Monday May 7, 2007

     I’ve been working on ways to reduce our grocery bill.  I’m not new to this.  We’ve been living on one income for the better part of twenty years now, save for a few years of my doing some in home child care.  However, as the years pass, good old habits can slip into sloppy new habits, and this is partially what has happened in my home.

     One thing that I am doing is having Dani build a price book for me.  Keeping a price book has always been a good idea.  Keeping track of prices allows you to not only know when a sales price is really a good deal, it also allows you to comparison shop.  For example, a lot of people assume that buying in bulk at the warehouse or club stores is always the best deal.  Many times you can find much better prices at either a deep discount grocer, or as an advertised item at the regular grocery store.  Knowing the price each (or per pound or ounce) is vital in making sure that what you are buying is actually a good deal. 

     In years past, I found I could keep track of prices quite well from memory.  Those days, I’m afraid, are long gone!   These days, Dani is able to jot down prices on things we use as we shop, while I concentrate on what is going in to the cart.  She also takes some time during the week when the grocery sales flyers arrive to check the sale prices and loss leaders against our price book.  She then lets me know what’s on sale where, and who has the best ad overall.  We suffered quite a set back a month or so ago when our price book was left in a shopping cart in the grocery store parking lot!!!  Poor Dani has been working very hard to restore our list, and she has now, I think, completely rebuilt our price book.

     I’m also going to go back to menu planning.  Sort of.   At one time in my life I sat down every two weeks and made up a fourteen day meal plan.  I printed the menu plan up in full color on the computer with lovely graphics. Then, with my menu plan at the ready, I shopped for the items needed for the plan.  Since I was planning budget friendly meals, this worked pretty well.

     However, about ten years ago, I heard about the concept of keeping a well-stocked pantry (fridge and freezer).  With the well-stocked pantry plan, I built my pantry and freezer by shopping the stores’ weekly loss leaders and low price sales for the items we used.  With a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer, you can easily prepare any of your family’s favorite meals.  No need for a special trip to the store because, other than the occasional fresh produce item you might be out of, everything is always on hand.  This plan worked very well for us, and actually helped us save a lot money on our food bill. 

     What has happened is that my menu planning and buying habits have gotten sloppy.  Rather than keeping my freezer and pantry well-stocked by shopping from the sales flyers and loss leaders, I’ve been keeping them stocked by buying items as they are used up.  This means that, quite often, my entire grocery list is made up of things that we are out of and that need to be purchased no matter the price.  Not only does this mean that I have not been taking advantage of sales to keep my pantry stocked, it also means that I have often run over budget!

     I’m going back to the plan that served me well for ten years.  Beginning with our next shopping trip, I am going to use as much of the grocery budget as I can stocking up on loss leaders and low price sale items, of those things that we use in our home.  Our first few shopping trips will not be completely successful because we will still be needing to replace some necessary items that we’ve run completely out of.  However, if I am careful, each shopping trip (once every two weeks) will yield more funds available for taking advantage of really good sales.

     If past experience is any indicator, it will not be too awfully long before I will actually have food budget money left over by the time my husband’s next pay day rolls around!  Those monies can then be set aside for either taking advantage of a great deal on a future food purchase (I’m thinking side of beef for the freezer here), or they can be made available for other household needs or, even better, for blessing someone else!

     All of this will be for naught if I do not do more in the way of menu planning.  Not only is good menu planning necessary for lowering the food budget, it’s also the only way I can be sure that my family is not having the same old boring meals week in and week out.  I thought about some of the dishes and meals I used to make and wondered why I didn’t make them anymore.  I don’t make them anymore because I am waiting until morning to plan that evening’s meal, and mornings are hectic here!  We are bustling about with morning chores, piano practice and getting homeschool started.  All of this hustle and bustle does not lend itself to creative meal planning!!  Rather it results in pulling something out of the freezer to thaw with only a half-hearted thought as to what that piece of meat might become, and what will be served with it.  As I said earlier, I’ve fallen into some sloppy habits.

     Beginning this week, I will do a weekly menu plan based on what I have in my pantry and freezer; but I will also make the menu plan up when I have the time to sit down and actually think about it.  I know that doing these menu plans again will take some getting used to.  The first few weeks will probably take longer to plan then they’ll take once I’ve made this a habit again.

     Fortunately, several of my old menu planning habits have not been lost with the years.  For example, our breakfasts have, for the most part, remained unchanged.  (Mon/waffles, Tues/cold cereal, Wed/toast & eggs, Thurs/hot cereal, Fri/pancakes, Sat/hot or cold cereal, Sun/coffee cake)   Here just lately we’ve been having bagels & cream cheese on Wednesday and frozen toaster waffles on Fridays, but it won’t be too tough to just not buy those items any more and get back to the old routine on those days.

