Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beating the Grocery Store Blues!

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I hate grocery shopping.  It ranks right up there with cleaning toilets.  But it’s a necessary evil, since my family likes to eat.  Urg!  

I used to go at it in a haphazard fashion, bitterly throwing items in my cart and hoping I’d figure out some meal to use them in.  Each night my husband would ask what was for dinner and I’d say, “What do you want?”  We’d look through cupboards and fridge trying to figure out what we could make with the ingredients we had.  But usually whatever we decided to make we’d be missing some ingredient, and I would inevitably traipse back to the store last minute.

The problem with this method was that when I’d go back to the store to get my 1 or 2 items, I’d always leave $40-$60 later with a bunch of other items as well (they were a good deal or I suddenly had a craving for them). 

Needless to say, this haphazard method made my grocery budget soar.  It was very wasteful as well.  I’d always buy certain things—like sour cream—and soon have 3 tubs of it in my fridge (all expired).   

Desperate to lower my food budget, I decided to keep myself OUT of the grocery store as much as possible (it would make ME happier…and the budget).  I was going at least 3X a week…and that just didn’t equate to saving money). 

Sample Meal/Ingredient List
 So after thinking about it, I figured out a method that has solved all my problems.  It keeps me out of the grocery store (I only go 2X a month now), it has lowered my food budget significantly, and I don’t have so much waste.

This method takes a LOT of initial time to set up…but is totally worth it.  I hated every second of organizing all my recipes and ingredient charts, but once that was accomplished, it has saved me oodles of time!

Here’s what I do (forgive my bad pictures; I'm not fancy):  

1.      MEAL LIST.  Make a long list of meals you like to eat (To save space, I typed these out and organized them by soups, salads, pasta, chicken, etc). 

2.       MEAL/INGREDIENT LIST.  Now expand your list by looking at every recipe and writing down under each meal the ingredients you need to buy that you don’t normally have on hand (I always have milk, eggs, flour, butter and most spices, so I don’t write down those)

3.     MENU.  On shopping day, go through your meal/ingredients lists and figure out a two week menu.  This is so handy because there are no more “What do you want to eat tonight?” questions.  I just look at my menu and the decision is made.  Sometimes I’m not in the mood for what I wrote down, so I’ll switch it for another night and cross it off, but I still get through all the meals I’ve planned.
Sample 2 Week Menu (I went out of town...that's why there are lots of days blank)
4.       SHOPPING LIST.  After you have your two week plan, write down all the ingredients you need for the meals you picked.  (If you have a favorite store, you can organize your list by aisle—I like to be efficient and get out of the hated grocery store as fast as humanly possible)

5.       DREADED GROCERY STORE OUTING.  This is when you go out into the trenches and put your plan into action.  Only get the items on your list (don’t impulse buy).  Ignore the weird looks you get with 2 shopping carts (or give weirder looks back, as if to say, “You DON’T have 2 shopping carts.  What’s wrong with you?”)

6.       BE HAPPY.  Go home and put your groceries away, joyful in the knowledge that you actually will use everything you bought.  Yippee!  Also, there is a warm fuzzy feeling that always overcomes me as I leave the grocery store, knowing that I won’t be back for 2 whole weeks.  It makes me feel like the CONQUERER, instead of the conquered!    

I’ve been happy with this system!  It took a lot of time in the beginning to set up…but now that I have all my charts, it seriously takes me 5 minutes to choose a menu, write down needed ingredients, and organize it into a shopping list.  I LOVE that!  I can handle 5 minutes.

Here are some tips to stretch out to 2 weeks:  

  • I have a dairy deliver my milk each week.  I like the taste better.
  • I freeze bread and pull a loaf out when I need it.  (Some breads are better than others for this.  If you have a Winco, their bakery bread has tough, solid bags that hold up well against freezer burn.  Use trial and error to find which breads freeze best for you...or try rebagging them into more airtight solid bags once you get home if your favorite bread has a flimsy bag that begs your freezer to burn it)  
  • I divvy out snacks into labeled lunch sacks for my kids lunches; otherwise, they will snarf them down the first weekend after grocery shopping and have nothing left for 2 weeks.  They know now that they get one snack a day and if they snarf, then they will fast until I go shopping again.
  • I hide my chocolate chips under the frozen spinach in the freezer (that way my kids don’t find them and I get them all to myself)
Whether this works for you or not, I wish you well.  My deepest wish is that you may stay out of the dreaded grocery store as much as possible…and be happy…and have a maid come and clean your toilets…and be happy.  I can keep going, but I’ll stop.

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Kristin said...

Thank you for all the detailed information. I can use some of your tips!

Marcy said...

i love this!! I also dread the grocery store so this plan sounds awesome to me!!

Heidi said...

I need to start doing this!! You are always so on top of it Char!!

tiffunny said...

I go in phases of being on top of my menu like this. I wish i could be more consistent like you! Your menu sounds delicious too.

(and I laughed when you mentioned you hid your chocolate chips! Funny)

Ashley said...

I seriously love this! I menu plan but hadn't thought of expanding on writing the ingredients out.
I laughed out loud reading your "before" description. It is my sister-in-law to a tee! Will definately be sharing this with her!
Visiting from Chef in Training. I would love for you to come visit at!

Charlene@APinchofJoy said...

Great tips! I can so identify from the too many cartons of expired sour cream to the hiding place for the chocolate chips! I would love it if you would come link up with Busy Monday (open Monday through Thursdays) at A Pinch of Joy, a linky party for ideas that make life better, easier and more fun!

Beth said...

Oh this cracks me up so bad! It's totally me! In fact, I had to read this to my husband, because we were frantically searching our cupboards for something to make for dinner tonight. haha :)

I have done the 2 week menu, and it works really well. I like your expanded list of favorite recipes, I think that would be so nice to keep in a folder for quick reference. (Having a food blog helps, too.)
Thank you so much for sharing this!

Charlene@APinchofJoy said...

thanks for linking your great tips to Busy Monday at A Pinch of Joy last week. The links are open for this week's party and I can't wait to see what you have to bring!

Shawnee said...

Thank you! Thank you!

Shawnee said...

Thank you! Thank you!

Carolyn Farina said...

I did this for a while and I believe it really is a great way to go. But I also found that produce does not stay fresh enough towards the end of the wo weeks.

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