This year, I have decided to work on my organizational skills when it comes to groceries and shopping. I think I do really well keeping our grocery budget (just food) at $60 per week for our family of four but I really wanted to plan better. Yes, I stayed at or under the budget each week but sometimes I would have to “borrow” from the next week’s budget to get something I forgot for this week, etc. Sometimes I was making 3-4 trips a week to get groceries and just like a lot of you folks, I just don’t have time to do all that!
I decided to pick a month and do my menu planning and grocery shopping before the month began. Yes, I am a wimp so I picked February because it was the shortest month… 🙂 It was to be an exercise in self discipline, planning ahead with menus and only making one trip to the grocery store (be it a LONG, overwhelming trip). I began this process last week by sitting down and organizing my menu planning and taking an inventory of my freezer, fridge and stockpile. One of the things you have to be careful with when you stockpile is making sure you actually use the stuff you purchase. So I developed my February menu by using most of the foods I already have on hand and then I made a list of what I would need to complete the month. My biggest challenge has been planning for the fresh fruits and vegetables. At the beginning of the month (the first 10 days or so), it’s easy to plan bananas, apples, salads, etc. but what do you do the rest of the month? I decided to depend on canned fruits and vegetables (store-bought and self-canned at home from our garden) and dehydrated fruits and veggies for later in the month. As for milk, our church buys milk and orange juice each Sunday for the breakfast they serve before Sunday School. Our family has been blessed to be given the leftovers each week so we rarely have to buy milk or orange juice.
So today, I gathered the grocery coupons I have been accumulating, my sales ad (Kroger), my reusable bags and my two children and headed to Kroger. Not long after walking in the door did I realize I had left my grocery list at home!!! What a way to start this commitment to organization, huh??!! ugh….
Once I entered Kroger, I began my regular routine – I stopped by the Manager’s Special section first and ran up on some really good buys. Then I circled around to the bakery Ooops! cart where they put marked down breads and finally, we stopped at the produce overripe section. I found a box of 8 organic kiwi (normally priced around 2/$1) for .49! I bought 3 boxes. Yes, they will need to be used very soon but they will dry very nicely in my dehydrator for the end of this month’s snacks.
With the help of The Krazy Coupon Lady (absolutely amazing free couponing website), I knew which items were on sale and matched them with good coupons to get some great deals. Surprisingly, it only took me an hour and 30 minutes, start to finish. I ended up with two carts filled to the brim! At the checkout, my total was $301.03 before the sales and coupons. My total after discounts was $145.31. (And as an added bonus, I had a $100 gift card as a gift from our church that helped bring our total out of pocket to $45.31.)
And for those naysayers who complain that people who stockpile are silly (putting it nicely), let me share this story. A family came by our church last Sunday night after Bible study and needed food. Our church’s food bank has been dwindling since there is so much need in our community right now (as in most communities). They specifically asked for children’s drinks and a bag of sugar. My husband (who is a minister) called me and asked if we had anything to give to them. Praise God our stockpile was there.
It has been a challenge preparing for this month but I will let you know how it’s going as the month goes. For those of you who are interested, here are some photographs of my menu plans for the month. (The third week of the month, we will be at JBC for homecoming so I didn’t plan many cooked foods for that week.) You may notice I only plan 3 lunches and 3 dinners for our family. The rest of the time, we eat leftovers or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, whatever is around that’s convenient.
By the way, I’m teaching a class on how to do this on Saturday, February 25th. Here’s the link for more information or to sign up! http://ibloom.co/events/savemoney