Sunday, July 21, 2013

The basics, part one, planning

I started this blog when it was brought to my attention that there were people that were running out of money before they ran out of month on SNAP.  In my opinion, no child should have to wake up to the insecurity of having no food in the house.  And, no child should have top ramen and potato chips for a diet.  I can't feed the world, but I can teach people how to feed their families on SNAP -and still have some food in the pantry at the end of the month.  

I was a single parent for seven years.  It was during the time of gas shortages and double digit inflation,  I didn't get a raise for three years.  I already knew some concepts from my mother.  I set out to learn everything I could about economizing on food.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  When I was in a position to not have to economize on food, it was a habit.  A habit that afforded us a better quality of life and the security of always having food in the house.

Groceries on the cheap takes a three-pronged approach to purchasing and cooking meals-- putting food on the table.

  1. Planning and organizing
  2. Shopping wisely
  3. Cooking from scratch
I plan to cover the basics over the next three days.  I have done this about every month now, please feel free to re read older posts.  I type off the top of my head, every basic post is different.   A lot of it is just common sense.  


Like anything worth doing,  a plan is a good step to insure success.  

  • Start with a simple list.  List 7-14 meals that use inexpensive sources of protein that your family will eat.  The object is to get good food into your family's belly-- just at a cheaper price. No cheating, no boxed meals allowed.  in our house, inexpensive protein would be cheese, rice, beans, pork, chicken, ground beef and sometimes roast, and eggs.  
  • Now write a pretend grocery list that you will need to cook these meals.  You will probably see a pattern of ingredients.  You  are basically going to cook from scratch.  If you have never done that, by the time you finish this, you'll be a pro at getting basic food on the table!   
  • Make a list of shelf ready food that you will need  to make your recipes. There should, be a list of 10-15.  In our house it would be pasta, pasta sauce, refried beans, beans, diced tomatoes, black olives, instant mashed potatoes, some tuna and salmon, and some chicken noodle soup and green beans and corn.  
  • Now, we are going to track the prices on these items. Using a notebook or a computer spreadsheet, list each item and the size of the package.  Now head a line:  date, store, coupon?  Final cost.  
  • Use the ads you get in the mail to enter this data whenever  those items ( your stock items) are on sale.  Sales run in a 8-12 week cycle. You are  looking for what I call your target price.  Some people call it the rock bottom price.   This is not a  new concept.   Businessmen buy stocks low, and sell high.  You  are buying your food when it is a rock bottom price, and eating it when it is at a high price.  Why would you buy a can of pasta sauce for 1.59, when you can buy two cans for 1.57?  The difference is a second meal for the same price.  
  • When a item ON YOUR LIST is at or below your target price, buy 1) as many as you can 

  • afford, b) as many as the store allows, or c) as many as you need to fill in your self projected allotment-- whichever comes first.  If I use something once a week I try for 24 cans.  If I use it once a month I keep 6.  Things like catsup, mustard, and mayo, I keep one ahead.  When I open my shelf can, I start looking for a good sale.  
  • This is stockpiling to make sure you never have to deal with that dreaded F word....FULL PRICE.  This is not hoarding. We aren't buying hundreds of something we will never use or can't be used before it expires.  Most canned goods have a long  shelf life.  Pasta has a 8 year shelf life.  Canned meats and fish have a shorter shelf life-- like three years or so.  Not much different than our grandmothers did when they brought in the vegetables from the farm and canned them for the winter.  
When the grocery ads come in the mail, get a piece of paper and section it off in quarters,  place the name of a chain store on the top of each section.  Go through the ads and write down
       Anything that is on your staple list at a rock bottom price.  
       Anything in the produce line that is cheap that you can fill out a meal with.  
       Anything in the protein line that is on sale cheap.  

Now, cross off anything that is cheaper somewhere else.  , and anything you don't need.  
Pick the TWO best stores for the week.  Add any items that you need to replenish.

Write down a quick list of meals ( penciled in) from your inventory on the fridge and freezer and the pantry and grocery list.   Finish your meal plans when you get home from the store.  Many times , I have found that a meat on sale that  either doesn't look good, they don't have it, or it's just too big a package to be doable.  Ten pounds of pork loin that had already been frozen wasn't doable for me for example.  

That's all for today.  

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