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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Money Monday (On a Tuesday)


OK, blog-friends. Word on the street is, you all like to eat food. Some of you even need to eat it. So many of you asked for ideas on how to save money on groceries- and, believe it or not, I have some. I have so many, this will turn in to a series of grocery-talkin' Mondays, no doubt. In everything, there is a season, a time for everything under heaven. A time for blog posts to be long and lovely, and a time for brevity. Most of the time, I think brevity is best, don't you? Short and sweet. So I'll try, against all my excitement, to share these mildly-useful tips with you one at a time. Wait, what was all that about brevity? I'd better get crackin'. You know what? I bet this goes long.


The one, most important thing I've done, that has made the most significant savings for us is to PLAN OUR MENU. Many of you probably do the same. Here are some bullets to consider, from the Mind of Megan:

  • I always plan in 2-week increments. I think a week is too little, a month way too long. When you break it in to two weeks, you get a good amount of planning, but can live for the short-term, using up what you have, etc. If you end up not making some of the meals, you can bump them up to the next 2 week period and save some grocery money by not needing to plan and buy for more meals for the month than you actually need. Then, I go to the store on the off week once for more milk and fruit.

  • I plan for everything we eat- our week-night meals and also our special breakfasts, and one "treat" per week, sometimes two depending on what's happenin'. I don't need to plan for lunches, because that's always sammies or snack-like things- fruit and triscuits with cheddar or something like that- but I do write down afternoon snack suggestions for each day, just so I don't get in a rut.

  • Does it seem daunting to plan out 14 days of food? Break it up. Here's what I do: Sunday is Crock Pot Day, or a big casserole (giving Jim a good start to his week's stock of leftovers in the freezer for work.) Monday is Beef or Pork. Tuesday is Pasta Night. Wednesday is Chicken, Thursday is Breakfast Night, Friday is a toss between Pizza night (Papa Murphy's or I make calzones or something), eating out if we need to leave the premises or else, or it's used as a catch-up- in case I didn't make one of the planned meals that week, when "life" came up. Saturdays we eat something a little nicer and more time consuming (like a lasagna or stuffed chicken breasts, etc.), because Jim's here to occupy the kids when I'm cooking. We always have a special breakfast on Saturday morning, too (scones, coffee cake, etc). So this makes that 14-day planning a cinch. Instead of being overwhelmed at what to make for all those nights, it's simplified into finding 2 beef dishes, 2 pasta dishes, 2 chicken dishes, etc. It really keeps me from getting intimidated at the idea of planning the meals.

  • When I write down the meal on the calendar, I write down any special notes for the meal, so I don't forget that I bought special mushrooms to add to it or something, and the cookbook page it is found on. By the way, if you get the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Cook's Illustrated's Best Make Ahead Recipe book, and Best 30-Minute Recipe, you'll never need another cookbook again. (Ahem. Did I mention they're the BEST?!)

  • This one is IMPORTANT. The USE IT ALL RULE. This will save you a ton of money over time if you don't already apply it. When I buy an ingredient, I make sure I use it ALL. So, if I buy a box of penne for Skillet Baked Ziti (a favorite here- I use penne instead), I only use half the box. So, I make sure I make another meal sometime in the 2 weeks that will use up that penne. You can make completely different foods using shared ingredients. The penne used in the baked ziti can also be in a tasty creamy penne, chicken and mushroom dish, etc, and taste completely different. When I make scones, they need heavy cream (I use that often anyway, but I make sure I use the whole container in the 2 weeks). So, I'll also make a potato-bacon-cheese soup as well. The scones also need the zest of a lemon. So, I use the zest, then I use the lemon to make a glaze for a lemon-roasted chicken. When I make buttermilk biscuits, I make waffles on a breakfast night. I throw that leftover roast chicken in a freezer bag and use it for chicken pot pie the next week. When I make chicken tortilla soup, it's tasty with tortilla chips. I can make sure we use the other half a bag of chips by turning them in to a taco salad night later (these would both use up my cheddar cheese as well, together with the potato bacon soup). And so it goes. This means my cupboards stay trim and organized, not overflowing with half-boxes of random ingredients, and our fridge thanks me too. Not to mention that this helps me avoid wasting foods that sit too long and go bad. The point is to share ingredients to cut down on how much I spend at one individual shopping trip. You can see if you get those sun dried tomatoes, the special olives, the certain marinade, the ... and you only use some of each, you're buying lots of little different things that will add up in the end and suck the life out of your budget for the period. Why buy 25 different things for misc. recipes and only use parts of each? It really adds up to avoid buying too many random things at once. That revolutionized my menu, when I stopped buying the special little things for each recipe, then getting something new for another one.

