Monday, October 26, 2009

Looking at the Grocery Budget in Questions

As I was doing some blog reading over the weekend, I came across the following questions at BerryMorins Bits and Tips. She posted the following questions in hopes of figuring out ways to lower her weekly grocery budget.  I have talked about living on a grocery budget before but these questions struck a cord with me in being a little more specific so I thought why not take the time to answer them for my readers. 

Do you shop every week?
Yes,  I shop every week as you can see from my weekly shopping savings posts. However, I do have a twist to my shopping methods in that I do a relatively big shopping trip on payday weeks(which is the weeks of the 15th and last day of the month) and then the other weeks I just get the essentials and only the deals that I can't live without.  I try on those other weeks shopping trips to keep my overall weekly total to under $100.  

Are you only going to one store to accomplish this?
NO, I accomplish my shopping by going to more than one store. However, I do not go to the drugstores (CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid) for any of my shopping.  I live in a suburb of a big city so I have access to several different grocery stores within a 5 mile radius of my house.  I have Aldi's and Save A Lot stores as my "corner grocery store" and then Meijer and another local grocery store are close as well. If I forget something in between my shopping trips, I will head to my corner grocery store. There is a local grocery store on another corner but sometimes their prices on things are a bit more so I go there more getting my WIC, sale deals and meats(esp. checking for manager's markdowns!).  

How do you decide which store you'll shop a per week?
I decide which stores to shop at based on the amount of deals that they are running for the week. IF I look at their sale ad and find that there is just a couple of items that are deals well those are a couple of deals that I am going to just live without this time that they are on sale.  The savings of those couple of deals is not worth the same as my time, gas and money just to get those few things. NOW if there is a store that has half dozen or more deals then that is the store that I am going to do the bulk of my shopping at for the week and then I will shop at Aldi's or Save A Lot to pick up the slack of what I might need for the week.  

Those of you with special diets ~ how do you stay within your tight budgets?
We do not have special diets as in someone being allergic to something but I do have a hubby who has high cholesterol and triglycerides so I am working at changing some of things I buy on a regular basis.  I have found that buying in bulk and buying more whole foods has helped us to stay within our budget. I am working at not buying so much processed foods and mixes, however, I still have the weakness for frozen pizzas, and breaded chicken nuggets to have on hand for quick meals.  

Do you always use coupons? If you do, do you purchase the Sunday newspaper, print from online websites, coupon swap?

Yes, I use coupons.  I get a Sunday newspaper every week and I print from online websites. That is extent of my coupons. I only clip the coupons that I know that I will use.  I have a expandable envelope that has dividers in it that is small enough to keep in my purse. I separate the coupons in different categories and have those that are going to expire first at the front of each category.  

Do you purchase paid memberships with Sam's ClubBJ's, etc? If so, how does this work into your budget?
Yes, I have a Sam's Club membership that I have had for over 10 years. I have found that the items that I purchase on regular basis from Sam's are items that I have to get brand specific or are cheaper at Sam's than in the stores.  I only go to Sam's once a month and many of the things I purchase last me more than just a month.  My advice about the warehouse clubs, take the time to make up a price book of items that you purchase on a regular basis from the grocery stores before you go into a warehouse club so you can make sure that you are getting the best deal buying the items in bulk.

What's a bargain price on ground beef and boneless chicken breasts?
Bargain prices on meats are going to be somewhat based on where you live. Bargain prices for ground beef will depend on how much fat you want in the ground beef. I usually buy ground chuck or ground round.  When I buy either of these the best bargain price that I look for is $1.99/lb or lower!  I find that during the summer months when there is a lot of grilling going on that ground beef will be lower than the $1.99/lb price. When it is around $1.69/lb(or lower), I will stock up my freezer with at least 20 lbs!  I take the time to divide the meat up into meal size portions for my family before I put the meat in my freezer. 

As for boneless chicken breasts, I normally will get these at Sam's Club for $1.97/lb or lower.  The fresh boneless chicken breasts at Sam's are big enough that I can butterfly cut them so it appears that I have two whole chicken breasts just a bit thinner and I am able to stretch the 6-7 breasts that are in one package into two meals for my family of seven.  If I run out of boneless chicken breasts from Sam's then I watch the grocery stores for a sale on the bags of individually frozen boneless chicken breasts and can get them for the same price of $1.97/lb or lower as the fresh chicken from Sam's.   I also am not afraid to watch the sales for bone in chicken breasts when they are 99¢/lb and getting a few packages to have on hand to cook for some of my dinner meals. 

