This is usually the time of the month that I recap the basics. This time I'm going to do it in bullets . If you have questions or want more detail, please comment below. If you aren't signed up on google, you can comment anamous.
Groceries on the cheap takes a three disciplined approach to getting food on the table.
- Planning and organizing
- Shopping wisely
- Cooking from scratch
Like everything in life, it starts with a plan.
- Identify the inexpensive sources of protein your family will eat. In our house that is eggs, cheese, rice and beans, chicken, pork, and beef.
- List 7-14 meals that your family will eat. Start a cookbook with the recipes . I use a three ring binder and plastic page protectors so they stay clean.
- List the shelf ready or frozen ingredients that you use on a consistent basis. We use diced tomatoes, beans, refried beans, tuna, instant mashed potatoes, some green beans, pasta, pasta sauce , black olives. This is your target list ( no reference to the department store, )
- Start a price list. It can be a notebook or a spread sheet on the computer. The heading should
- be the name of the product and the size of the package. Then do a line that has the date, store, how much you paid, ( or advertised price) and if you used a coupon, net cost. You are tracking a basic few foods that you use on a regular basis.
Most of this organization is a one time only project. You will save a lot of time and money in the long run.
When you get the grocery ads for the week.
- Sit down with a piece of computer paper. I use something out of the recycle bin. Section it off. Top each section with the name of a store. Start listing any perishables that are a good price. ( produce and dairy) and anything that is a good price on your target list. Find the meat that is a " loss leader" . This week In Seattle, it would be chicken for a dollar a pound at SAFEWAYS.
- Now, cross off anything you don't need and anything that is a cheaper price elsewhere. You should have two stores that are shouting "pick me pick me " by now.
- Go to those stores, buy the list and anything you need, and get out. The longer you spend in a store, the more you will spend.
- Remember, you are only buying real food. No sugar coated cereal, chips, and the like. Junk food will jack up your bill and defeat your purpose. You want to get to the end of the month on budget and with food in the pantry.
- With your price book, you are looking for the rock bottom price ( RBP) on the foods that you eat on a regular basis. That should be about ten - twelve items. You are going to stock these items when they are at their RBP and stock enough to last you until they go on a RBP again. Most stores work on a eight to twelve week cycle. Of I use an article once a week, I keep 24, of I use it once a month, I keep six. Things like mayo and catsup I keep one ahead. When I open the one in the pantry, I start looking for a sale.
- The main object here is to NEVER PAY FULL PRICE. If you are paying full price, you are wasting money. You might as well put your money on the fireplace and burn it. Now, that being said, there will always be times when you just can't find a bargain or you miscalculate a sales rotation. And, building your stock will not happen overnight. It happens a can at a time. It doesn't cost any more money than you are spending now, but it takes some time. Your budget is the same whether you buy a can of pasta sauce for 1.59, or you buy two cans for 1.56. The difference is that you are eating twice, not once. Pasta has an eight year shelf life. I pay anywhere from .50-1.00 for pasta, tops. Once I got it for .38.
- Use coupons for things you would normally buy on a thrifty budget. There are a lot of coupons out there for junk food and cosmetic type things you don't need. But there are also some for necessities and things that you would normally buy. Printable coupons are on a web site called coupons.com. There are other sites, but most of them use the same data base. The coupons are listed at the beginning of the month. They are rationed and they only can print so many. Get there at the first of the month for the best high figure coupons. You can print two coupons per product. I buy a Sunday Newspaper at the dollar store every Saturday or Sunday. Save the coupon inserts. I put them by month in a binder clip.
- There are coupon matching sites everywhere, they take the ads for a particular area and match the sales with the available coupons. They either link your coupons, or they tell you which insert they are in, I only put printable coupons that are for products I will use in a coupon binder with tags that section off types of food and cleaning and personal products. One matchup site in Seattle is couponconnectionsnw.com. If you are not in Seattle, google coupon matching/ ( the nearest big town you live by) ie. Coupon matchups / Portland, Or. This is a wonderful time saver. These should be free, and if they ask you personal info or want money, move on because there are free sites.
- I don't want to spend more than ten minutes or less a week couponing. This is not about hoarding or spending a forty hour a week coupon quest. I download once a month keep my inserts and pull them when the matchups show me a good bargain. I love the word FREE when it is something I can use. I get toothpaste and deodorant and soap for free. I save up the toothpaste for the women's shelter. The dollar store accepts coupons ( dollar Tree) . You can use two per family per day. You should never have to pay for soap, deodorant or toothpaste.
- A thrifty/ SNAP budget doesn't leave much room for specialty foods or junk foods or meals on a box ( ready mades) . Scratch cooking doesn't mean you have to slave over a stove all day. There are plenty of recipes all over for things you can make easy. The slow cooker can be your best friend. My daughter and I dissected a hamburger meal box. The results were remarkable. ( see an earlier post) . If you analyze what is ( or is. Ot) in there, you probably would never buy another one again.
Living on a thrifty budget or on SNAP, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice good nutritious food. No child should have to exist on top ramen and potato chips every night for dinner, and no child should have to suffer the insecurity of waking up to a pantry that is empty.
Knowing how to shop and cook wisely can make the difference between running out of money before you run out of month and resorting to top ramen and potato chips or chicken fried oatmeal, or eating well and having food in the pantry at the end of the month.
Thanks for stopping by