Thursday, October 7, 2010

Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping

I know that I have confessed this in the past.  I spend way too much money on groceries.  In fact, our grocery bill has now exceeded our mortgage payment!  Yes.  I hate to admit it, but it's true.

The funny thing is, that even though I seem to buy an awful lot of groceries, I sometimes seem to have trouble putting it together for dinner.  Dinnertime is most always a stressful time of the day.  There's helping with homework.  There's making sure piano and violin lessons have been practiced.  Sometimes there's after school appointments or activities.   I don't mind cooking, but let's face it, some nights I'd rather just go out to dinner!  Since we try to only go out on the weekends (for both health and budget reasons), going to restaurants in the middle of the week isn't really an option.

I started several months ago making a weekly menu plan and grocery list to help me focus a little better.  While it did seem to help me get dinner on the table a little easier, it really didn't help with my budget.  I still find myself running to the grocery store at least two to three times a week.  And, of course, every time I go into the store, I come out with more items than I went in for.

I have tried to cut our grocery bill several times in the past.  I even took an adult education class on how to save in the grocery store a few years back.  I cut coupons.  I shop the sales.  I joined BJ's Warehouse Club.  Still, I believe I'm spending way too much.  I'd much rather spend that money on other things.  Like paying off bills or the new cell phones my family wants or the trip to Disney that I want...

Last week, I saw the Economides family on the Today Show.  You may have heard of them.  They are America's Cheapest Family.  With their new book, they claim to be able to help you Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half.  OK.  So.  I took the bait.  I bought the book.  I'm already trying to apply some of the techniques they discuss.  I'm only a few chapters into the book.

I started this week by taking an inventory of everything already in my pantry, freezer and refrigerator.  I sat down with my inventory and my recipe binder and made up a meal plan for the month of October using things I already have on hand.  Then, I made a grocery list of the items I need to buy to fill in the menu, plus breakfast and lunch items, paper products, cleaners, etc.  I looked through the store flyers and decided to go to two stores that had the best prices for the items I needed.  I settled on Walmart (for the majority of my list) and Green Grocer (for my gf items and because I had a $2 off total of $20 coupon to use).  I assembled my clipped coupons.   I grabbed my calculator.  I headed out to shop!

One of the ideas in the book is to put a shopping basket into the shopping cart and put all of the "impulse purchases" in the basket.  Since I almost always pick up extra things when I shop, I decide this was a good way to keep track of what I'm buying that's not on my list.  It really did help me stick to my list.  I had just one item in the basket at check-out.  That was one Enjoy Life Choco Boom Boom bar!  I wasn't putting that baby back!!!  A girl has to have her chocolate, right?  
Since I used a pre-printed grocery shopping list (check-box style), I missed a few items in the store.  I'm used to writing my own, listing items in the order they are arranged in the store.  It will probably take a while to get the hang of it.  Or, I may re-do the list to make it easier.  In any case, this means I will have to make another trip to pick up the items I missed.  I'm guessing I will have to make a small trip each week to pick up perishable items like milk, eggs, fruit...etc.

Also, since I don't have an extra freezer, I couldn't buy a lot of "freezer foods".  As it is, my little freezer is stocked to the max.  I hope that I've planned my purchases wisely so that I have enough to last the month.  I guess we will see.

My total at Walmart after coupons was $127.11.  At Green Grocer, it was $18.25.  So, my grand total for today's trip was $145.36.

Now.  I must admit.  This was a lot of work.  It took me most of the afternoon yesterday to get things together, over an hour shopping and then another 45 minutes to get everything put away.  I even bought a large package of chicken breasts and a huge package of ground beef that I had to split up into freezer bags when I got home.  I don't usually do this, but after checking the unit prices per pound, I could see quite a big difference in the cost.  I'm guessing that with practice, the whole process will go faster.  At least I hope so.

I'd love to hear any money-saving tips you all might have to share...

I hope you all have a great, gluten-free day!  :)


kim said...

You & I are so much alike! LOL! Hubby is my coupon king. Seriously, the man is amazing. Do you have a grocery store that will match prices from other stores ads? Our Meijer store does this and they double coupons up to $1.00, so that helps us save a bunch of $$. Aaron will search the adds, circle what he wants to match and then usually even find coupons for that stuff.

I like the basket in the car idea...that is brilliant! LOL!


Lisa said...

Kim ~ You are so lucky to have your hubby helping you! That's awesome! I still have to check out the price matching. We don't have any stores in our area that double coupons. That would be so great.

I've found that usually Walmart has the best prices for just about everything, even though it's not my favorite place to shop. I guess that's the drawback to being a bit of a "foodie". I love to shop at places with a little more "gourmet" appeal and less "warehouse" feel. But I guess if I'm watching my budget, that's not the best approach. :(

I love the basket idea too. I really should have done that when I went to Target yesterday...LOL!


Medifast Coupons said...

I do meal planning by the week usually. And I now print off my recipes and go with them to the grocers, really find this helps. I do check at home first what I have on hand so I don't buy what already is in the pantry. It is really working for us, and we are trying a lot of new recipes, put right on the top of the recipe copy if we liked or not.
Good luck with your savings, it takes time for sure.