Sunday, September 30, 2012

Basics of 1/2 price grocery shopping.

It's that time of the month. I thought I would go over the basics of 1/2 price shopping. We have all had times in our life when we have had to stretch a buck.
If that is you now, this blog is for you. If not, people enjoy the time saving tips and the recipes. It is my hope that I can help people.

The USDA puts out guidelines for food budgets . The last stats I can find was from 2009.
food has gone up since then and with the drought, I suspect it will go up more.

Food on the cheap takes a three pronged approach. Planning and organizing, shopping wisely, and cooking from scratch.

First: Collect your own group of recipes that use inexpensive sources of protein that your family will eat. Start with seven and go from there. It helps to have 14 so that you don't burn out on a particular dish. Daycare guidelines suggest a two week cycle.

List the staples you use frequently. Keep a log, either in a spiral notebook that you can take with you to the store, or a spreadsheet. Note the item,the size of the package, how much you paid, where and when. For us it is Diced tomatoes, refried beans, beans, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce, pasta, a few canned vegetables ( green beans and corn), tuna and salmon.

Plan a weeks meals after you get home from the grocery store from your stock and your new purchases. Use the most perishable foods first. One of the fastest ways to go off your budget is to not have a plan. If you have to answer the "what's for dinner?" question after a long, hard day it is too easy to reply with " take out".

Second: make best use of the grocery adds. I want to save as much as I spend at the grocery store. I take a piece of paper out of the computer waste basket, divide the clean side into quarters. Top each quarter with the name of the grocery store. Now go through the ad and put down anything that is really cheap that you can make a meal out of and the price. Use your notebook to record the cheapest price if it is one of your staples. By now, I have the prices in my head.
When you are done, cross off anything you already have enough of and anything that is a lower price somewhere else. Now pick the two stores that have the best prices that week. Go there, buy what's on your list, anything that you have to have and get in and out of the store. The more time you spend in the store, the more you are going to spend.

Plan your trip so that you drive the least amount. I plan a tight circle adding the dollar store and the pharmacy if needed.

The object is to never pay full price for anything. I have a guideline of 4 + 1 = 5.
Four people, one meal, FIVE bucks. That's for dinner. Lunch is leftovers, or a sandwich and fruit or veggie sticks. Breakfast is oatmeal or whole wheat toast and fruit or yogurt.

I try to use 1.00 a pound for veggies and fruit, and 2-2.50 a pound for meat for a guide line.

Third: Cook from scratch. Another way to de rail your budget is to buy pre packaged, pre made foods. a few of them are cheaper than scratch, but not many. Do the math.
hamburger meal boxes are about the most expensive thing in the grocery store, pound for pound.

There are ways to make meal prep fast from scratch.

1) cook ground meat soon after you get home or the next day. Defat it, package it in meal sized portions, label and freeze. If you freeze it flat in plastic bags, it will take up less room in the freezer. Buying it in bulk makes for the cheapest price and let's you portion control your meat so there is no waste. Works for ground turkey, beef, and sausage. Costco has Jimmy Dean at the moment for 6.89 for three pounds.

2) roast off a chicken, roast beef, or pork roast ahead of time and package it in meal sized portions. Slice roast thin for sandwiches and bag. I use the food saver bags for this so I can thaw it fast under cold water.

3) use your slow cooker and your pressure cooker if you have one. If you don't have a slow cooker, get one. If you are short on money, look at estate and garage sales and put the word out to friends and family.

I have several meals in my freezer that I can make in 20 minutes or less. Tacos, refried beans, roast beef a jus sandwiches and green salad, Super baked potatoes,
BBQ pork sandwiches and salad. Healthier fast food without the fast food price!

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