I've made many references on my blog to my monthly grocery shopping.
I've had over a dozen or more of you ask me questions and want to know more.
I've said each time that I'll do a post on it sometime with some more of the details.
I've finally done it.
In addition to answering your questions I have a gift just for YOU!
My APRIL MEAL LIST and my GROCERY LIST for this meal list.
You can use it, slice it, dice it, delete it, save it for another day, whatever!
I'm going to do this post in a question/answer format because this is really lengthy. I've tried to remember all your questions.
How long have you been doing this and why did you start?
== I started after the twins were born. I didn't have a real system then and I didn't do all of it but that was the beginning for me. I started to enjoy my quiet times in the store without kids. It became a time for me; time in the store without two babies and a toddler. You can only stuff so many groceries around twins in a double stroller. If I did the massive shopping alone then when I did take the twins it was doable and fun for them and me. Many times I made a day of the whole thing and did my hair appointment etc. After Tatum was born I got very serious with it. Our finances got tighter and tighter when we moved to Utah. The cost of living was higher and we had added a number to our family. I wasn't ready to go back to work and I knew we had to cut back on our spending. You can only cut so many bills out so we tried to change what we could. It became a personal challenge for me. How can I shop more efficiently and save money. So I've been doing it with this system for 2 years now. When Jason was laid off over a year ago, I was SO thankful I had this system down.
== Here's the thing with budgeting- especially if you have a tight budget. If I shop right away at the beginning of the month then I'm prepared and I don't have to worry all month if I'm going to have enough money for meals each week. That bill is checked off before all others almost. I know my family will eat and have what we need. I think that priority comes near the top when we do the budget. The rest is negotiable.
==I've never kept it up in the summer. I get in a groove in September and have always gone through May. Summers were crazy with vacations so I didn't want to spend such a large chunk of the budget on food and then us be gone. This summer I'm hoping to keep it going. We'll see how it goes.
How much do you think you save by doing this?
When I got real serious with this 2 years ago it immediately dropped us down $200. Since then we've got it down another $100 or more.
The savings comes in several ways.
You aren't in the store as often so you don't put other things in the cart that you don't need and when you do go in for things your list is short so you aren't in there as long.
You also aren't keeping every item stocked all the time.
When I used to shop I'd see noodles and think 'I just used the last box of noodles I need more'. Well I didn't need the noodles for the rest of that month so in that monthly budget cycle I just bought something I didn't need. Make sense? I quit buying things that we were just low on! Unless we are out and we really need it I wait till next month's budget.
If any of you want to talk specifics in terms of dollars email me I'd be happy to share.
How long does it take?
==The meal list takes about 30 minutes. When I see a new recipe I want to try or come across one I haven't made in a while I set it in a pile to look through when I sit down to do the meal list. If there were any meals from the previous month I didn't make I automatically put them on the list. I usually come up with the first 12 meals easily and then I get stuck. Sometimes I then look through some blogs or my recipe books looking for some inspiration to finish the list. On the menu I like to have several crock pot recipes and several EASY things.
== The shopping list takes 45 minutes or so. I go down the meal list and write what I need on the list, stopping to check to see if I already have some of the ingredients. After I go through the meal list then I write down the items I need for things that aren't on the meal list. Lunch foods, snack foods, paper products, household cleaning products etc. I also double check the calendar for events or things coming up.
==The shopping part takes around 3 hours give or take. I do the food part in an hour to an hour and a half but then depending on the "other" catagory it can then take another hour and a half. This month I had Easter stuff to look for and decide on so that took longer. Most months there is something . . . . cards, birthdays, holidays, picking out a new bodywash, etc.
==Putting things away takes an hour. This is the hardest part because you are DONE and yet the work isn't over. If my kids are home it's movie time or Jason has to occupy them because I don't keep all the food out for all to see or it wouldn't make it for the month. I give them a snack and shoo them out of the kitchen. Many times I shop at night or when they are at school and Tatum is with a sitter.
Where do you shop?
==Right now, I do all my shopping at Walmart.
== In Utah I went to Costco for a few select items and then I shopped Smiths sales and then the rest at Walmart.
What is your process at the store?
==First of all . . . this is a NO KIDS trip for me. I have broken that rule twice and taken Tatum and to my surprise it did go well. Bought a few extras but it worked. This isn't just a normal trip to the store. My kids come on those trips all the time. This may sound crazy but it's my time. Some months it is just a task that needs to be done but most months I enjoy it once I get there. It's me and my list. Crossing things off a list feels good. I have a spiral notebook I use so I can flip back to the previous menus and lists for ideas. This is a big part of my "job" as mom and I figure we don't send the kids along with Jason on big jobs so why would we do that to me?? Thankfully, Jason really agrees with me.
==I always start off with a purchase of Dr. Pepper - need a shot of caffeine.
