Monday, January 12, 2009

Shopping on a budget for a Large Family

I am no expert shopper, but I do have a few tricks that I thought I would share. Using a weekly menu plan has made getting dinner on the table every night much easier, but unlike many people, I do not shop from my menu. I do my shopping FIRST and then write a menu based on what I have in the house. I also give myself permission to juggle the nights on my menu to fit our day to day needs.

I do not get the newspaper, but I keep the coupons that I get at the checkout and I use and P & G to get online coupons downloaded directly to my Kroger Plus card. The advantage to this for me is that I don't buy things just because I've got a coupon and it comes off my total automatically when I check out without having to remember to actually bring any coupons to the store and give them to the checker.

There are certain products I will only buy if they are on sale, things like boxed mac & cheese, boxed rice mixes & other convenience foods that I can do without if we run out between sales. Once a month, I also stock up on whatever dessert things are on sale, sometimes it is cake mixes, other times it is pudding. I like to keep things like that on hand in the pantry, it has helped me to avoid going out & splurging on sweets when a sweet tooth hits the house. I also keep white rice, flour, yeast, baking soda and baking powder well stocked, buying more whenever it is on sale whether I'm running low or not.

I check unit prices on all packaged foods I buy. Sometimes the bulk packages are the best deal, but I often find it is cheaper to buy several small packages than it is to buy the biggest size. The grocery store I shop at has unit prices on the shelves, they sometimes try to be tricky by using cost per ounce on some packages versus cost per serving on others. You have to be alert to those types of tricks. I also avoid picking things up from the end caps, if it is something I need, I go to the section it is in to compare it to the other package sizes available.

I generally buy meat twice a month, concentrating on what is on sale. Usually, if beef is on sale at the beginning of the month, chicken will be on sale in the middle of the month, so I buy a LOT of whatever is on sale. Recently, I've also bought meat that is on clearance, I cook it right away & have gotten some pretty expensive cuts of beef for less than half the original price. Once the meat is cooked, you can freeze it for longer than uncooked meat. I'm hoping to buy an upright freezer in the next few months to be able to really take advantage of good sales. I'm looking on craig's list for one and I've also been pricing new ones at Home Depot and Lowes.

Other than apples, bananas and potatoes, I don't buy a lot of fresh produce in the winter, it is too expensive and really doesn't seem worth the money. Instead, I stock up on canned veggies and fruits along with whatever frozen fruits and veggies are on sale. I don't buy any veggies that come in a sauce or fruits in syrup.

I am not good at budgeting, so I try to pay all my bills first and buy groceries with whatever I have left. This way if we are having a good month I have extra money to stock up and if we are having a tight month I can rely on my pantry, just buying the absolute essentials.

I have three personal rules that I have been trying to stick to when it comes to grocery shopping:

  1. Don't shop hungry
  2. Don't shop tired or distracted
  3. Don't go to the grocery store more than once per week (trying for every other week, but not there yet).

I know this method won't work for everyone, but I hope you take something from this that will be helpful, it has taken me 20 years to figure out what works for me.


Thia said...

I've seen meat on clearance before, but never bought it b/c I didn't know how fast I would use it and didn't feel comfortable just putting it in the freezer. Thanks for the idea of cooking it right away!

MotherToMany said...

I only shop once a month. I plan a months worth of meals on a menu and then shop accordingly. But the monthly menu is not to be followed every day. For me it is a guideline to ensure I have enough food on hand to create meals all month long. So even though it says chili on the calendar maybe I'll decide it's a mac & cheese night instead. Either way I know I have enough food on hand to last all month long.

As for meats, I always buy ground beef and then cook it all up and then put 1-2 lbs of cooked beef into freezer bags and freeze them. This way it lasts all month and sometimes into next month but I also don't have to cook meat and dirty a pan whenever I need it for a recipe. Instead I nuke it for 2½ mins in the bag and toss it into whatever meal I am making that night. Saves time and energy. Makes those hamburger meals 10 times faster. I also do this with my chicken. I'll cook it and chop it up and make meal sized freezer portions then just heat and use when I need it.

Also if one can locate an Aldi near you. I can get 3-4 grocery carts stuffed and still be under budget. Mac & cheese in boxes at only 33 or 36¢ each compared to the name brand and we and others believe it tastes better than kraft.

Sonshine said...

Someone after my own heart, I shop before I menu plan it makes my life so much easier!

I have a separate upright freezer and I can say that it has saved me lots of $$ over the 6 years that I have had it. :)

I love finding clearance meat. I plan my shopping trips for days that I know when I get home I will have time to take care of the meat that I have found. I either cook it right away or divide it up into meals and stick it in the freezer.

Thanks for sharing your method! Now I just wished that stores around me would start those e-coupons and or do double coupons. :)

Ashley said...

Interesting..! Online coupons are a nice way to do our shopping on a budget.

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