Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday--Shopping Methods

With posting about my year end averages, I have had several people ask me about how I shop so I thought today I would take the time to explain and share how I keep my family fed and not break the bank!  

Last September, Kristin over at BeCentable contacted me asking if I would share my shopping "story" because according to her "your monthly process would be a good counter to the typical weekly shoppers most of us are!" I chuckled when I read that and felt honored to share my story. I had the privilege to share my "story" in how I do the shopping for my family over at BeCentable's Centsable Savings Stories & Struggles. Here is my story...

Background: I have been married for 12 ½ years and for 11 ½ years I have been a stay at home mom. I also home school my 5 children—ages 12yo-22 months. So far in our marriage, my hubby has had 7 different jobs along with four different times of unemployment (two times of unemployment were over 6 months). Usually the unemployment would come as a surprise to us, he would go into work one day and the manager calls him to tell him he can pack his belongings and go home. When those "surprises" have come we might not have much in our bank savings account BUT we have food on our shelves to last us at least a week (basically long enough to get our last paycheck and get filed for unemployment). Knowing that a "surprise" could come upon us again, I work at having a consistent stockpile.

Struggles: Hubby grew up eating lots of pre-packaged foods and I grew up eating from scratch and garden fresh cooking. Once we were married, I fell more into the pre-packaged food route along with very little from scratch foods to please hubby's way of eating. However, about 3 years ago, my hubby was diagnosed with high cholesterol with extremely high triglycerides along with high blood pressure. He has gotten his numbers down tremendously through medicines and me changing cooking and shopping habits. I am slowly (read ever so slowly!!) changing how I cook to more from scratch cooking rather than pre-packaged foods. However, I have to be careful as to how much I change and how many new things I cook or bake at once because I live with a bunch of picky eaters! Yes, I have picky eaters who only like certain veggies and not much in the way of fruit. I also have a bunch that doesn't like to eat beans or meatless meals! They like their protein in the form of meat! Aside from hubby's health problems and picky eaters, the other thing I have struggled with is not getting every deal I see "advertised". This struggle started about two years ago when I started reading other blogs, I started thinking that maybe changing my method of grocery shopping and following other's ways would start saving me even more money. Well after 3 months of trying a "new way", I found that I didn't have any more room to put anything and I had spent way more than I had in the past! I had more items (shampoo, vitamins, toothpaste to name a few) than what we would be able to use in 6 months! My pantry was full! My linen closet was full! My freezers were full! One would think that would be a good thing—having a huge stockpile but when that stockpile is using money that you might have been able to use elsewhere or your marriage is suffering it is not a good thing! Once my hubby talked to me about our stockpile, I realized that I needed to stop getting every deal that I saw on the blogs or in the ads. I needed to get back to a method that worked well for my family not someone else's!

Monthly Method: Each week, I clip coupons for only the things I know we will use and keep them in a coupon organizer. I shop the weekly sales at 2 different stores and stock up on good deals using coupons. I also go to Aldi's or Save-A-Lot to pick up any other things that I might need that were not in the sales. Then the following day after updating my "food inventory", I make weekly menus for 3 meals and 2 snacks from what I have on hand in the pantry and freezer along with doing my version of once a month cooking. I have tried making a menu before I shop and it just doesn't work!! I usually will find some markdown meat or something else on sale rather than what I had planned. So I shop this week for what I am going to use next week or the following week for meals. Shopping this way has helped me during those weeks where the good deals are slim or just not there. I also do a monthly shopping trip to Sam's club. My hubby only gets paid twice a month so recently I started trying to a major shopping trip twice a month and then the other two weeks getting stockpile items and essentials to finish up meals for the week. The two major shopping trips have been working okay!  Old habits(weekly shopping) are hard to break!

Budget: If someone were to ask me what is my monthly grocery budget, I would have to say that I do not have one at least one that is set in stone. Some months I only spend around $300 for food, paper products, toiletries, and cleaners while other months it can be close to $900. However, when I do year end averages, I find that my grocery/non-grocery category averages around $550/month for the year for our family of seven, which according to the USDA Food Plans is still below the U.S. averages.

This is what works for me! To find out what works for others, head over to Rocks in My Dryer.

originally posted September, 2008


Sherry said...

Thank you for sharing! You have to do what works for your family. I did the same thing like you with reading blogs and got caught up in buying things that I didn't really need. Now I just cut coupons and watch for sales on what I need. My hubby and kids are meat eaters - no beans for them unfortunately. Thankfully, my children like most veggies that I cook.

Donna said...

Thanks for sharing this Sonshine!
Many women struggle with some of these same things. It's somehow comforting to know that we're not alone in our quests!

Brooke said...

at first i thought $550 - that's a lot. then i saw how big your family is. :)

mine (for the two of us) is $80 a month, but i do lots of prepackaged stuff. i know i shouldn't...but like you the hubs loves it and i work full time so scratch is very difficult.