Is it a challenge to include fresh fruit and vegetables in a tight budget?

Fresh fruits and veggies can be a challenge to purchase on a tight budget, however, I have found buying the fruits and veggies when they are "in season"  makes all the difference.  Like right now, apples, winter squash(butternut, acorn, etc), pears, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes are in season right now so these are more likely to be on hand at my house over strawberries which are in season during the summer months.  The in season fruits and veggies will cost less than those that are out of season. For those fruits and veggies that are out of season getting them when they are in season and freezing them helps to save on the budget as well. Right now, I have several containers of blueberries in my freezer to enjoy during the winter months.  I also have several bags of shredded zucchini to use as well during the winter months.  Also if you have space doing a garden or even teaming up with a neighbor and doing a garden will help with getting fruits and veggies in a tight budget. 

Overall, something that I have found to work for my family within our tight budget is using the buying ahead principle. Wondering exactly what is the buying ahead principle? Crystal, aka MoneySavingMom, does a great job in explaining this principle.  I have space in my house for a nice size pantry and I also have a stand alone deep freezer to use for being able to buy ahead and for my bulk purchases. 

Instead of worrying about trying to get to only $20 or $30 or $40 per week for groceries, I look at the big picture of my grocery spending. I keep track of my grocery spending on Quicken(program on my computer) and at the end of each month I take the time to work with the numbers.  I also take the time to see how much I have spent so far for the year in groceries. Here is the numbers for food only from when I did this at the end of September, beginning of October. After 41 weeks of the year, I spent $5102.34 for food only!  That averages out to $124.45 per week!  At the time I did these figures there had been 280 days, which means if I divide $5102.34 into 280 it equals $18.22!!!  So for $18.22 per day I feed my family of seven 3 meals and 2 snacks!  If I keep to under $20 per day throughout the year, I feel like I have accomplished my goal to feed my family frugally.  I have taken the time to compare my totals with what the USDA Food Plan Charts and find that I am way under the budget for food costs for my size of family. 

Keeping in mind that we are working to do what is best for our families, I would love to hear from you!!

  1. How are you doing on keeping your grocery budget?  
  2. Do you find that you have had to change it over the year due to price increases?
  3. How would you answer the above questions? 
  4. Other than eating only beans & rice, what ways have you found to work for you on small grocery budget?

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 10/25-10/31

I think I have gotten back my gumption/desire/need to plan so I can stretch what I have until payday! However, one wants to look at it I have planned a menu for this week.  It is very important that I have some kind of plan in place for the end of the week as I am attending my church’s annual Women’s Retreat so my hubby will be holding the fort for 20 hours while I am away. 

This week’s meals are a few family favorites.  It is those favorite meals that I try to keep in the pantry or freezer for the purpose of using to help stretch meals until payday, which is Friday!

This week’s shopping trip was just picking up milk and few deals.  I really didn’t need many groceries this week as I had done pretty well figuring things out the week before.

A special thanks to Laura-Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday! Need help with your menus; go check the over 300 other delicious meal plans that have been linked at Laura-Organizing Junkie’s site or look down in my right sidebar for my menu suggestion lists!

Sunday (10-25)
Breakfast: eggs, sausage, hash browns, and cinnamon rolls
Lunch: mini pizzas and pizza rolls
Dinner: McDonalds (after church)
Snack: snack basket

Monday (10-26)
Breakfast: cereal and toast
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: spaghetti (kids), chicken parmesan (parents) served with garlic toast and salad
Snack: snack basket

Tuesday (10-27)
Breakfast:  waffles and sausage
Lunch: sandwich & chips
Dinner:  roast, carrots, and potatoes served with homemade bread
Snack: snack basket

Wednesday (10-28)
Breakfast:  bagels and cereal
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner:  oven fried chicken, served with French fries, and green peas
Snack: snack basket

Thursday (10-29)
Breakfast:  Pancakes and sausage
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner:  roasted chicken served with mashed potatoes, corn and dinner rolls
Snack: snack basket

Friday (10-30)
Breakfast:  cereal and toast
Lunch: sandwich & chips
Dinner:  bacon burgers, French fries and carrots
Snack: ice cream night

Saturday (10-31)
Breakfast:  Your Choice
Lunch: chicken nuggets and tater tots
Dinner:  pork chops, mac & cheese, and green beans
Snack: popcorn

Meijer Deals 10/25-10/31

Just a reminder, that I am using a West Michigan sale ad and my Meijer does NOT double coupons! Also check the FOUR pages of Mealbox coupons there are several cpns that match items in this week's ad due to Frozen Food Month! You can use/stack them with manufacturer's cpns however the ones that are in conjunction with Frozen Food Month are limited to ONE per transaction!! 


