Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Just Exactly HOW Do You Do This? Part One: The Plan

Can I just say I LOVE TO GET YOUR QUESTIONS! I love it when you guys e-mail and ask me stuff that makes me examine what I’m doing.

I’m also getting lots of women who want to try decreasing their weekly budget but aren’t sure how to even begin squeezing it down. So I thought maybe if I walked you through the step by step process of planning my weekly shopping trip there might be something that jumps out at you and you can adopt into your own grocery plans.

I also want to point out that even though my ideal budget was $50 for my family of six it seems like my average is closer to $60. Some weeks I hit $40 and sometimes I’m at $63. Maybe inflation, maybe the crazy gas prices which are increasing our food prices, maybe just reality. Who knows? But that’s the facts for ya.

So, the first thing that is the most important to my shopping trip is having a plan. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a meal plan. I usually plan seven breakfasts and seven dinners on Sunday nights because Monday is my shopping day. I also take a good look at what’s happening in our week. Maybe there’s a night that we are eating at a friends house. Or maybe it’s a potluck and I need to bring a certain type of dish. Whatever the case may be, I plan for it ahead of time in my meal plan.

The FIRST thing I do is take stock of what’s in my cupboards, fridge, and freezer. I figure out what kind of main ingredients I have on hand and begin my meal planning centered on those items. Right now I’ve got four 1lb packages of hamburger in my freezer. So I would go to my favorite recipe site and do a search by ingredient using “ground beef” as my search word. Then I sort the recipes by their rating which means that all the recipes that have been tried and judged will be put in order from best to worst. I don’t even mess with anything that doesn’t have 4 stars or higher.

Now I look through the list and find one that looks appetizing. Say I pick this one for Sloppy Joes. What I’m looking for is a recipe that has been rated high but one that also uses ingredients that I already have on hand so I only have to buy a few things to complete the meal. I already have all the ingredients for this in my cupboard so all I would have to buy are the buns. Check! That one is going on my meal plan and I only have to add one thing to my grocery list.

I continue my search for more recipes using what’s in my cupboards. I’ve also got lots of rice so I might search with that word. Sometimes I just search by something that sounds yummy or by using the word “breakfast” or “low cal”. Sometimes I have bananas that are about to go bad so I’ll search for banana recipes. But I always make sure it’s nothing that requires expensive or exotic ingredients.

Once I’ve got my meals planned out using the items I already have and only adding things to my list that I would need to complete the recipes, I add things that we’ve run out of and I need to replace. This doesn’t mean every little thing that I’ve run out of during the week. It just means the basics that I need every week. I wouldn’t put down the rosemary that I just used up unless I needed it for a recipe the following week. Otherwise I’d spend all my money replacing things that I had run out of but didn’t really need yet. That can get costly. If I was out of flour, sugar, toilet paper, vanilla, salt…things that I would use everyday than I would need to add those to my list.

Once that’s done then I’m ready to shop. I'll talk about that in my next post since this one is unusually long. I don't want to lose you.

16 comments:

Sarah said...

Fabulous! Thanks so much for putting up this post and the ones to come, because I have been needing step by step help! I need to spend less on groceries and I try and try to budget but always fail. So this makes it much easier to follow. Thanks again, and I look forward to more.

Becky @ Boys Rule My Life said...

Thanks for the good start! Looking forward to Part 2! :)

Emily said...

recipezaar rules!

(just thought I'd plug them.)

Amy said...

Thank you for putting so much time and energy into this site! I love the recipes you use (real, everyday ingredients that make YUMMY and cheap meals), the meal plans you list, the homemade products recipes you share, the tips for cutting down grocery costs...everything! I shared this site w/my hubby and he said "Wow, that's a really great site! We really need that!" Thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

Amy said...

I'd love to hear your favorite stores to shop. Maybe you've mentioned it before but I'm new to your site and haven't had a chance to read it all yet. But I am looking forwrd to reading more in the next few days. :)

Cindy-Still His Girl said...

Yeah! I need to do that and make a plan!!!!!

Monica said...

I have never even seen this site- Where have I been?! Now I have a new favorite- thanks for the help. Keep writing.

Cassandra Stafford said...

I can manage to shop on a budget but not make it stretch all week. The step by step thought process on making the menu will totally help me. Thank you so so much. I am taking notes!

EEEEMommy said...

Do you use the sales flyers to menu plan at all?

aladyinred said...

Have you ever considered making your own Vanilla? Its so easy and so much cheaper than buying the stuff. The start up will cost you about 20$ but thats for about 2 liters of it.

Gayle said...

Aladyinred,

I have considered making my own vanilla as a novelty but with a frugal mindset I can't justify it. The cost (even of homemade) is exhorbitant compared to the imitation vanilla that I can get for $.99 for 8 ounces. We don't notice a taste difference because it's usually included in our baked goods. If I was using it uncooked then we might be able to tell a difference in quality. I can humbly say that I'm no gourmet chef. My main goal is to keep my family fed on my tight budget with reasonably healthy meals.

Donna Graziose said...

i love your blog! thanks for sharing!
your profile struck me as hilarous. I am 30 and have 2 kids under 3. i am planning to homeschool and hope to have a few more kids. i am also struggling with a chocolate addiction.
my husband laughed and said i am looking into my future.
i will continue to follow your blog!

Mindy said...

Ran into your blog today and it looks great!
One thing that helps me to cut down on weekly food bills is to plan a weekly "soup night." They need to be homemade (canned soup doesn't save money) and can be made in the crockpot.
Some of my friends complain that soup is too hot for the summer, but you don't have to serve it boiling hot AND everyone eats "hot" meals in the summertime.
Spend pennies for Dinner--institute a soup night!

solitaire said...

I want to thank you for this site! I just found it this morning and I'm looking forward to a real person because I need real guidance and people that have really done these things. Thank you!

Tammy said...

I'm a new follower. Thanks for reposting this!!!!

~Wendy said...

I apologize if you stated it somewhere and overlooked it; however, I'm curious to know the ages of your family members.