I have $100 or less for groceries every week. Holidays or not. JR has already spent $26 on jam & beer (it's the breakfast of champions) at Costco. I should never let him go alone. Damn pharmacy! They take an hour to fill 1 prescription which leaves way to much time for JR to wander the store. JR let loose at Costco does not bode well for my food budget.
There are 2 prevailing grocery shopping strategies. One says that you should make up all your dinner menus for one week then build your shopping list from there. The second one says that you should make up your shopping list from the sales flyer then plan your menu from that list.
I have some problems with the first strategy. I could never in a million years make up a menu for a week before hand. I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. Long term planning (yes, a week is long term for me when it comes to food) is just not going to happen. These are the questions that run through my head (after I block out the evil voices with a little wine).
1. What if I decided on any given day within that week that I just don’t want to eat what’s on the menu for that day? What are my options? Do I switch days? What does that do to the other day’s meals? Will it hurt the other 6 day’s feelings? OMG! The pressure will kill me.
2. What if what is on the dinner hit parade takes an hour to cook and I’ve just had the day from hell? Speed cooking is in order. I want to slap that meal on the table and get on with dousing my bad day with a big ole glass of red.
3. What if I pick 7 of the most wonderful, scrumptious, mouth watering, invite the President over for dinner meals only to find that the ingredients are going to require that I sell my first born, a prominent body part, or sexual services. (okay, I’ll probably have to do all 3 in order to pay for these types of meals and still pony up some cash)
You can see where I’m going with this. The menu to list strategy just isn’t one that I would advocate.
Now the second plan I’m all over. I greedily snatch up all the sale flyers that come in the mail on Tuesday and Wednesday, grab a pair of reading glasses (give me a break I’m almost 50), a pen and paper then settle in to beat the grocery stores at their own game. I try to think of it as a game because otherwise it is a boring way to spend an evening.
First order of business is to focus on the front page. This is where the stores are going to concentrate their best deals. The front page and the produce page are the lost leader stuff. I pretty much skim the rest.
Let’s deconstruct my Fry’s flyer (Koger for some of you, QFC & Fred Meyer for others, and if it's not one of these store I'm lost. You get the picture though)
There are 3 different meats on sale. Typically I would pass this part by but I have family coming in for Christmas so I don’t think tofu will cut it for Christmas dinner. I’d be willing to crave it into any shape they would like; say a duck or bunny.
Our choices are:
Ham at $1.17 per pound (JR hates, loathes, despises ham. This one is out)
Whole Standing Beef Rib Roast at $3.77 per pound. (this is going to cost like eighty begillion dollars but it is most likely what they will have.)
Aged T-Bone Steak at $3.97 per pound. (this will not feed a crowd easily. It’s out)
On my list goes the Rib Roast though it goes against my less than $2.00 per pound for meat rule. It’s Christmas, we’ll just cut back somewhere else.
Next item that catches my eye is potatoes. I need potatoes. I just used the last of the ones I bought 2 weeks ago for garlic mashed tonight. They were yummy BTW. Served with a Marsala mushroom sauce. Wait a sec…………othay I’mm back (shallow).
Anyhoo, Fry’s has a 5 pound bag of russets for .97 cents. Sounds like a good deal but not so fast. Albertson’s has a 10 pound bag for $1.47. Even a math challenged librarian like me can figure out that Albertson’s is the way to go.
Here is what my shopping list looks like after comparing all 5 of the stores in my loop.
Standing Rib Roast $3.77/ pound (ouch!)
Sour Cream .99cents
Fry’s potato chips buy 1 get 1 free reg: 2.29 – 2.99 (only if I have money left)
Wheat Thins $1.88 per box (JR eats these instead of Fritos. This is a good thing. We negotiate Fritos purchases)
Yams .89cents / pound
Sweet Onions $1.00/pound
Cool Whip .68cents – 8 ounce. **Basha’s coupon (normally I never buy this stuff but it makes easy chocolate ice box pie.
Challenge Butter 1.49/pound **Basha’s coupon
Potatoes 1.47/ 10 pound bag
OJ 2 for $4 - 64 ounce
Mushrooms 1.00/8 ounces (take raincheck on ice box)
Green beans .97cent/pound
Sunflower Market (a cheaper version of Whole Foods)
Green beans .88cent/pound
Leaf lettuce .88cents/each
Eggs 2 for $4/ 18 count
**Basha’s is another local store but they don’t have anything I want this week but Fry’s will still honor their coupons.
I go through the sales flyers all the way through one at a time writing down what I want. If the same item is cheaper at another store I mark it off (i.e. the potatoes at Fry’s). All these stores are within a mile from each other. I walk in buy what is on my list then walk back out again. I try not to take JR (or let him come with me as the case may be). See the Costco example above! Need I say more?
Stocking up is a big part of my plan. Last week I bought 2 - 5 pound bags of flour. I didn't need flour but it was on sale for .99cents. Since I make all my cookies, scones, most breads, etc from scratch I tend to go through a lot of flour. So I bought the limit (2). The mac & cheese pictured below. Not an item I would normally buy either but the Boy is out of school for a month. The mac & cheese was on sale for .50cents a box. I thought: cheap lunch and bought the limit of 20.
This is an example of my shopping prowess. It is what I can buy for $83 and change.
You can see why I don't need very much this week. That's how it rolls for me. One week I spend just under $100 and the next week I'll spend about $40. If I didn't have to buy a massive hunk of meat this week it would be a $40 week. JR's already spent a quarter of this weeks grocery money but I still think I can make it just under the wire. Wish me luck.
I hope this gives you a good starting point. If you have any questions pop it onto a comment. I'll answer them as fast as I can.