Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Make the Most of Your Meals (Part 3)

Mission: Reduce My Grocery Budget

I looked back through my expenses thus far during 2012, and we've been spending an average of $100-150 a week. Less than $100 per week at the grocery store, the rest is mostly from Target. That means some is non-food, like cleaning supplies and toiletries. I definitely can reduce those numbers. 

I'm pretty pleased with week number one of trying to pare down my grocery expenses and reduce food waste. My grocery expenditures this week came in under $30.

The orange pepper and green grapes were not on my list, but when my three-year-old asks for produce, it's really hard to turn him down!

My menu revolved around using up food that was already on hand. We were fortunate to have two very special nights with no cooking :)

Mon: Leftover pork from last week, leftover rice and veggies from a birthday dinner on Saturday
Tue: Mini meatloaves with tater tots (beef, tots and sauce were hanging out in freezer) and green beans
Wed: Salmon from the freezer, more leftover rice, and broccoli that badly needed to be used
Thur: Enchiladas from the freezer, salad
Fri: My Dad brought Dominos!
Sat: Date night at Red Lobster, using a coupon
Sun: Burgers and rolls from the freezer, leftover vegetables

You might wonder why I am working so hard to use up my freezer food.

Well, this is what my freezer looked like about two months ago. Aside from some wiping and an attempt to straighten up the stuff in there, it hasn't looked much different since. We had some frosting issues because there was so much stuff that the drawer couldn't close properly. Not to mention the full chest freezer in the basement...

Incorporating things on hand will help bring costs down for the meantime. And, more freezer space will give me the option of stocking up when food goes on sale. I bought the two blocks of cheese today (2/$4) to experiment and see if I can make my own snack size pieces of cheese for cheap and with less packaging.

I've posted before about some of the pitfalls of grocery shopping and why it's not necessarily bad to be loyal to a specific store.

A few things that I'd like to reinforce:

Plan your trip
Look at the weekly circular and see if there are any bargains. Consider planning your meals around meats or produce that is on sale in a given week. Review any paper coupons that you have before you get to the store, and/or look for online coupons that correspond to needed items and sales.

Make a list and stick to it
If possible, take the time to make the list in the order that you travel through the store. Buy only what you knew you needed at home. It's healthier if you stick to the perimeter of the store.

Don't shop at five different stores
Not only do I view this as a huge hassle and time-waster, I think it becomes a financial mistake. If you frequent one or two stores, you know exactly where to find things. You'll browse less, and you'll remember prices for sake of comparison. How much money do you really save by making a special trip for that really good deal on blueberries?

Don't be ashamed to buy the "house brand"
I find myself doing this all the time recently. Over and over, the price of the store brand comes in lower than the sale price for the name brand. There are so many things that you can buy without the name brand price--crisp rice cereal for those marshmallow treats, frozen spinach, macaroni, baking soda, vegetable oil, salt, etc. Plus, those are things you rarely see coupons for. Take the extra 5-10 seconds to find the house brand instead of grabbing the trademarked packaging that you instantly recognize (because that seems to be the only reason for the higher price).

Try to know your prices, at least on the bigger stuff
I know not everyone is a stay at home mom like me, and time is often more important than money. If you have the luxury of doing some price-comparison shopping, do it. I love shopping at Target and have found that I can get a lot of my dry goods there for a lot less (sugar, coffee, cereal, granola bars). It's very, very rare that I can get a better deal on cereal at the supermarket.

Next week, we'll talk about building a good pantry stash without going overboard.

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