How Things used to work:
Being the exuberant cook that I am, the way grocery shopping and meal planning used to work for me is that I would brainstorm at the beginning of the week (Monday) concerning what meals I felt inspired to feed the family that week. I would rarely ever repeat a meal, unless the kids and Colin, my husband, begged. In fact, I loved and looked forward to the challenge of thinking up and creating new and exciting meals. The meals would be planned for dinners, primarily, and while I would set a budget of $100 for the week and buy plenty of organic meats, veggies, fruits and grains, I would have no money left in my “budget” for lunches and breakfasts, nor paper products or toiletries. This is when the cost of feeding my family for a month would add up…
Last minute trips to the store to pick up “a couple of things”–$150 later we would have that organic cilantro, plus a bunch of other really fun stuff…that we didn’t need;)
Our monthly spending on groceries had really started to get out of control. Both Colin and I love to go to the grocery store to shop. We even have dates there—not kidding. BUT once we began to really pay attention to our spending, we noticed that there were a lot of items that we were unnecessarily purchasing. This is where the seed of the plan began to form.
Mid-September 2012, I decided to do something about this dilemma. I took a look at the average number of what we were spending each month on groceries using the very handy Mint money managing site (perfect for those of you new to budgeting–and free!) You can install the program on your computer, smartphone or tablet. (You can thank my tech savvy husband for all of the tech items I will be referring to. He’s great a pointing me -or nudging me- in the right direction.)
How Things work now:
Then I started reading up on couponing and taking a look (ashamedly for the first time-I usually left stumbling upon a good deal to fate, and was always proud of myself for “discovering” this great deal…) at the Weekly Specials circulars in both Harris Teeter and Kroger (these can be found in store or online). I decided to set my budget at $600 for everything and buy only what was on sale. Fruits and veggies still remained organic, unless the deal was too good to pass up. I utilized Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals, Buy 2 Get 3 free deals, and 10/$10, especially on meats, seafood, tofu, cheeses and other dairy products, beans, tomato sauces, pasta, and breads. Before I knew it, I had purchased enough meat, beans, veggies, fruit and grains for the month, as well as all the toiletries and cleaning products we could need. The meat, veggies, fruit and bread went straight into the freezer. Salads, dairy, grains went into the pantry or fridge. The next part is where it got really fun:
Let the Meal Planning begin:
I came home and made an inventory of everything I had purchased, and being that I have a culinary background, I created 30 dinner meals, 30 lunch meals and 30 breakfast meals. I wrote down all possible meal combinations, and planned them two weeks in advance. In other words, I used a calendar to put in writing my meal plans for each day for the following two weeks. I fully plan on using dinner leftovers to carry into lunch, and even to have breakfast for dinner one-two nights per week. I have many other time-saving and thrifty food tips to share, but that’s a different post. For now, here’s the part where my hard work pays off for you…
Let me design the grocery lists, meals, and recipes for you. You can use my grocery list to buy what I buy, then mix and match the recipes I use to build your own meals each day. If we all do this together, think of the money we’re collectively saving for that beach trip, ski weekend, or romantic getaway. Nevermind the importance of feeding that savings account, preparing for a home renovation or that sometimes desperate situation of purchasing that last minute new car because your current car has died on the side of the road (happened to me twice this summer).
Here’s the bottom line: I will work hard to deliver to you all of the information that I use to build my grocery list and meal plan in a timely enough manner that you will be able to go out and do the same, purchasing, of course, the amounts that are right for your family size.
Good Luck and let’s start this journey together!