A lovely comment left on my last post reminded me that I need to update all y’all on my meal planning (and hopefully money saving) progress! Warning: this post might be a tad short on pictures
In a nutshell: I think I’m doing pretty well. BUT, I think September’s strategy will include multiple trips. Because I’m watching prices on certain things like chicken, burger, and cheese, I’ll stock up when the prices dip. Since it’s pretty much guaranteed that the low prices won’t all be active in the same week…I’ll need to make more than one trip. A little discipline combined with a couple strategic grocery trips per month should still help keep the food budget under control.
We’re halfway through the month, and Week 1 was my big grocery trip and the start of a mini price-book so I’ll know what the low prices are on a few select items and when the sales cycles are. I spent $200 on that trip. The plan was to be SUPER organized and only go to the store that one time for this month……but then I realized a) I wasn’t quite organized enough for one trip (aka I forgot stuff) and b) I’m too stubborn to buy certain things at their high points just because it’s my “one” shopping week. So, Week 2 was for picking up the few things I’d forgotten or that hadn’t been on sale (chicken) the first time around. I also recorded that week’s prices on my price list, and I spent around $50.
Then, this past week was Week 3, and I went to the store again. I updated my price book and spent $9. This is a good example of why one monthly shopping trip probably won’t always be practical for me. When a sale hits, it makes sense to stock up. Like this week: 16 oz pasta was on sale for .49 each, if you bought 10. 10 packages of spaghetti for .49 each is fine by me – it lasts and it’s easy to use up. I also had to get some eggs, a card, and I succumbed to an impulse buy of a .99 cake mix. I realized when I got home that I really didn’t need it. Learning curve?
But other than those 3 trips, we’ve been successful at avoiding spur of the moment trips so far. Because I’ve planned our dinners, I’ve had everything I need and we don’t do the “what do you feel like for dinner” dance in the evenings. I really dread nights like those, and we used to do them a lot. Nothing sounds good. Don’t feel like cooking what does sound good, don’t have what you need…yada yada. You know the drill.
Besides the grocery, I’ve also made one trip to the drugstore each of the past 3 weeks as well, usually for 1-3 items on sale in that week’s ad, and usually at a cost of around $10 total. Example: Nick needed deodorant last week, and he likes a certain brand. At the grocery store, it was $4.37. At the drugstore, it was $4.99, but this week it was “Buy 1 Get 1 50%”. Plus, I had a $1 coupon. So I spent $4.99 + $2.50 – $1 = $6.50 for two deodorants. $3.25 apiece is way better than $4.37 and totally worth it to me to make a quick trip, as long as I stick to exactly my list.
This week, I’ll make another trip to the grocery store. Currently, there’s nothing we “need” and unless some fantastic sale shows up in the paper, I’ll go just to update my price list. I can’t think of anything we “need” from the drugstore either, so I’ll probably skip that one this week. So far, and assuming I don’t spend anything on our “household” expenses this week, my total “household” expense for this month is $284 for two adults and one baby. Not great. I know I can do better.
I’ve learned a few things so far.
- My plan for 20 dinners was way too much. So far this month, I’ve cooked 7 dinners, we’ve eaten out twice, and leftovers have filled in the gaps. Next month I’ll plan for fewer dinners and keep working my way through the recipe list that I’ve already shopped for, and the grocery bill should go down.
- I definitely planned too few sweets/desserts (4 – one per week). Luckily, one of my recipes used a cake mix, and it made two batches. But (SIGH), we’re still short on sweets until Monday when I make another dessert.
- I need to buy twice as many chocolate chips. I have a little habit of eating handfuls of chocolate chips now and then….and I’ve sort of depleted the stash. I can’t help it. That’s what happens when there aren’t any cookies or bars or slices of cake at my beck and call.
- Nick has been eating eggs for breakfast, which I hadn’t planned on. Until I used my “free eggs” coupon last week (which I was planning to use in September), the 18 eggs I bought for this month were down to 2. If he keeps this up, I’ll probably need to buy twice as many eggs as I think I’ll need.
- So far I’ve seen that $1.99/lb is my current goal price for boneless skinless chicken anything (breasts or thighs), and $3.49/lb is the best price I’ve seen for 85/15 hamburger. $3.34 is the best I’ve seen for 16 oz of shredded cheese, but I’ll start paying attention to blocks of cheese and maybe shred it myself.
- I need to slice and freeze bell peppers right away (I’ve had to throw one away – GRRR).
I’ll also post the best recipes I made in August, but I think I’ll do it all at once at the end of the month One huge hit was a variation on the “cake mix brownies” I keep seeing all over Pinterest. After a little tweaking, it was gone-in-24-hours amazing.
This whole meal-planning thing is definitely a work in progress. I’ll do another update at the end of the month with the official verdict of how it worked out.
Meanwhile – I’ve got a few posts to catch up on! I’ve started refinishing the hutch to go on the buffet, and the old guest room headboard is in the process of being repurposed. I also need to start thinking about dividing some plants (the cheapest way to garden!) AND fall décor is definitely creeping onto my radar.