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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meal planning, grocery shopping, and other fun domestic things.

Lately I've been asked a lot about how I do our menu planning and grocery shopping. It's no secret that we're on a very tight budget around here, and we manage to keep our grocery budget to $250 a month. Truthfully, we're able to keep it that low because we have to. Keep in mind that I only consider food items part of our grocery bill; toiletries and detergent and that stuff are in another category altogether, and the way we save money in those areas is another post altogether!

Nothing that I do is truly original; I've just taken lots of different shopping/planning methods (methods? Can I even call them that?) and made them work for us.

We've tried E-mealz. I was too much of a control freak to let someone else choose what we were going to eat. And I have an aversion to companies that substitute Zs for Ss.

We've tried shopping every two weeks. We didn't eat enough produce by the end of the second week because it had gone bad. Plus I ended up going back to the store at some point anyway.

We've tried cutting coupons. Sheesh, talk about taking a lot of time! And really, most coupons are for items that I don't want to buy (processed junk food, anyone?). Sure I'll flip through the coupons in the Sunday paper, but I don't very use many of them anymore.

So take what you want and leave what you don't, but here's what works in this house:
  • Menu planning: I sit down on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon and plan out our menu for the week. I'm super fancy and usually just use a piece of notebook paper. 
    • Before I even start thinking about what we're going to eat, I sketch out our calendar for the week so I know how much time I'll have to be in the kitchen each day. That helps a TON because then I know which days I need Crock Pot meals, which days Matt can cook (he's better at it than I am!), and which days are good to try something new.
    • Then I start brainstorming to figure out what sounds good. I usually ask Matt if he has any requests, and I flip through my Pinterest board of Recipes We've Tried and Loved.
    • My last step before setting the menu is to glance through the grocery ads for my usual stores (more on that later) and looking through the pantry and fridge to see what we have that needs to be used. 
    • Then we just assign a main and side dish to each day. Menu set!
  • After the menu is set, I write out the grocery list. I usually hit three stores each week: Sprouts, Kroger, and Costco.
    • Sprouts: I love Sprouts for their produce sales. Most of our side dishes are determined by which veggies are on sale that week. We get most of our produce here.
    • Kroger: This is where we get our miscellaneous stuff like cereal, butter, eggs, baking supplies, whatever. Oh, and Blue Bell when it's on sale and I remember to print my coupon. That's an important one!
    • Costco: You have to be careful with Costco because it's easy to buy unnecessary stuff just because it seems like a good deal. Our usual purchases at Costco are bananas, spinach, carrots (haha, we made it through the 10 lb bag!), cheese (we buy the blocks and shred it ourselves because it's way cheaper and tastes better), milk, meat (ground beef and chicken breasts), tortilla chips, veggie stix, and some type of snack (like granola bars or the Annie's snack bags). We also buy paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, dog food, and other stuff that doesn't count toward grocery money. I digress.
    • If at all possible, I grocery shop on Sunday afternoon while the kids are napping or at night once they've gone to bed. It's SO much easier to shop (especially at 2-3 stores) when I'm by myself.
  •  Just a few miscellaneous items:
    • We try to limit our snack purchases. Those little boogers add up quickly! 
    • We try to skip convenience items like cooking soups and taco seasoning (thanks to Pinterest we make our own!).
    • I do still clip coupons for items that we purchase on a regular basis. I don't always use them right away because I usually try to wait and combine it with a sale. 
    • We don't buy specific lunch food because we just eat leftovers. 
    • We make most of Landon's baby food. I can't even tell you how much cheaper this is. We buy some jars for when we're out at mealtimes, but when we eat at home, we just thaw out our frozen cubes.
    • I take out our $250 in cash after payday because then I can literally see how much we have left for the month.
    • Price books are handy! But really once I paid attention to prices for long enough, I was able to easily recognize what was actually a good deal.
I am not an expert by any means, and I'll probably edit this post a few more times when I'm hit with a moment of grocery shopping brilliance. At the very least, now I have an answer for those of you who've asked how we do our grocery shopping around here.

Congratulations on making it this far. The end.

2 comments:

Joyce said...

This is very similar to what we do too!!!

Kati said...

Awesome Heather! Thanks for the tips :) I really want to start menu planning.