Taking this year off to be a stay-at-home mom to Ace has been one of the most best times of my life. In addition to spending all day with my little fuzzy-headed ninny-muggins I get to hang out in stretchy pants all day (woo-hoo!). I also get to exert all of my control freak tendencies in to making our household run smoothly, because I have the luxury of time to do so. Hopefully by organizing our household routines I can put in to effect some lasting habits for our family for when I do go back to work, such as meal planning.
Since I am not working this year, a considerable chunk of our household income is gone so meal planning and food budgeting has become a must. Also, wasting food is annoying.
In figuring out our monthly budget for this year we decided that we would shoot for the $100 a week grocery budget. To be specific, a $100 for all of our meals with the exception of going out to brunch once on the weekend and the husband buying lunch while at work 2-3 times a week. For the most part we have been successful and I thought I would share some of our methods which include weekly meal planning.
1. Pick a grocery store that fits your needs.
In order for us to get the best deals on what we eat we shop exclusively at Sprouts, a discount natural grocery store chain here in Colorado and other western states. It might not have worked for me five years ago when I was drinking Diet Pepsi by the gallon, but now that we eat better and have cut out a lot of processed food, it is perfect. Plus there is no temptation to get junk like Doritos, Coke, and Velvetta since they don’t carry it. In my opinion their deals on meats and produce rival any of the other grocery stores here in Denver.
2. Shop the sales and have a price point at which you will buy your common food items.
Shopping the sales is pretty much a “duh” point, but I go far enough to basically shun all regular price food with the exception of milk and eggs. The sales at Sprouts are fantastic, which is good, because we pretty much only buy what is on sale. I don’t do any meal planning (unless it is a special occasion) until I have consulted my trusty weekly ad. There are many weeks when we will buy nothing but chicken breasts or ground pork because it is the only meat on sale that is a really good deal.
I also have a “buy it” price point for most of the items we buy. For example: Sprouts brand whole grain loaves of bread at regular price can run you upwards of $3.75 a loaf. Uh uh, no way. I only buy their bread when it is $2.50 and under per loaf. And if it is $2.00 or less per loaf, we stock up and freeze loaves so that we are never stuck having to buy the bread at full price. Some of my other “buy it” prices include; $1.99/lb. or under for chicken breasts or tenders and $7.99/lb. or under for organic coffee.
3. Own a deep freezer and a husband who likes to can. Oh and likes to garden too.
The deep freezer was one of those purchases that I wasn’t so sure about when we first got married. In my mind I imagined my husband collecting clearance meats to be forgotten about and it becoming an energy sucking eyesore in the garage. It is an eyesore, but it is also a great way for us to stock up on sale grocery items. The key to us using it effectively is by me meal planning around something frozen each week. So if we do only purchase ground beef in the meat department one week, we can still have an all natural roast chicken for dinner on Sunday because we got one for $1.49/lb a month earlier.
Lucky for me I have a husband that loves to garden and can fruits and veggies. The canning is great because when Sprouts has a deal such as $.99/lb organic apples, my husband will cook and can a huge batch and then we have organic applesauce to last us the winter, which is great when you have a little one.
It goes without saying that my husband’s little (okay, HUGE) hobby of gardening saves us tons of money. In the spring, summer, and fall we always have tons of fresh veg in the backyard.
Stay tuned for Part II: The Elusive $100 Grocery Budget and Mystical Meal Planning – Meal Plan Like You Mean It