Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Grocery Shopping Game

Many are frustrated by the latest economic forecast. The news media is full of hype about current food and gas prices.

It does seem that our economy is going through one of its occasional troublesome phases, yet I believe that in time, it will bounce back to fairer weather.

In the meantime, we clever homemakers need to put on our thinking caps and be a bit more deliberate in how we plan and manage grocery shopping.

Instead of becoming depressed and frazzled, let's be positive and make it a challenge. A challenge is good for the mind! How can we provide meals and sundries for our homes with the dollar amount we have budgeted (I hope you have a fixed amount predetermined for your shopping!)?

Sometimes I'll use my grocery money for homeschooling materials or clothing purchases. I then have to get creative with the reduced amount of money left for that budget. Here are a few things I do:

  • Have a menu system for the week. I do not like to be too strictly regimented, so my menu is extremely flexible: (Mon: Spag/salad/garlic bread Tues: Mexican Night Wed: Casserole or crockpot night Thurs: Beans & rice or baked potatoes/soup Fri (our family popcorn & movie night): pizza, hot dogs, or burritos Sat: Hamburger in some form (sloppy joes, taco salad, meatloaf, etc.) Sun: Large family dinner night (we eat early) pot roast, mashed potatoes, vegetable, & dessert.)
  • Use a lot of ground beef & sale meats. I try not pay under $2 per pound for meat. You have to pay attention to sales in order to do this. Perhaps your area's prices vary, so pay attention to a minimum price and stick to it. There have been times when I have used o ly ground beef all week to fulfill our menu requirements...it's quite easy actually!
  • Institute one vegetarian meal per week (ours is usually Thursday or Friday)
  • Serve the same breakfasts and lunches each day, with a little variation. We have hot cereal for breakfast (cereal or homemade granola is a special weekend treat if budgeted), sandwiches or leftovers for lunch w/ homemade yogurt and carrotsticks or fruit, and fresh fruit, yogurt, popcorn, cinnamon toast, or homemade cookies for an afternoon snack.
  • Put a limit on how much milk, cheese, butter, and eggs you buy each week. I buy 4 gallons of milk per week, that's it. My children know that if they drink it up, they will have to wait until the next grocery day for more.
  • Plan how much you will spend at each store you visit. It's easy if you shop at one place. However, if you shop at multiple stores, determine a set amount of money for that store. For me, this varies from week to week. Some weeks I spend more at the warehouse club store. Other times, I may just buy more at the healthfood or grocery store. I like to purchase bulk items once per month.
  • Buy store brand items. In our experience, they have not differed much in quality.
  • Reduce the amount of paper towels you buy. Use rags for cleaning and wiping.
  • Try to eliminate buying processed foods. Substitute healthier choices of fresh fruit or veggies.
  • Split bulk items w/ a friend. Determine how much you pay per unit, and divide the cost. For our large family, we do not need to do this. Our purchases are often in bulk.
  • Do not buy commercial cleaners! Research the Internet or get a good book from the library that features recipes for homemade cleaners.
  • Make your own stuff. Examples: bread, babywipes, cleaners (as mentioned above), yogurt, cakes, cookies, granola, pudding, etc. See Hillbilly Housewife for some great ideas on menu planning and frugal recipes!
  • Think to yourself when you are shopping in the grocery store "Do we need this item?"

That's all I can think of for now.

I hope this encourages you :o)


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