Thoughts on Week 2 of eating less expensivelyMy self-imposed challenge to spend less on groceries this month (http://bit.ly /Iz7MEC) has perhaps turned into more of an “empty out the kitchen cupboards and freezer” exercise.
By: Sherri Richards, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
My self-imposed challenge to spend less on groceries this month (http://bit.ly /Iz7MEC) has perhaps turned into more of an “empty out the kitchen cupboards and freezer” exercise. Which is actually great for two reasons: 1) It gives me a head start on my spring cleaning and 2) It does mean a lot less money going out this month (even if I’ll have to replenish the pantry some next month).
And I do mean a lot less. The total amount I spent on groceries during week 2: $33.08.
I promise you I’m not starving my husband and children. Craig actually referred to me as a “gourmand” the other night, and said we’re eating a better variety of foods than ever.
Meals this week included lasagna roll-ups with side salads, mini cheeseburgers and carrot sticks, black beans and rice, a country brunch skillet (with breakfast sausage instead of bacon), and pizza meatloaf. That last recipe is from this USDA thrifty food plan booklet (http://1.usa.gov/HSrsWr).
For these meals, I pulled a pound each of ground pork, beef and turkey from the freezer, as well as the sausage links, shredded cheese and hash brown potatoes. I had the lasagna noodles on hand, too. But even factoring in what I’ve cleared out of the pantry, I think I’m below the $103.20 allowance I’m trying to follow.
This boggles my mind a little, especially after I put pencil to paper. When broken down, that $103.20 translates to $14.75 per day to feed three people (plus Baby Owen). I divided that $14.75 out to $2.45 for breakfast, $4.90 for lunch and $7.40 for dinner. It’s obviously doable when we split a 50-cent box of mac and cheese, slice up a carrot and divvy up an orange for lunch. Not at all if we wanted to grill some steaks for supper. I guess that’s why there are no steak recipes in that USDA booklet.
Back to that grocery receipt (yes, singular “receipt,” I went to the store only once!): With my $33, I stocked up on milk, juice, eggs, fruit and veggies again, and bought several pounds of chicken breasts. A pleasant surprise to help aid my challenge was the arrival of the Cash Wise coupon mailer. Twice a year, the store sends out eight weeks of coupons on a magnetic strip (SunMart does this once a year, too). The coupons feature really good deals, including those chicken breasts (a 2.5-pound bag for $3.88, or about $1.55 per pound) and potatoes (5 pounds for $1.48). Of course, it’s only a good deal if it’s an item you use anyway. I passed on the first week’s Kool-Aid coupon.
Other random thoughts from week 2:
Look at what you throw away. Look at what lingers in your fridge or cupboard. This is wasted money.
Avoid purchasing ingredients that are only good for one recipe. Half-full cartons of ricotta cheese usually go bad in my fridge. That’s why I was glad the lasagna roll-up recipe called for cottage cheese, my ricotta substitute from now on.
Trying to save money while feeding your family often comes down to balancing convenience and cost. Time and money are both commodities. Which do you have more of? While it’d be great to cook everything from scratch all the time, that ain’t happening in my house (especially because I’m not a very good cook). Where can you cut convenience to save cost? One way I do this is buying frozen juice concentrate. Adding my own water and stirring saves me up to a dollar per half-gallon of juice. This week I made a box of instant pudding instead of buying snack packs. It was super easy and less expensive, and Eve loved to help. On the other hand, while I could have saved even more money making the black beans and rice from scratch, I used a $2.50 package that was already seasoned and took only 25 minutes to cook. Find the middle ground that works for you.
Tonight, as we enter week 3, my husband volunteered to go to the store for me. I sent him with my list (I’ve got meals planned out through next Monday), the cash envelope and a challenge: to come in under $40. We’ll see how he does.
Sherri Richards is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and blogs at topmom.areavoices.com