Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Grocery Process

People have already asked me how I stick to my budget (which after a whole house budget hash out, has been increased slightly. Whoohoo!). Here is my process.
I get paid for watching E (the 2 year old) on Wednesday, so I shop on Thursday. That means Wednesday night is spent on the weekly grocery planning.
I came up with this process by combining what I already knew from helping my mom plan meals while growing up, with reading various blogs and '101 ways to save money'.

Step 1:
Make our weekly menu plan. The hardest part has been making sure I plan for breakfast, lunch, and snacks as well as dinners (why must everyone need to eat so often?)
I always try to find one new meal to try. Most of them have been approved by the hubby and I add them to my recipe book.
At least one meal is a frugal meal (Around $5 for the entire thing).
Remember that we only eat meat twice a week (bonus points if the frugal meal contains meat)
Make sure that at least a couple of those meals won't involve hours in the kitchen. You never know when you might end up with a busy day (or clingy, teething babies). Maybe you do know which nights will be hectic, plan simple meals, or meals you can make ahead, for those nights.
Keep in mind foods that are in the freezer and pantry.

Step 2:
Turn my menu into a shopping list.
It usually helps to be in the kitchen/pantry while I do this. I notice things I have and substitute some ingredients so that I don't have to buy as much. I've been known to change an entire meal this way.
Being in the kitchen also helps to remind me of staples that we have run out of.

Step 3:
Check my phone apps for rebates and deals.
The 2 apps I use most are Ibotta and Snap By Groupon. I also use Walmart Savings Catcher, but that doesn't factor into preplanning.
When checking these apps, I start with foods I need to buy anyways. Then I look for foods I could use as substitutes for anything on my list. Last, I check for items that I use frequently, even if I know I won't use them this week.
So far I've been getting somewhere in the range of $5 back per week between the different apps, and I have yet to buy anything that didn't/won't get used. I'm saving my rebate money for Christmas gifts.

That's about it I think. It can be a little time consuming, but I don't mind right now.
I'm currently learning a new way to shop that is supposed to be a 'set and forget' type system. I will definitely update you if I am successful!

Chime in! Do you have a grocery planning process? If so, what does it look like? If not, do you want to implement one? No one's process is exactly the same an I'm always looking to learn, so share your thoughts!

Menu Plan week of Oct. 9-15

Got it? Good.
Oh, you don't got it? That's ok, reading my handwriting is hard enough without the toddler helping on top of it.

Sunday: Pasta Primavera with Cauliflower Sauce (
I used whatever veggies I could find hanging around. I knew I would be using the broccoli florets later in the week, so I cut up the stalks to put in the pasta (bonus, the florets are now precut for Thursday's meal)

Monday: Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches on Homemade Bread. French Fries.
Pound out a single chicken breast to make 2 sandwiches, marinate in homemade BBQ sauce before cooking. Pile the sandwich high with cheese and veggies (we used tomato, bell pepper, and lettuce). Grill the sandwich on the stove, use a cookie sheet/pizza pan to press it down while it cooks.
It was a busy day, so I didn't end up making fries.

Tuesday: Homemade Pizza with Homemade Sauce. (Breadmaker crust - Pinterest. Sauce -
I used the leftover veggies from the sandwiches to add bulk to our pizza. I can't stand shredding soft cheeses (like mozzarella), it frustrates me too much. So I tried out thin slices of mozzarella instead. worked great! Bonus, I had leftover sauce and cheese that I put in the freezer for quick pizza nights in the future.

Wednesday: Easy Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower Sauce. Sweet Potato Fries.
Original recipe for the Mac and Cheese is 2 cups pasta, 2 cups milk, and 2 cups cheese. I will be replacing half of the cheese with a cup of cauliflower puree that I have in the freezer. Cook the pasta in the milk, then mix the cheese and cauliflower in until melted.

Thursday: Beef and Broccoli (Pinterest) with Coconut Rice (
Remember those precut broccoli florets from Sunday? Made prep for this easy meal even easier!

Friday: Tuna Fish Sandwiches. Salad.
Pretty simple. This has actually been on my menu for 3 weeks in a row, we haven't eaten it yet. I'm not a huge fan of tuna (or any fish for that matter), plus its easy to save canned tuna, it won't go bad. So this is the meal that continually gets skipped over if I end up at someone else's house for dinner one night (which happens pretty often).

Saturday: Throw Together Night
More on this in a future post.

As you can see, we only have meat 2 nights a week, meat is expensive. I'm usually better about planning in more beans though.
We don't necessarily eat these meals on the days they are planned for, I just use the pad of paper with days on it because someone gave it to me. We eat whatever I feel like making or is easiest for that day's schedule.