     Lunches will also be planned.  Planning lunches in advance will also give us a bit more variety in our noon time meal.  With my husband’s work schedule, he is home for lunch seven days out of every fourteen, so making lunch here is not just a matter of feeding the kids.  I’m sad to say that lately we’ve had too many chicken nuggets and frozen taquitos for lunch!  Talk about budget busters!!!  We will still buy these items, but they will be prepared and served with far less frequency!  Again, menu planning is the key!

     Dinners, of course, are the primary thing I’ll be concentrating on planning.  Just today I was remembering some of our favorite dinners that we have not had in awhile:  Focaccia, German Pancake and Sausages, Salisbury Steak with mashed potatoes….the list could go on.  Since I’ll be planning my meals weekly, as I think of something yummy that I’d like to make for my family , I can just jot it down on a list I’ve made on my laptop.  I’ll be sure to refer to that list every Saturday as I plan my menu for the following week.  In this manner, I may have several evening’s meals planned even before I sit down to write up the menu!

     One thing I want to strongly emphasize – do not become so engrossed in planning inexpensive meals that you forget to please your husband.  I know that we could save a lot of money by having more meatless meals, but my husband does not care for legumes.  On the other hand, my husband would rather have ground beef (or chicken) than steak!  Knowing that, I can plan plenty of budget friendly meals that my husband will not only eat, but actually appreciate, and still keep on budget.  You will, of course, honor your husband by keeping your food shopping within the budget; but you must also honor him in preparing foods that he will enjoy!

     Here are some places to visit for more ideas on getting the food budget under control:

Like Merchant Ships
Hillbilly Housewife
The Homemaking and Frugal Living pages at Nuttnhoney

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your households!
Proverbs 31:27

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8 comments to Monday May 7, 2007

  • I’ve been reading your blog for about a month now and may I say it makes my day to read a down to earth lady who loves the Lord and her family!  I’m going throught your archives and have really enjoyed reading them also.  I’m a stay at home wife to a wonderful husband too!  My two children are grown with family of their own.  I love being a homemaker and I’m very lucky to have my husband be able to work from home.  God has bless us greatly.  As I get older, I realize how bless we have been as a family…(when I was young I took so many things for granted.)  Thank you for all your wonderful wisdom for all of us wives and mothers who are still learning how to be the wive and mother God intended for us to be.  Blessings to you and your family!

  • You can make extra waffles on Monday and freeze them – voila! Your own freezer waffles.

    I posted my price book/coupon holder/menu planner all in one on my blog a while back, if you’re interested. (If you’re not, just delete the comment!)

  • Oops! Forgot to paste in the link!
    How to Save on Food

  • Hello,

    I so enjoy reading your blog. I too am working on reducing my food budget. It is a week by week learning for me. I also love to sewing. Stop by and visit me sometimes. Maybe we can help each other. http://www.athomewithelizabeth.blogspot.com.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Elizabeth

  • Hey Milehimama:  Thanks for the link to your post.  There are some good ideas there.  It’s fun to pick and choose and glean from others things that we can work into our own lives.  I purposely didn’t mention couponing in my post because, truthfully, couponing just does not work for us.  Our deep discount grocer’s store brands are, usually, well below the name brands even on sale and with a coupon!  I do use a few coupons here and there, but that’s the exception and not the rule.

    My husband does the waffles on Monday mornings……one batch JUST feeds our family.  We got into the habit of the freezer waffles, mostly, because of the novelty and the difference in taste.  Let’s face it, Eggos taste a LOT different than homemade waffles 😉   Like all such novelties, though, the new has worn off and I’m just not buying them anymore.  We’ll go back to our normal routine of breakfasts as mentioned in my original post. 

  • we shop by menu, and stock up on “good-buys” I however live too far out to comparison shop at different stores, plus having 6 kids under the age of 9–it would kill me.  LOL  But I do shop almost exclusively at a store in town that typically saves me a minimum of $25.  

    And man one gets sucked into the frozen food purchases rather quickly.  I’ve started budgeting one to two frozen meal treats a pay day.  This way we have quick helps when we need them, and I can watch for good buys.  You know the frozen lasagna for $9.99 on sale is a superb buy! 

  • Rainydame – We live a ways out, too, that’s why we only do our shopping twice a month.  However, I do get most of the chain stores flyers in my mail box each week.  I sort of made myself a mental map for our last trip, which included our normal stops (WalMart, warehouse club and deep discount grocer) and hit the two chain stores for their “specials” on the way home.  We were beat by the end of it all, and my little guy had just about reached his limit!:wink:

    I really like your idea for budgeting for a couple of frozen meal treats each payday.  I’m doing that, too; hence, the frozen taquitos on special this time around!:sunny:   Not only is it nice to have something in the freezer ready to go, it’s also a fun treat for the kids!!  I am going to try to do some of my own freezer meals in the coming days, too.

      I TOTALLY understand that having so many little ones may make multiple stops impossible for you.  My daughter will, in just a few weeks, have four children 5 and under!!!  We all need to work with what we’ve got.  I think the wise thing is to just prayerfully consider what is best for you, your family and your budget! 

  • Enjoying your blog! 🙂