite a few paper towels. I buy them in bulk at Sam's. This is something I need to learn to cut down on.
As for napkins, we use mostly cloth. They work better and can be used over and over.
Toilet paper? We go through a lot as you can imagine. Not much I can do about that, except buy on sale and stock up.

For cleaning products, I use mostly hot water, white vinegar and lemon juice. You can clean just about anything with those three things.
No toxic smells and it is cheap!
Shampoo, laundry soap, pet food and the like is purchased on sale and in bulk. I store extras in the laundry room or garage.

I will share this weeks menu with you, as an example.

B oatmeal
L turkey roll-ups, pears
D tilapia, couscous, peas/carrots (jello for dessert)

B yogurt, bananas, berries, toast
L chicken salad sandwiches
D turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, green beans (pudding for dessert)

B scrambled eggs
L grilled cheese, grapes
D spaghetti (sauce made the day before), salad (no planned dessert - church night)

B cereal
L leftover spaghetti
D grilled chicken, brown rice, salad (cookies or fruit for dessert)

B cream of wheat
L chicken noodle soup (in freezer)
D tacos, beans, fruit salad (sherbet for dessert)

B pancakes
L leftovers from Thursday/Friday
D salmon, roasted red potatoes, spinach (popsicles for dessert)

B cereal
L out after church
D beef stew, salad (strawberry shortcake for dessert)

Like I mentioned above, I do not purchase pre-packaged items. That saves a ton of money and is much healthier for you. Coupons? I rarely use them. Most of the coupons are for things we don't eat.

When I make spaghetti sauce, I triple my recipe and freeze it in meal size portions. Same thing for casseroles, soups and so forth.

Snack foods consist of popcorn, pretzels, fruit, granola and cookies (we bake a batch each week). I do not make a habit of buying soda or sugary junk food. For the occasional treat - sure. However, once it is gone, it is gone. It is not a regular staple in the pantry.

For bread, we go to the bread store (Aunt Millies) once a month. It is not day old bread, but bread that was overstock from the morning delivery. I can get 6 loaves of good wheat bread (3 grams of fiber per slice) for $3.00! That is .50 a loaf. I usually walk out with 30 loaves of bread (and lots of strange stares, LOL)
I keep 3 loaves at a time in the pantry (it goes fast around here) and the rest in the fridge or freezer.

It may all seem like a lot of work, but really, it isn't. You find your nitch and stick to a pattern. It is second nature to me now. With some careful planning - a lot of money can be saved!

Food, while important, yummy and sustaining, shouldn't take up a large percentage of the monthly income -- especially when you consider where the food eventually ends up, yk?



Blogger Kate said...

I am loving this. Printing it out now as a matter of fact. I so appreciate you doing this and posting it so soon!

5:12 PM  
Blogger owlhaven said...

This sounds similar to our house!!
($600-$650 per month for 10 people including 6 'adult' eaters)
Mary, mom to many

5:51 PM  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

We are blessed with a Pepperidge Farm outlet just down the road from the boys' school. I go in every two weeks, and stock up--most in the freezer. While it's not as inexpensive as your resource, I do get the wonderful multi-grain breads for less than a dollar a loaf.

Since the boys are in school now, I do buy more prepackaged foods than ever before. (I make 20 bagged lunches a week.) I rely on the buy-one-get-one-free deals, mixed with coupons. It does increase my grocery budget from the past, but ahhh. . . I do appreciate convenience. *blush*

Also, we are milk drinkers and with that, coffee, and cereal, go through about a gallon a day. I buy my milk at the drugstore. It is consistently 40 cents to a dollar less expensive than the grocery store, and is much easier to get in-and-out with just milk.

We also have a locally owned farmer's market, which we go regularly for fruits and veggies. Occasionally I'll go to the organic market, but. . . it's still hard for me to justify the price difference between locally grown non-organic and locally grown organic.

Btw, we have a sizeable Amish and Old Order / New Order Mennonite population in our city. Considering we're on the west coast of Florida, it's often a surprise for people who visit. *grin*

7:32 PM  
Blogger msdramateacherlady said...

Kim, I've said it before and I will say it again, you consistently amaze me. The routines you have developed are awe-inspiring. Makes me stive to me more orangized. Now, I would like tips on how to freeze produce (remember I'm a total city girl).

Also, my high school has an agriculture program, I bought 1/4 beef and 1/2 pig last year. I'm hooked, it is the BEST meat ever. And best of all...I know how the animals are cared for. I recommend doing this to anyone how has the room.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Hi Kim,
I'm visiting via the link on Randi's site. What good ideas you have and your menus look so healthy. I'll visit again!

7:43 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

i will to try this!!

7:58 PM  
Blogger They Call Me Mommy said...

Great blog! I am a big fan of Aunt Millie's day old stores as well! I find it to be fresh as can be, though we have to pay 59 cents a loaf. Sometimes we can even score bagels and donuts too!
Thanks for sharing your tips!

10:22 PM  

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