Coca Cola Products: 2 Liter Bottles All Varieties 5/$5

Dole Premium Salads: Classic Romaine 9olz, Greener Selection 12 oz or Just Lettuce 11oz  2/$3

Garden Fresh Chips, Salsa and Hummus 10-16oz All Varieties~~ Buy One Get One FREE!

Lays Potato Chips 10.5-11oz $1.99

Little Debbie Snack Cakes 12-16.2oz pkg $1.20

Red or Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Braeburn, Jonagold or Fuji Apples 97¢/lb

Boneless Chuckeye Roast $2.49/lb

Meijer Fresh Family Pack Chicken Drumsticks and Thighs 99¢/lb

Homegrown Round White Potatoes 10lbs $1.69

Bob Evans Roll Sausage 16oz pkg $2.19

25/1 cpn 08-23 S

Betty Crocker Helpers 5.5-8.4oz Select Varieties 5/$5
75/3 cpn 09-13 GM and 75/3 cpn

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! All Varieties $1.29
$1/2 cpn 09-13 R1

Pillsbury Frosting 12-14oz $1.49
40/1 cpn 09-27 RP

Pillsbury Supreme or Mini Brownies 19.5 oz Select Varieties $1.49            
40/1 cpn 09-27 RP

Hillshire Farm Rope Style Smoked Sausage, Cheddarwurst or Brats 14-16 oz. pkg. All varieties 3/$5
$1/2 cpn 10-04 RP

Sunshine Cheez It 11.5-14oz $1.99
$1.50/2 cpn 10-04 RP

Campbells Chunky Soup 18.8-19oz can Select Varieties $1.39      
50/4 cpn 10-11 S
General Mills Cereal (Cheerios 14oz, MultiGrain Cheerios 9oz, Cookie Crisp 11.25oz, Golden Grahams 12oz, or Cocoa Puffs 11.8oz) $2.29
$1/3 cpn 10-18 S
Healthy Choice Complete Meals or Cafe Steamer 9.5-12.3oz Assorted Varieties (excludes Selects and Naturals) $2.49
$1/2 cpn 10-18 S and $1/3 Mealbox cpn and $2/1 cpn **use cpns and get 3 for $1.16 each!!**

McCormick Spices, Food Coloring, or Extracts $2.99

Jose Ole Quesadilla and Taquitos $2.99
$1/1 cpn 10-18 S and $1/1 cpn and $2/2 Mealbox cpn **use cpns and get 2 for 99¢ each!**


Snuggle Fabric Softener: 32oz liquid or 80ct sheets $3.49
$3/1 cpn 10-04 RP  **use cpn and get 1 for 49¢!!** and $1/1 cpn

Listerine Cool Mint or Freshburst 500ml $2.95
50/1 cpn 04-26 RP and 50/1 cpn 06-14 S

Bayer Aspirin 60 or 100ct, Low dose 120ct, Heart Health 30ct $3.99
$1.50/1 cpn 07-26 RP and $1.50/1 cpn 09-27 RP and $1/1 cpn 10-25 RP and $1.50/1 cpn(Heart Health)

Bayer Aspirin Quick Release 20ct $3.99  
$1.50/1 cpn 07-26 RP and $1.50/1 cpn 09-27 RP and $1.50/1 cpn 10-25 RP

Cover Girl Makeup, Powder, Mascara or Eye Pencil ~~ Buy One Get One FREE!
$1/1 cpn 09-27 PG and $1/1 cpn 10-11 PG 
Suave Invisible Solids 2.6 oz 3/$5              
75/1 cpn 10-25 RP

Suave Kids 2 in 1 Shampoo 3/$5
50/2 cpn 10-25 RP

Suave Professionals Shampoo or conditioner 14.5oz 3/$5             
$1/2 cpn 10-25 RP
***Please take the time to check out your local ad, which you can find here. IF Meijer is not your store of choice, head over to BeCentsAble's Grocery Gathering

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