Chime in. Did you find this helpful? In the future, would you prefer to see the menu when I make it, or after I've used it and can add comments on how it worked?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Groceries and Budgets

About a month ago I decided that I wanted to start feeding my family more whole/real foods. I didn't know exactly what that meant when I started though. I knew we needed to eat more vegetables, but that was about it.
Scanning blogs tends to be a good place to start. I was already following The Humbled Homemaker, so I started there. She just so happened to be advertising a healthy living bundle. It included information on essential oils (more on that later) and various books and informational sessions about eating healthy on a budget. I splurged and got the bundle. SO WORTH IT!!! **DISCLAIMER - the Healthy Living Bundle offer has ended. There are more bundles in the process for the end of this year and beginning of next.**
I knew I needed to start simple, the book 22 Days To A Fresh Start from was exactly what I was looking for. (That is my new favorite blog, I always go to her first for recipe and meal ideas). I removed all the trans fat and high fructose corn syrup from our home, I started making menu plans for all three meals and snacks, and I now make most of our foods from scratch. I don't buy all organic, we definitely can't afford that. I pick and choose the worst offenders and the things we eat the most of.
Ready for the kicker? I feed my family on $70 a week.  My husband, our 11 month old, myself, and the 2 year old that I watch 4-6 days a week. I try to make that include paper products and health & beauty products, but I can't always stick to that. I have successfully been making this work for an entire month now. I will be outlining how I do it over the next couple posts. For now I will do my first budget check in. I will do this at the end of every month for a couple reasons. First, so that you can see how I manage such a small budget. Second, so that I have a check-in. If I know that the world wide web will be seeing my purchases, I'm less likely to impulse buy.
I currently only shop at one store, I don't have the time or energy to jump between stores with a young toddler. I hope to branch out eventually, but I'm taking it slow for now.

Week 1:
I didn't start this whole ordeal until halfway through September, so my first shopping trip was September 18, 2014. You will see as the weeks go on, I get better about buying whole foods, rather than premade, boxed foods, and I get better about managing the budget These 2 weeks were really easy because I had a fully stocked pantry when I started, and my menu plan included tons of food that I already had.

1lb  93% Ground Beef - $5.48
1/4 Turkey Breast, presliced - $12.26
1/4 Ham, presliced - $10.03
1 dozen Cage Free, Grass Fed, Organic, Brown Eggs - $3.78

1 bag Organic Apples - 3.97
2.39lbs Red Grapes @ .98 per lb - $2.34

1 package of 36 Corn Tortillas - $1.98

24 pack Bottled Water - $3.98   (I know, I know)
1 Gallon store brand Orange Juice - $3.98
1.75 liters name brand Orange Juice - $3.78
Almond Milk - $2.98

Health & Beauty:
5 Pregnancy Tests @ $0.88 each - $4.40

Other things:
Birthday Card - $3.97
Cling Shade for car - $4.78

Total: $72.69 for 19 items

That much meat really did me in, but half the ham and turkey went into the freezer for next week. Water and name brand orange juice are my splurge. I just ran out of water, so next week I plan to buy a filter for my Britta instead of more bottled water.

Week 2: September 25, 2014
I'm typing these out by reading my receipts from these shopping trips. So please bear with me, I can't decipher all of them.

Boneless Ribeye Roast - $4.32
1 dozen Grass Fed, Brown Eggs - $2.98

1 bag (3 hearts) Organic Romaine Lettuce - $3.38
1 bag (2 hearts) Celery - $2.08
1 bag (1/2 lb) Organic Carrots - $0.98
0.35lb Broccoli @ $1.48 per lb - $0.52
2.20lb Red Grapes @ $1.98 per lb - 4.36

1lb block Sharp Cheddar Cheese - $1.98
1lb block Colby Jack Cheese - $1.98
1lb Unsalted Butter - $5.28**

1lb bag Brown Rice - $0.84
Flour Tortillas - $1.82

1 gallon store brand Orange Juice - $3.38
1.75 liters name brand Orange Juice - $3.00

Canned Goods:
Vinegar - $1.50
Chili Powder - $2.18
Worcestershire Sauce - $1.00
6oz Tomato Paste - $0.57
Paprika - $0.88
Ground Red Pepper - $2.98
Soy Sauce - $1.48
3 Cans Red Beans in Chili Sauce @ $0.92 each - $2.76

Total: $50.85 for 24 items

** I only bought butter at this price because I could put it into 2 different phone apps and get back $3.31, essentially making it only $1.97 for the pound. But what I get back from those apps will be used towards Christmas presents so I don't count it in my immediate budget breakdown.

So there you have it, my first 2 weeks of meal planning, serious budgeting, and eating as much whole foods as possible. I hope this was helpful!! Next I will start posting the menus that go with my shopping trips.

Join the discussion. How is your meal planning and budgeting going? Chime in every month and share your budget check in! You don't have to type it all out of course, but staying accountable is what keeps me going!