Monday, October 12, 2009

Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping

I posted a little quip the other day on facebook about how I only had an $89 grocery bill for 2 weeks. I got a lot of comments on it (wish I got a lot on my blog, lol) so I thought I'd share my thoughts on menu planning, grocery shopping and keeping your grocery bill low. Below is just the gist of it. I'll post a specific menu, list, and grocery bill for all to see sometime soon.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've been very wasteful in the past. I've let innumerable vegetables spoil down in the crisper because I was just "going to eat a salad every day!" And I've bought tons of other things that I've just let go, or that expired and had to be thrown out. I have not always been the most conscientious grocery shopper. But because our belt has been pulled rather tight as of late, I can't afford to NOT be more careful. I can't just let food spoil...we need to eat!

So I thought long and hard about what we "need" and what we "want" and what we can "do without." First of all, I decided that we can "do without" name brand everything. Sure, some things like Campbell's soups, Kraft Mac-N-Cheese and Heinz ketchup, I can't compromise on. I've tried the store brands, and just don't like them. But for the most part, I buy almost everything in the store brand (if it's cheaper). The taste and the quality are never far from or are equal to the name brand, so it's not a sacrifice to give them up. Also, I thought about our "wants." I personally want potato chips in the house all the time. And would love to have snack cakes and crackers all the time. But one thing that helps me to only eat when I'm hungry (I've lost a total of 46 lbs by the way), is NOT having snack foods around. It's just too tempting and too easy to eat when I'm not even hungry. So, if I have to go to the trouble to make a meal, I'm less likely to eat. It works for me anyway. So, I don't buy a lot of snack foods. On the weekends, I'll buy some chips and salsa, and make something sweet to snack on during movies, or a football game. But having them in the house all week, just isn't necessary. So that leaves us with what we "need," and that's why I started making a menu every week and just buying what I needed to make whatever's on the menu. And I've learned that I don't eat the fresh vegetables that I do buy (and no one else does either), so I don't need to buy them anymore, unless I have a specific purpose for them. I had a "light bulb moment" one day and realized that I just bought fresh vegetables and "healthy looking" food in an attempt to feel good about myself. Like I was one of those uberhealthconscience types pushing around a shopping cart with nothing in it but lettuce and Dasani water! But the truth was, that stuff sat in the fridge and rotted, and my money was wasted. Why? Because I lied to myself and tried to be something I wasn't. Now is eating fresh fruit and veggies important? Sure. But I'm not beating myself up over not having expensive strawberries and grapes in my cart in the middle of January just because Suzie homemaker next to me put them in hers. Or because that skinny girl in her gym clothes and tennis shoes put 3 bags of ready made salad, a case of Diet Coke and the current issue of Cosmo in her cart, and thinking to myself, "What I wouldn't give to be in my 20's and be able to do that!" But I'm not that girl either. So, I've just tried to be honest about what my family eats and needs, and what we don't.

So, for the next two weeks, I knew that the budget would be tight because my husband is taking an out of town business trip and would need extra money for gas, etc. Also, that just leaves me and the baby to cook for. So, my meal plans for the week included things that would be good as leftovers or would freeze well. Now normally, we don't eat the same things for days and days, but frankly, I don't mind it, and the baby sure doesn't mind it, so I decided to make several soups/chili, that could be spread throughout the week and/or frozen. I made a potato soup for this weekend (one of my husband's favorites), because I still had a 5 lb bag of potatoes (That's another trick. Take inventory of what you already have to work with.), so all I needed was celery and onion. We ate on that all weekend. Then, I bought a whole chicken to boil for chicken and dumplings. All I need for this is some flour to make the dumplings from scratch. That will last several days, and the rest I'll just freeze for when my husband comes home this weekend. And then I decided to make a pot of chili. Again, it freezes well, and you can eat it plain, add cheese and chives, or pour it over corn chips, whatever. It's versatile. And for other meals during the week, I bought some inexpensive frozen pizzas, I have sandwich stuff and cans of soup. I know it doesn't sound very exciting, but like I said, this is a week that we need to sacrifice a little. And sometimes, eating boring food is a small price to pay for peace of mind with your budget.

I also bought fresh fruit (apples which are in season and bananas for the baby) paper towels, TP, Ivory soap (for making laundry detergent), a hair straightening kit (to comb through my recently permed hair...I'm tired of it), mascara and pressed powder (Cover Girl), food for the baby and a couple of treats (caramel apples), and of course items to make dinners for 2 weeks, all for $89. Now, I will go eat out a couple of times ya'll, I aint gonna lie to ya. I just need to get out of the house sometimes, with my husband gone and all. But it will just be fast food somewhere...nothin' fancy. I think that's pretty good! And so did my fb friends. They were begging for my secrets. But there aint no secret to it ya'll( I love reverting back to my Appalachian American heritage and speech, lol), just buy what you need and be happy with it.

I know...easier said than done!


  1. Well, I'm glad you posted this because I'm not on fb with you and I wouldn't want to have missed it! I love reading about other people's frugal ideas and stuff.

    We love to make chili (I had some tonight) or soup and then pop some of it into the freezer for another night. I have never froze the potato soup though, I imagine that wouldn't work very well.

    My hubby and boys actually don't mind eating the same thing two or even three nights in a row. I am the one who likes to have a change.

  2. What a great post...and so HONEST!!! We just signed up to be part of a produce co-op and then after re-thinking it, I asked the girl in charge if it would mess things up if we didn't participate. She was fine with it. Really it was going to be WAY too much produce for this time of year and our size family and I know we'd end up pitching it. Way to save the money honey!! ♥

  3. thanks for sharing your tips!!
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