Typical grocery shopping for many happens when you get paid or your snap card gets filled and the cupboard is bare. How many of us have said “ I need to go to the grocery store, we are out of everything !”
Going to the grocery store with that mindset is dangerous. It is what I call panic grocery shopping. You are five times more likely to throw things in the cart you don’t need and spend more than you need to. Impulse buys make up 60-70 percent of the average cart depending in which side of the pond you are on. It is also stressful.
Not having to go to the grocery store , going at your leisure, is a much better alternative. Keeping a four to six weeks supply is the best way to stretch the grocery budget and avoid paying too much for food. It also covers you in case an emergency happens. It is peace of mind. And, it can make your food bill about half what it was before . That’s a win win in my book.
One of the easiest things to do to start the process is just to study the ads, list or circle what you can use to make a meal and/or what you need to replace in your stock and pick 2 stores that have the best prices. Normally, in this area Fred Meyers and Winco would be it. Case in point, we went to Fred Meyers this week. Grapes were 2.00 a pound. My buy price on most fruits and veggies is a dollar with few exceptions. Snacking tomatoes were 3-5.00. I passed. We went on to Winco. Grapes were…wait for it…….78. And tomatoes were 1.99. Eggs were a dollar.
The next easiest trick is to know your prices of the things you use in a regular basis. If something is way to much, don’t buy it. Go without it or find an alternative. Buy the fruits and veggies that are in season. They taste better and are cheaper. I keep a canister of dry milk with cream in my pantry. We can use it for our own mixes, or we can use it of milk is too high.
Next, analyze the meals you eat on a regular basis that include low priced protein. These should be versatile cuts of meat . In our house, that would be split chicken breast. Pork loin, and low fat hamburger. You can de -fat ham river and loose up to 17 percent of the fat. Pork loin can be cut into stew, chops and roasts. Split chicken breast can have breast meat cut about the size of the palm of your hand and the rest cooked in a slow cooker, deboned, and the stock saved. The stock alone will cover the cost of the bulk flat if you buy it when it is about a buck a pound. 7 meals out of a five dollar flat is pretty good economy but my on my book. Add vegetables and other ingredients. We add eggs, cheese, and beans to the mix .
After deciding what your choices are, start looking for loss leaders on those cuts of meat or other sources of protein. When something is a good price, buy enough to cover yourself for four to six weeks. That means if you are going to eat chicken 3 times a week, you need enough for 12 to 18 meals. Remember, you don’t have to eat chicken breast every meal. By cooking and freezing the pieces from the rest of the breast, you can make a lot of meals by adding beans, or cheese, or veggies.
Chicken tacos, chicken enchiladas, chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie…..and many more.
By rotating a meat a week, you get the benefit of bulk purchases, low prices, and you can portion control the meat into meal sized portions and avoid waste.
You are eventually going to shop for the rotation protein based on sale prices., dairy and fresh produce, and the shelf stable or frozen ingredients that are on sale. Stocking a six weeks supply. The result is never paying what my mother used to call top dollar. A can of diced tomatoes can cost 1.59 or they can cost .50-58 at winco and, it have BPA on the can. That gives you about 3 for the cost of one and you can grow your four to six week supply in a hurry, Paying half price or less for your food gives you the benefit of always having food in the house and doing it for on a four dollar a day budget.
Your goal is to put good food on the table and always have food on the house. Food anxiety is known to lower your life expectancy and it is not a good thing for a child to go through.
One last, unpopular idea….no junk food. If your family has to have junk food, set a separate budget and shopping trip for junk food and pop. It will make it abundantly clear how much junk food costs. Besides the health risks. The average grocery cart is 50 percent drinks and snacks. Don’t do it. Let snacks be air popped popcorn, or a fruit or veggie. Peanut butter celery sticks comes to mind.