Long time commenter Angela asked:
This might be a silly question, but, do you stick to a budget also when doing these list? Besides the pantry staples, do you try to get everything else under a curtain amount?
The menu and coordinating grocery lists I post on Home Ec 101 are written for those who are just learning the ropes of menu planning and grocery shopping. While all of the recipes come from this site, it may not match what we are eating this week. The prices of groceries vary from region to region, but the menu items I have listed are generally frugal in nature and would be useful to someone trying to gain control over their spending habits.
My grocery budget is $130 a week. This is the average I spend per week over the course of a year. This includes the weeks my stepdaughter spends with us and the paper goods and coffee I provide for a group that meets here on Thursdays. How do I keep our budget under control without using coupons? Well, it does take a little bit of planning.
Not all of our groceries come from our local grocery store.
I buy our milk from the drugstore where it is it is $0.50 a gallon cheaper for name brand than the offbrand at the grocery store. I buy fruits and vegetables from produce stands or the flea market, unless they are on the bumped and bruised shelf. I don’t care if I have to cut off a soft spot or my bananas has freckles. With three hungry kids most items disappear quickly.
I buy spices in bulk from the ethnic aisles, the health food store, World Market, and Whole Foods. Sure, the spices don’t come in pretty jars, but I’ve collected enough over the years to have a container for all of my needs.
Bread come from Big Lots or other outlet stores. Whenever I pass Big Lots, I run in and see if the bread we prefer (that does not contain high fructose corn syrup) is on the shelf. If so, I buy all I can and store it in the freezer until we need it. Of course, we sometimes bake our own bread, too. I ask a friend with a Sam’s Club or Costco membership to pick up yeast.
Lastly,we frequently eat oatmeal for breakfast. I buy rolled oats in bulk from Whole Foods, unless I can find it marked down at Big Lots. Cold cereal is a treat and is also only purchased from Big Lots.
Plan a menu around the sales flyer and what is in the freezer and pantry.
I flip through the circular each week and then pick recipes based on the advertisements. As an example, I only buy chicken when it has been significantly marked down. Yes, sometimes this means I come home with four whole chickens, but they are immediately placed into the deep freeze where I can thaw them at my leisure. I occasionally look like the crazy cat lady with a cart full of tuna, but that doesn’t matter. I know it will be there when we need it.
Grocery stores have a loss leader rotation.
With practice and patience, it’s not too difficult to learn when your staples will be on sale. With a little trial and error, a shopper can learn to buy just enough of the staple to last until the next sales cycle. Several times a year, take a hard look at the pantry to make sure items are not going to waste. Items that are never used are as wasteful as money thrown away.
Consume meat in healthful portions.
We are not vegetarians, while it works for many people, it is not the lifestyle for us. However, we occasionally abstain from meat as part of religious observations and of course, we respect any of our guests’ views on the matter. Sometimes I serve vegetarian or meatless meals to reduce the impact on our budget. If you have been a long time reader of Home-Ec101.com you may have noticed that I usually serve two vegetables with most meals. A second serving of vegetables is typically more cost effective than a larger portion of meat.
We are not snackers.
Friday nights we typically have popcorn with a movie and occasionally we have crackers with soup or sandwiches. However, if you glanced in my pantry this week, you may look at me with raised eyebrows. In my defense, we have had company for much of the past month.
Each week does not equal $130.
Some weeks are significantly less. The leftover money from these weeks is placed into a fund for buying beef. Typically half a cow lasts us 18 months. As the children grow and increase their already healthy appetites we may have to increase the budget slightly.
I understand many readers may balk at the idea that we do not use coupons, the fact of the matter is very few items we use have coupons available. We are conservative with the amounts of health and beauty aids we use in our household, both from an environmental and a frugal standpoint. Coupons may work for other families.
Tell me, Home Eccers, how do you keep your grocery budget under control?