Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grocery Woes

The topic of conversation going on over at Jennie's has been on my mind for awhile now. Our grocery budget has been set at $100 a week since moving to Arizona. In Wyoming, we got by on $85 a week but that was before Fritter started eating solids. I don't think our budget has increased because of his increased appetite though. He eats what we do.

We did Menus 4 Moms for awhile, but it didn't always work out for us. First of all, I never did the whole pantry and freezer stocking thing. I just bought what we needed for the recipes at the time. I didn't have a bread maker, so all those pizza doughs and breads that go along with some of the meals just didn't work for us. Also, although the recipes are very good, I wasn't that great at planning ahead, and I longed for some sort of consistency (there's a new menu every week).

I've since learned to plan ahead more but I still need consistency which is why I have a 3 week menu rotation. I don't have to think about things too much except when I change the menus. Also, in theory, our grocery bill should remain somewhat stable. However, it doesn't. I'm learning all of this by the seat of my pants (so to speak) and still am not sure what constitutes a full pantry. There's a lot of information on the internet about it, but when you don't cook with beans, do you really need a cupboard full of them?

Anyway, lately I have been going over our grocery budget every week. And while we are not entirely strapped for cash, we are trying to pay off a car loan and student loan debt while saving to buy our first house this spring. We plan to have Hubby's student loan paid off by October or November. We want to be frugal, and not waste our money, and still not eat only beans and rice. When I think about the ideal "kitchen" for our family, I want it to be stocked with healthy foods and snacks (fresh fruits and vegetables). I want to serve my family balanced, yummy meals. And I want there to be available, but used in moderation, "treats". The problem is, I don't know how to achieve this without blowing our budget even more.

Many people think shopping places like Sams or Aldi don't really save money. Dh and I did an experiment one day to see if it could help our grocery budget. I wrote down all the things that I normally keep in our kitchen and the ingredients for our menu cycles. Then we walked through Sam's and wrote down the price of the item and the size of the item to get $/oz (or lb or whatever). Most of the items that you can get at Sam's are name brand, and we compared these prices with the off-brand or whatever I would normally get at Walmart. I was pretty surprised to find out that even while buying some items name brand at Sam's, it was cheaper in many cases then Walmart. So I made up a shopping list with all the items and when I go shopping, I take this with me. If I find something cheaper at Walmart, then I will get it, but if not I save it for when I go to Sam's.

We haven't done this long enough to realize any savings yet. Actually, because you spend more on the bigger items, we have been spending more. My dh is convinced that we will start seeing the savings soon. I hope so. Still, I'm looking for even more ways to save at the grocery store. Is it worth my time to look for coupons online? Do I need to change my menus? I'm interested to see how Jennie's experiment will turn out.


Michelle said...

Do check out The Grocery Game. I'm still in my trial period, and I'll blog about it when I'm done. I will say that spending $90 at the grocery store feels good when the receipt says I would have spent $160.

Cmerie said...

I have looked at the website when you mentioned it over at Jennie's. It looks promising, and I'll be looking forward to your post about it.