That's all I've got for today, but I hope to share some more grocery-saving, penny-stretching tips with you in weeks to come. So, what's YOUR favorite grocery tip?

16 comments:

Jim said...

I'm really thankful you figure all that stuff for us.

Megan said...

and i am really thankful you eat my food so happily. oh, and i'm really thankful for you...

Jake and Jenn Boerger said...

Wow. That is impressive! I really need to apply this tip to our groceries, especially with my daycare kiddos, too. I love how you simplify your menu into "theme nights". What a great idea! Just by reading your blog, I'm inspired! And I can't tell you how many 1/2 used items I have in my cupboard right now, I'm sure some expired, so I'm going to check that out, clean and re-organize, and then get planning! Thanks for the inspiration and ideas.

Britten said...

Thanks for all these great ideas. We are getting ready to transition from "student" food(hamburger helper and frozen pizza) to real meals. I am sure this will make my life easier. You have such great tips!

Lisa said...

you are one smart cookie, Megan. I love the chicken tuesday, pasta wednesday idea. That would make it easier....

Jessica said...

Jeez! How organized are you?!

Actually, I kinda do the same thing, only I just make a list of meals for the next couple of weeks & buy the ingredients I need. That way I'm not too confined to a menu. I tried that but I need more flexibility. Planning does save a lot of money!

Megan said...

oh, these meals don't have to be set in stone! if i feel like making one thing on the menu more than another, i make it that night, and switch things around, nothing's permanent, except the groceries in my cupboard!

Megan

Deb said...

I love your calendar! I make lists, but I like your calendar better. Very organized. I'm all for saving $ and using up things in my cupboard. I think I will start organizing my meals like Pasta Tuesday, Chicken Wednesday, Pizza Friday, etc. That doesn't seem so intimidating. Thanks for the great ideas!

KJ said...

Oooh, that was nice! I am inspired by your "breaking it up" rule, and I think I'll try that.

Kristen said...

OK Megan! Here is where you and I are just alike!

I do the same thing! AND LOVE IT!!

Seriously, I brought groceries today, and the check out girl commented how organized my shopping list and meals were.

Isn't organized just the best? And hey, how cute are you and the hubby's comments to each other!

I puffy heart love Megan's money Monday! :)

Grammy Staffy said...

good job.... you could have taught both my meal planning and my budget planning classes. I'm impressed. Keep up the good work

Eva said...

So, when you shop for your menus, do you also buy for household items as well? Shampoo, kitchen cleaners, etc? Do you keep those items and money seperate from the grocery budget?
We budget and I plan but on our big trip to Walmart for the menu items I also have household needs that come out of the same money. So some months our grocery budget looks better or worse than others, depending on what our house needs. Know what I mean? Do you keep these seperate? I just wonder b/c it seems like I'm not saving as much as I would like. Bananas run out in a few days and so does milk, etc. Anyway, too long but just wondered in more detail...

Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

Megan - this was AWESOME! I haven't gotten back into meal planning since we moved, but I must and I will. My brain can't handle the stress of not having a plan.

I love the using it all approach. I need to be better about that! What great tips!

You are amazing! :)

-Andrea

SK said...

I'm moving in. :) Loved this blog ... even though I don't have a family yet, the rising price of groceries is absolutely frightening and since I'm the cook in the house, it's up to me to make good food, but also try to not break my budget.

One thing that I do - and keep in mind, it's probably easier since it's just the two of us - is I try to take a weekend every once in awhile and make a big batch of beef stroganoff, spaghetti sauce or something that I can freeze for leftovers, so on those nights when I don't feel like cooking, I can just pull a bag out of my freezer and have a quick dinner.

Looking forward to many more Mondays!

American Mum said...

Great tips! I went through a menu planning phase and life was much easier during that time. I need to get back into it. Thanks for sharing!

Shannon said...

Great post - I'm really glad I found it!! I came here from Sgt and Mrs Hub and love your blog - I can't wait to come back to read more! I do menu planning but not this detailed and I do one week . . . two sounds exactly what I need and I plan on using a lot of your tips! Thanks!