At the risk of sounding like I’m channeling George Carlin, this week I’ve thought a lot about grocery shopping.
Have you ever thought about just how phenomenal grocery shopping in America really is? We walk into a large (and climate-controlled) building and push huge metal baskets on wheels down aisle after aisle lined with food. We can even fill that basket with produce that’s in season and out of season, from countries all around the world.
Not so long ago, grocery shopping for me meant pushing one overflowing shopping cart while dragging another behind. Then I would hit the local Sam’s Club and buy what would be, for most people, a lifetime supply of peanut butter and several restaurant-size cans of tomato sauce, not to mention the industrial-size package of toilet paper. I would repeat the process just two weeks later.
I prided myself on the fact that I could feed ten of us on less money than did the average hypothetical American family with only 2.6 children. When you throw in the homeschooling factor, you realize I made three meals a day plus snacks because my children were home all day — eating.
Feeding everyone well, for as little as possible, was my primary goal. Nutrition (and saving money) meant cooking mostly from scratch. However, things have changed — our family has changed.
Now nutrition not only means cooking from scratch, but, due to my husband’s health, it also means gluten-free, MSG-free, and primarily organic.
Pondering the fact that we do live in abundance, that we have access to all the healing herbs and nutrient-dense foods from around the world, makes me so thankful for God’s blessings. However, I’m also keenly aware of how expensive it is.
So the challenge this week is to maintain a high standard of nutrition, while slashing our grocery budget by $250.00 a month.
Here’s the plan…
Add $250 back into the family’s cash flow by eliminating waste and implementing quality control.
1. Take a Complete Inventory.
Before shopping I’ve always taken a quick glance through the cabinets and cleaned out the refrigerator. In a sense, you could say that’s taking inventory. But I’ve never really written it down and utilized what we had.
Taking a complete inventory of cabinets sounds a little drastic, I know. It also sounds extremely time-consuming. But how can you really know what to buy unless you know what you already have?
So that’s the first hurdle for this week– empty and inventory the pantry, cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer. Then make a master list of all our staples and an inventory list of everything we currently have “in stock.”
You can follow me on Instagram at amotherslife; this should prove interesting.
2. Make a Menu Plan.
This is where the real money is saved. Unfortunately, when we no longer “needed” to watch every penny I abandoned the practice and got into the habit of strolling the aisle for what “looks good.” Not any longer.
Here’s my time-tested method.
- First, grab the calendar and note what the week looks like in terms of available time to cook. It’s also a good idea to check the weather. For example, rainy days make wonderful soup days. Note how many days you might need to use a crock-pot due to working late or after-school events. Also, check to see if you are going somewhere like a potluck or having dinner guests.
- Count the number of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners your family needs. You might add one to freeze for a gift. Or it could save you the price of an emergency pizza.
- List your meals. Start with your family’s favorites. No need to designate a specific day for each meal unless there’s something special going on — that’s too restrictive. It’s better to have a menu to choose from daily.
- Post it inside of your cabinet.
3. Make Your List — and Stick to It.
Rule number one: If it’s not on your list– you don’t get to buy it. So make your list complete.
- Go through your menu plan meal by meal. Write down every ingredient you need to make each one.
- Now check the cabinets and refrigerator and mark off anything you already have.
- Add to the list any drinks and snacks you want to have on hand.
With the exception of buying fresh fruit and vegetables, the rule is no added trips to the grocery store for that “one” missing ingredient. The longer you can stay out of the store, the more money you save.
The added benefit of this method is that when you purposefully and carefully select each ingredient, that purchase increases in value and there’s very little waste.
What’s your best money-saving strategy when it comes to grocery shopping?