==I've then shopped two different ways . . . I've filled one cart, taken it to the front by a register and asked if I can leave it there till I'm done OR (this is the one I do now) I fill one cart, pay for it, take it to the van and then go again. It takes two FULL carts. Cereal, toliet paper etc fills a cart quick.
I typically do all food first and then on the second trip do paper products, cleaning products, chips, cereal and anything else that's real bulky. It can be like the video game Tetris at times!
== I will warn you . . . . get ready for comments. Usually it's made by some guy that is in there getting one item that his wife sent him to the store to get. This last time a guy said, "Wow, now that is a lot of groceries." He just looked at me wanting a response. I laughed and said, "Yes it is, I buy for the month."
For me it's kind of like the "Are they twins?" comment. You just get used to it and you have a standard response. I should start adding to my response, "This is just half of it." I don't think most people know what a month of groceries for 6 people looks like. You are going to buy that (and probably more) whether you do it all at once or not. The register ladies always comment too but usually you get into a conversation with them and they are all curious about it.
==The time you go and the clerk you choose is important. In Utah I went on Sunday evenings because the stores were empty. Evenings are good too. Mid mornings might be busier with people but they have more clerks then too so it works out good.
Do you assign a meal to specific day and how many meals do you plan?
== Depending on the activities of the month (Jason being out of town, company coming, short month etc) I plan between 17-20 evening meals. We eat at church one night a week and we eat out on Sundays and then we usually have a couple left over nights. We also eat differently on weekends, sometimes we eat out or we eat simple stuff like frozen pizzas or something that I would have for lunches. I don't attach sides to every meal either. There are certain things I do, like Enchiladas for example I make spanish rice with it. On my menu list I have a short list with several sides that can go with anything. We all like lettuce/salad so we do that as a side a lot and all the kids love bisquits and crescent rolls ect. so that's another we do a lot of. I typically make the main course and one side, sometimes two but with the ages of my kids the main thing and a side is perfect. They eat more of the main thing then. The day will come where I'll have to have many sides to fill my boys up.
== Unless it's an event or company is planned I don't assign meals to dates. I have a weekly calendar on the fridge and I will write down several meals for the week on the first column and then throughout the week I'll just pick something from the list. If I know we have a lot going on a particular day I make sure to pick a crock pot meal. Things like that. I don't lock myself into anything.
Where do you store it all?
==We do have a second fridge/freezer that we have moved with us. It can all fit in one fridge though but that would make it more difficult. I put things in the second fridge that I don't want the kids to just help themselves too. Danimals, gogurts things like that. They could empty a box of those things in minutes.
==The other items that I store away are cereals and boxed snacks or cracker things. Then each week I pull a few things out. I have a computer paper size box on the top shelf of my pantry with the boxes in it. Chips are hard to store but I just moved things around and found space, again where the kids don't get them. You do have to work at rationalizing things out because if it's all in view, even for us adults, it goes so much quicker.
What about the things that don't last all month?
==We have a set amount for the month. I spend the majority of it right away. Then with what is left I pull out cash from the bank. I try to divide it up for the next three weeks. Milk, fruit, and fresh vegetables are the only things I have to keep buying. Obviously there are times also where I forget something or we make special plans or I have to bring something to an event. I do work in a couple desserts on the menu so if I have to bring something to an event I usually have a few things, especially if it's in the first half of the month.
Do you use coupons?
==Rarely. When I find them on boxes or things I've purchased I do. Or when my mom gives me some I use them.
==I've never been good at coupons. I've tried; I did try the price matching at Walmart too with ads from other stores. That was a lot of work to keep it all straight but it did work. When I was trying to use coupons I ended up buying things because I had a coupon not because we needed it. I've looked at a few websites but honestly they confuse me and when I've tried I just get frustrated trying to figure them out. I haven't ever wanted to pay a monthly fee for any coupon site either.
== I do think they work and I keep thinking I should try again, if I could add this to my system I could save another $100 I'm sure. If any of you know have ideas for coupons I'd love them.
How can I alter this for my budget circumstance?
=Other than the season right after Jason was laid off we have always been paid monthly. So this works for us. I shop ON or close to the first day of the month. The fridge is BARE on the 30th. Makes cleaning your fridge easy.
= If you get paid twice a month I would do two shopping trips and cut your meal list in half. You would have to experiment with it. I also know of people that do it week by week. I think you still save a TON this way because you are prepapred and planning but your greatest savings comes when you aren't even in the stores.
==A benefit to shopping weekly or bi-weekly is you can shop the ads and weekly sales at local stores (if you don't do Walmart.)
= Bottom line is you have to do what works for your family, your budget, your time, and your personality. It will only work if it fits for YOU!
If I've missed something that you wanted to know or if you thought of a new question post your question in the comment section or email me. I'd be happy to try to answer your questions.
For the sake of this post being SO long I have posted the Menu List and Grocery List on a page that you can access in the tabs up top. Click on the Monthly Menu link, print it out and you are half way there for April! Let the shopping begin.