This is a great topic being that we’re doing a low-spend month, trying to get into better budgeting habits in order to bulk up our savings. For the record, I don’t stockpile intentionally…I really just buy stuff regularly, and don’t use it all. Over time it grows. I like having excess in the pantry, fridge and freezer. It makes me feel good to have extra in case of emergency, but the stress and waste are not worth it! We maintain an emergency fund (Dave Ramsey style) in addition to some other forms of savings, so we should NEVER be in a situation where we couldn’t afford the very basics of food. Keeping a “savings” in food rather than money isn’t something that works for us. Wants and needs when you’re talking groceries can make a huge difference in cost. I know that I could, in theory, feed our family of five (oldest moved out recently) on a very small amount of money. Hubby and I did it when we were young. If the need arises, I can do it again. Back to the point…
My husband gets paid every two weeks…every other Friday. His direct deposits usually show up on Thursdays, so that has become my goto big shopping day. I find myself going to Sam’s and doing a HUGE stock-up quite frequently, without really given a lot of thought to whether or not we NEED a big stock-up. Those Sam’s trips are rarely under $200 and often can be in the $300-400+ range, yet at the same time I noticed that I wasn’t really coming home with a lot of things to actually make MEALS. So we were still quite often grabbing fast food, ordering pizza or stopping in at restaurants so we could actually EAT.
Obviously, not a great idea. We had months where all our categories of dining out added up to many many hundreds of dollars. Not cool. Not cool at all. No wonder I always feel like there’s nothing left to save at the end of the month!
I was having the same issue on the weeks I’d make trips to regular grocery stores. I’d spend a lot of $$ and come home with little to show for it. And at the same time…all our food storage areas were PACKED and once or twice a year, I’d have to do a big purge and would throw things out. Not to mention the weekly purges tossing produce that we’d lost in the recesses of the over-crowded fridge!
Enter meal-planning. Now, I’m a planner in theory but always fail in the execution…as in, I keep it all in my head and forget to write it down. That’s where I made a change. I sat down with my 12yo daughter (she loves to plan and make lists) and we came up with a couple weeks’ worth of dinners we love and could make based on what we had already in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Of course after months of disorganization, there were things missing and we made a shopping list with those things. I like to cook in bulk when I cook…easier clean up and provides meals for those days where I don’t have it together particularly well.
We planned two batches each of: chicken enchilada casserole, tuna casserole, lasagna, taco/burrito meat, ham/cheese sliders for dinners, and many simple ideas for breakfasts and lunches (eggs, sausage, bacon, canned chicken for chicken salad, tuna for tuna sandwiches, etc.). I shopped for the “missing” needed items and to my surprise, I only spent around $200 to complete a minimum of two weeks of meals, plus regular staples like milk, eggs and bread.
In this process, we also discovered 10# of ground beef in the freezer, a huge bag of frozen chicken, two pork tenderloins and two racks of ribs. The ground beef and chicken had been in there for longer than usual, and were looking a little freezer burned. Normally I’d toss, without regard for the cost. I decided to use it all, and am happy to report that we didn’t notice any taste or quality issues at all. My grocery total would have been more had I needed to purchase meat, but this is a great start and helpful since I really wanted to make June a low-spend month.
Back to Thursday, aka payday. I resisted the urge to go shopping, because I knew it’d be silly to keep doing what isn’t really working! I really, really was in the mood to go to Sam’s and buy a bunch of delicious and cool things. It was tough not to go!
Instead, I went to Walmart for milk, half and half, creamer, bread, mouthwash, etc. and guess what? The prices were pretty much the same and I spent less than $60 on groceries rather than $200+. On payday, I started cooking in the late afternoon. I used my Instant Pot to cook chicken to shred and I defrosted ground beef, the pork loins and the ribs. I pressure cooked the pork loins for dinner with asparugus and mashed potatoes, and was able to put the second loin in the fridge. I’ll shred it for lunch Saturday and serve it with homemade soft white rolls for little sliders. I whipped up the roll dough Friday night, and stuck it in the fridge so it’ll be ready to finish rising Saturday AM. On Friday, I browned four pounds of ground beef and put together four huge casseroles and three big containers of taco meat for future tacos or burritos. I froze all but one of the casseroles. I had leftover tortillas that I can use for burritos and I already have taco shells in the pantry, so that makes a few nice meals from that random taco meat. I also added a potatoes o’brien hashbrown mix to that beef, which adds bulk and flavor (potatoes with red and green bell peppers). I added frozen diced onions (from the freezer) and pureed carrots (baby carrots about to expire) to my lasagna meat as well. I had to run to the store to buy cheese for tonight’s lasagna (the cheese I had went moldy) and I picked up some veggies for salad and grapes for snacks and only spent $12.86.
I’m going into the weekend with all meals already made or ready to make, and have most of the next 10 days covered as well. It feels great, as we’re getting busier with community theater through the end of this month, and we usually overspend on fast food even more than usual during show months. The idea of not doing a big shopping trip during an entire pay period is foreign but exciting.