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Monday, March 3, 2008

Grocery Savings and ST-RET-CH-ING!

Today I recieved a comment from Heather Lynn that said this (in response to my posting "A Month or More of Groceries") :

"After spending $200 (AFTER Kroger card savings), I'm very curious to know what you got and what you plan to make in order to make it all last for a month (or longer). My husband and I pack our lunch every day and cook most nights, but my grocery bill has never been that low and it's usually only good for two weeks. Your advice would be greatly appreciated!"

I thought I could answer this and give her my ideas, but it would be great if others of you would chime in too so that she might get other ideas on how to save and stretch her grocery budget.

First off, not to be misleading, but I also purchase a big bag (or two) of boneless chicken breasts from Sam's (It is one of only a couple things I buy there: butter, chicken, and dish washer detergent) about once a month. This is not added to that picture you saw posted.

From there, I also keep a stocked pantry and freezer. Each month just like what you saw posted I don't end up using everthing, so I have things left over each month. These are incorporated into next month's calendar. Also, I pick up things from CVS and Walgreens when they are free or giving them away! :)

After that, I cook most everything from scratch. Prepackaged dinners are overpriced and most the time I prefer my homemade meals. Since I work, and get home later, I refuse to cook meals that take longer than 45 minutes (most take 20-30 minutes). So, prepackaged dinners aren't really faster either! Also, just because dinner is quick doesn't mean it can't be delicious and nutritious!

In addition, I do not buy seasoning packets, I buy dried herbs and spices that last forever (unlike what others will tell you - they last a good, long time - you just might have to use more!). Also, I don't buy a lot of prepacked dinners (as said before) unless they are nearly free. It is nice to pick them up when they are super cheap because you can cook even when you don't feel like it! :)

For lunches, we almost always have leftovers from the night before. Other than that, as you can see from the picture, I pick up cheap quick lunch items when they are at their rock bottom prices (like soup at hand, Campbell's soup, frozen dinners, and noodle dinners that cost less than $1).

Most dinners we have a meat, like hamburger, chicken, fish, or bratts (although most the time, like with chicken, I eat half a piece and save the other half for lunch) and two sides (like a starch -potatoes, rice, pasta AND a vegetable -green beans, cooked carrots, or frozen spinach [you can usually get a bag for under $1 at Kroger & I hear Aldi has great prices too if there is one near you]). (Other than carrots and potatoes and the occasional citrus fruit and apples, I don't buy much fresh produce because it spoils too fast for the two of us to eat it. Instead, I buy mostly frozen-just as nutritious and last much longer! :)

As you will read at other frugal sites, I have begun planning my meals AFTER I find out what is going to be on sale. I also survey what I already have on hand and only pick up the items that help round out what I already have. (This in addition to items that are ridiculously low because of coupons and sales-buy while it is CHEAP). But, for the most part we don't have too many repeats (on meals) all month! (I am also a recipe LOVER!!)

I will post more later on what we are having for dinners this month along with some recipes. But, for now I would like to hear some of the advice of others.

(Heather- if you really want to know EVERYTHING in the pic send me your email and I will give you the low down. I am not sure everyone else wants me to bore them with the entire grocery list from last week! Thanks again for your great comment- hope this helps you and others as well!)

Now it is YOUR turn... Any advice for Heather? Or ideas for stretching your grocery budget and groceries that you like to share with ALL of use? Thanks in advance for your "SWELL" ideas! :)

5 Comments:

Marianne said...

Denise, very good post and good ideas.

I'm commenting rather than posting and linking just because I don't have much time.

My two cents:

1. ALWAYS plan a menu and generate a list before you hit the store. NEVER NEVER NEVER just "swing through" the store for a "few" things. Those few things will cost you way more once you start impulse shopping.

2. ALWAYS plan the menu based first on what you have on hand, then what's on sale/rock bottom with coupons.

3. Stockpile sale/freebies.

4. Give yourself some flexibility in your menu planning (ie: for a week of seven days, plan five dinners; you'll have leftovers and often something comes up once a week -- church/family dinner, night out (if you're lucky!), or someone might end up sick :( .

5. If you know you have an upcoming life change (I did this during my second and third pregnancies when I was about 37 weeks) that will make it hard to get dinner on the table, cook ahead and freeze it. I did things that were easy to thaw and throw in the crockpot or microwave. Yes, it's a big up-front expense of time and $$, but when you've got a screaming newborn and two other kids to feed -- not to mention a husband!-- it will save your sanity and save you from falling prey to convenience foods/delivery. (This idea is great for new home ownership/local moving; scheduled surgeries; high-stress times of year -- like April for accountants!)

Alrighty! Hope that helps someone!

Oh, and if you need inspiration on cooking/menu planning/recipes for beginners, go to

www.meals.com
OR
www.allrecipes.com

Both are comprehensive sites for cooks; www.meals.com even has weekly menus with recipes and shopping lists (how fab!).

Smiles and blessings,
Marianne at Writer-Mommy

Jennifer said...

yes I agree,very good ideas! I don't plan our weekly dinners ahead,I work full time so basically I just make sure that we have enough of the staples needed stocked in our pantry and wing it. This doesn't make me spend more as I basically go "grocery shopping" at home from my Freezer or pantry. We eat a lot of rice and potatoes so its always quick and easy to whip something up. I also rely on the Pastaronis Boxed meals,they are great and can be "dressed up" to suit your liking!

Hope what i said makes "cents"!! It's always nice to see how other plan their meals and what works for them:)

Denise Sawyer said...

Jennifer,
I also "improvise" some days (like when I forget to lay the chicken out to thaw-hehe). I go ahead and right up a menu for the moth as I said before - I usually do this on a Saturday when I am just hanging out.

But, some days I don't feel like having what is on the menu for that day, and like you between what is in the freezer and the pantry I usually have a couple of other options - like canned chicken or tuna to make quesadillas, chicken croquettes, or tuna casserole.

This is the "back up plan" (especially on days I forget to thaw out dinner because I woke up late!) **I am notorious for this!hehe

Denise

Denise Sawyer said...

I thought of one more thing today. I know I mentioned that I often buy boneless chicken at Sam's but it occured to me that I should also mention that I know the unit price for the chicken so I am constantly comparing this price to the sale prices at Kroger, Bilo, and Food Lion (my local grocery stores)to make sure that I cannot get a better deal there. So far I haven't been able to get it as cheap as I can at Sam's -BUT- don't assume that food from wholesale stores like Sam's or Costco is always cheaper. IT IS NOT! Buying in bulk is not always the best buy! It pays to know your prices (keep reciepts) and comparison shop!

Heather Lynn said...

Denise, thank you for the extensive response. I really appreciate you putting so much time into that. And thanks to everyone else who commented.

I, like many of you, am a menu planner. However, as a newbie to coupon clipping and paying attention to sales, I usually do it without giving any consideration to "what's cheap this week". I just recently discovered this blog and a few others that have really helped me figure out ways to save on groceries.

I work full-time, so taking time to compare what is on sale and what coupons are available is something that I'll just have to squeeze in to my schedule...but I think it's worth it. Right now it seems daunting, but I'm sure it'll get easier!

Hopefully, my next trip will be much less expensive.

Thanks again!