Sunday, June 23, 2013

The basics

Late start, it was a long night.
 OK.  Back to the basics, again. I have been doing this for a year.  I usually do a basic overview the first of the month.  I have been posting the basics in detail all month. The basic of groceries on the cheap is taking an methodical approach to buying your food.

It takes  a three pronged approach.
  1. Planning and organizing 
  2. Shopping wisely
  3. Cooking from scratch

  • First, gather seven recipes for dinner that use low cost sources of protein.  Start with seven and expand to 14 so that you have a variety of meals.  
  • Make a list of the staple items that you buy frequently.  These should be non perishables that you can stock.  In our house that would be beans, refried beans, pasta sauce, pasta, mashed potatoes, canned diced tomatoes, a few tuna, salmon and green beans and corn and a few chicken noodle soup.  
  • Start a data base on your stock items. You should have  10-15 items.  you are going to record, the item, the size of the package, the store, the date, and the price you paid for it, coupon!  
          Pasta, 16 ounces
           Date.                       Store.                         Price.             Coupon                Net
          6/5/13.                      SAFEWAYS.             .88.                1.00/2                 .38

You can use a tablet or a spread sheet.  The idea is to find the rock bottom price for your item.  Stores operate on a 8-12 week cycle.  You, like playing the stock market, want to buy low and eat high.  NEVER get stuck paying full price.  The difference between buying 1 can of pasta for 1.59 and buying two cans for 1.54 is getting two meals instead of one.  you are going to stock the items on your list.  If  I use something once a week, I stock 24, if I use it once a month, I stock 6.  by doing that, I almost never get stuck paying full price, and I could skip shopping and survive if I needed to.  

  • This is new, I just started trying to incorporate some couponing into  the mix.  Rarely , do I find a coupon for real food.  But there are some out there.  I don't want to spend a great deal of time couponing.  but, I have been taking an additional 6.00 or so off my bottom line.  That is approaching ten percent.  If I wouldn't normally buy the product, I don't entertain a coupon unless it makes it free or dirt cheap.  
  • Check ( in the Seattle area) for coupon match ups.  If you can download a coupon, or if you already get the paper, clip what you would normally buy.   Don't want to spend more time on couponing than it takes the coffee to drip in the morning!  ...note: if you are not in Seattle, there are other websites that include your area.  Do a web search.  
  • The first issue to address is smart shopping does not include snack foods..what my mom used to call peanuts, popcorn and crackerjacks ! LOL.   just basic food.  popcorn is a good snack food of it is air popped.  As is a piece  of fruit or some cheese and crackers.  snack foods can take up to  twenty percent of your food budget.  That s  a good place to start cutting.  Basicly many of them are empty calories-- lots of carbs with little food value.
  1. The nuts and bolts-- When you get the store flyers, take a piece of paper and divide it in quarters.  Label each quarter with a name of a store.  Now, write down anything in the ad that is on your stock list at a good price, and anything in the meat and vegetable/fruit line that is a good price.  Now, cross off anything you don't need to stock now, and anything that is a lower price elsewhere. 
  2. Clean your fridge and make a note of anything that should be used soon and what you have to make meal sides.  Pair them with what's on sale to round out a tentative meal plan.  
  3. Add anything you need to replace to your grocery list.   IE: I have hot dogs, I need buns and coleslaw .  We need salad fixings for Speghetti.  When you are up and running, you should be able just to buy one meat item in bulk that's at a rock bottom price, and fresh fruits and vegetables to round your meals.  By buying one bulk meat a week and buying enough for a month, you can rotate your meat and never pay full price.  
  4. pick the TWO cheapest grocery stores that week.  Plan your trip adding any other errands you need to make to use the least amount of gas.  Bring your ads, your coupons, your list and any list from your reward cards and a cooler.  
  5. Go to the store, buy what's on your list, and get out.  The longer you spend in a store, the more you will spend. don't pick up anything you don't intend to buy.  
  6. When you get home, jot down 7 meal plans from what you have and have bought. use the oldest perishables first.  I use a matrix of 2 beef, 2 chicken or pork,  2 vegetarian, and  1 fish.  
  7. Dinners should average five dollars a dinner. 


  • Batch cooking is a way to save time in the kitchen.  you buy one meat in bulk when it is at it's lowest price, and cook and portion control it for meals.  you can get a months worth of food in your regular fridge freezer.  Make a couple of hours time when the house is less hectic, and you save a lot of time when the hectic dinner hour rolls around.  Save a few no Brainer meals for the days you know are going to be especially hard.    Hamburger, roast chicken, pork loin, and roast beef work well for this,  lately, I haven't been doing much roast beef, I haven't found a cheap enough sale.  
  • Basicly, to make 1/2 price meals, and be able to feed a family of four for 75.00 a week. You need to make 5 dollar dinners.  Meat( protein) should average 2-3 dollars a meal.  
  • The slow cooker is your best friend.  many recipes are put there, you can put dimmer I'm the crockpot in the morning and have dinner waiting for you  you when you get home.  
  • Tacos, hot sandwiches from the meat you have batch cooked, and pasta are all meals that go together in a flash. 
  • Check a precious post for my recipe for No Brainer Pasta.  It is my answer to a Hamburger Meal Box.   Better, because you have more  nutrition and more product.  Cheaper, because it is cheaper per serving, and faster because most of it is passive cooking.  Please read my blog on dissecting a hamburger meal box, it is a real eye opener.  
  • Bottom line is that anything that is premade and boxed is off the table, with a few exceptions.  Scratch cooking doesn't have to mean that you slave over a hot  stove all day.  there are a few things that are ready made that are either cheaper, or are not practical to cook from scratch.  Beans have a short fridge life.  if you get them cheap enough , canned ones are a better buy without waste,  I don't make tortillas or refried beans.  Instant mashed some times of the year are cheaper than scratch.  When I can get tomato roasted red pepper soup from Costco, it is cheaper than scratch.  

I guess I have bombarded you with enough.  If it all seems overwhelming, take it one step at a time. . If some part of this just isn't your bag, think of the savings, if that isn't motivation consider deligari g it to a family member that is more suited to the task An older child can do more than you think and they will be learning good life's lessons.  

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