The Grocery System

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Grocery shopping day is my absolute FAVORITE day of the week! I have so many friends who hate grocery shopping, either because they don't have fun shopping with their kids, or they complain about how expensive groceries are becoming. I have to say that when David, Daniel and I first moved to the midwest, it was a challenge to stick to a reasonable grocery budget, especially since produce is SO expensive here. You would think, being Iowa that we would have an abundance of good produce, because of all the farms here, but not so. The farms here are CORN farms, so there is corn and not much else...but I digress...
I have come up with a system for grocery shopping that is efficient and has saved our family tons of money.
First, let me start with our budget, and how we stick to it. David and I sat down one day and looked at the amount of money we were spending each week at the grocery store. It was crazy how much we were spending on produce and meat. It also was appalling to me how expensive REAL food is compared to the nasty pre-prepared processed food products. I know, it can be really hard to feed your family real, whole foods when it is so much cheaper to buy all the processed products, but it doesn't have to be that way. My family is proof of that. Anyway, we sat down and set a reasonable budget. We were spending $150-$200 per week at the grocery store. Now we spend no more than $65 per week (and no more than $250 per month at Sams Club-will explain in a minute). WOW! That is a big change! Here's how we did it:

1. We joined our local Sam's Club. When we lived in Washington, we did a lot of shopping at Costco. I prefer Costco, but all we have is Sam's here. Once per month, I pay a visit to Sam's and buy all of our meat for the month. During the winter, I also buy all of our veggies for the month. Buying in bulk has REALLY saved us money. We have a maximum of $250 per month in our budget for Sam's but more often than not, I manage to get all I need from there for less than $150. I also buy things like olive oil, canned tomatoes (when I run out of the ones I can myself), and things like garbage bags, toilet paper, and ziplock freezer bags.

2. We invested in a deep freezer and a Foodsaver. The deep freezer is essential when you buy in bulk, however the Foodsaver isn't necessarily needed, it just happens to keep food longer without freezer burn. After every Sam's shopping trip, I separate the meat and freeze it into serving size portions in freezer bags (or in my case, the foodsaver bags). I then label the bags and date them. I also blanche and freeze the vegetables. Vegetables cannot be frozen raw, they need to be blanched first, or else they can still spoil. The meat and veggies can be frozen in regular ziplock freezer bags and will keep several months in the freezer, but if you have a Food Saver, the food will keep up to 12 months longer than if just frozen in regular freezer bags.

3. In the summer and fall, we join a vegetable farm coop where we pay $400 for the season (or in our case $200 because we split the share with our good friends). That is about $20 per week on vegetables (or $10 for half a share). We pick up our share of vegetables once per week, and many times, there are so many veggies I end up blanching and freezing, and have vegetables in the freezer for most of the winter.

4. I plan my meals for the following week on Sundays and I do my shopping on Tuesdays. I always plan my meals according to the meat and vegetables I have frozen. When I go to the grocery store on Tuesdays, I only have to buy things I do not buy in bulk. We have a budget of no more than $65 per week at the regular grocery store, but I don't usually spend more than $50, if that.

5. Once per week we have what I call a "freezer meal" for dinner. It is basically a leftover meal from a previous week. Several times per week, I make twice as much as we will eat for dinner, then I freeze half of the meal to eat at another time. This is where the Foodsaver comes in handy because when you vacuum seal your meals, they will last up to 1 year in the freezer. I then label the meal and date it. In addition to a leftover meal, we also have a meatless meal once per week. Freezer meals and meatless meals have saved us a tremendous amount of money.

6. When I shop at Sam's and when I do my weekly shopping, I make a list and I STICK TO IT! While shopping, I keep a tally of how much I am spending along the side of my list so I know where I am at in my budget. If I see that I am spending too much too quickly, I look over my list to see if there is something I can get the following week.

7. I use coupons religiously. I also check the store ad. Every Tuesday morning before we leave to go shopping, I get on the computer and check the store add. I write down all the items on sale and their sale prices that I might have on my list. Sometimes when at the check-out, the sale price does not ring up, so I will let the checker know (because I have it written down) and if it rings up wrong, at my store, it is free! I also go to http://www.couponmom.com/ and print coupons. I have a coupon organizer that I made and I take that with me to the store. Before shopping, I always check to see which items I have on my list for which I also have coupons. This has also saved me a HUGE amount of money. I actually chose Tuesday as my shopping day because that is the day when the new store add comes out every week (I shop at Hyvee). Hyvee doesn't have a club card, but if you can shop at a store that does, that will also save you a good amount of money. When we lived in WA we shopped at Safeway because we could use the club card.

This system has really helped us save a TON of money. So next, let me address the issue of shopping with kids. Daniel is a great shopping companion. I make shopping day a special day. There is a Starbucks in my grocery store and I LOVE STARBUCKS so grocery day also happens to be Starbucks Day. We always stop at the Starbucks and I get Daniel a steamed milk and I get a cup of tea or a mocha. Daniel even has his own Starbucks cup and you can tell he is so proud to be drinking out of it like a big boy! Then, I have Daniel help me with my list, I tell him what to grab and he gets it and puts it in the cart for me. We always have to stop at the deli and get him a slice of cheese. My store's bakery also gives cookies for free, but I opt to give Daniel the healthier option, and he loves cheese. I also make sure that Daniel has been well fed and well rested before we go to the store. This ensures that shopping will be a good experience for both him and me. Daniel's my little buddy, he is a great helper and you can tell he feels so proud when he goes to the store with me and helps me.

It always makes me sad when shopping day is over, and I always get so excited as it approaches. I hope that these ideas will help all of you and your future shopping trips! Until next time Foodie Mommies and Daddies, happy cooking and SHOPPING!

5 comments:

Amy said...

What vegetables do you blanch and freeze? How long can they freeze? How do you generally reheat them (i.e. do you thaw them first, do you sautee or steam them)?

frenchieliza said...

I blanche broccoli, asparagus, green beans, pretty much any vegetable can be blanched...If you have foodsaver they will keep for a year or longer in the freezer, or you can just freeze them in freezer bags. This is a good site to use as a guide for blanching:
http://www.gardenguides.com/416-freezing-vegetables.html

Laurie Ann said...

I am going to challenge myself to cut down our grocery bill! Great tips!

Amy said...

Cool, I should try it. And how do you reheat them?

frenchieliza said...

I reheat them the way I would any frozen veggies, by steaming or sometimes I just reheat in the microwave.

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