Monday, February 11, 2013

Cutting back the grocery budget

I wasn’t sure we could feed 4 mouths nutritious food and pay for household cleaning and personal hygiene items for $100/week but a month of practice in January after the Christmas financial gouge proved to me that it is in fact possible. Some of the changes:

- Switched to generic brand diapers for the baby. He’s older now and his skin isn’t as sensitive.

- Vinegar and baking soda…. very cheap and serve multiple purposes.

- Batch cooking and eating the same meals more often. Originally I was pickier about having variety but it makes things easier and of course the boys don’t mind.

- Using less meat. By making soups, stews, casseroles, spaghetti sauce, etc. I’ve gotten away with buying less meat and using grains and veggies as filler.

- Frozen and seasonal fruit and vegetables. In the winter here fresh fruit and veggies are more expensive. Frozen veggies like peas, corn and green beans are very affordable and most don’t have additives. Fresh veggies that are in season are usually cheaper like cabbage or brussel sprouts right now. Apples and bananas are pretty cheap here so we load up on those too. We also buy frozen fruit for adding to yogurt or baking which is much more affordable in the winter and requires no prep work. Fruit in containers like peaches and pears are also cheaper if you can get them on sale or jarred unsweetened apple sauce. We just make sure they are in the plastic containers rather than the cans (to avoid BPA) and in fruit juice rather than syrup.

- Simplifying dinners. Simple meals have fewer ingredients than more extravagant meals. I save the dinners that require more prep for the weekends so we do usually have 2 more extravagant meals.

- Choosing generic brands when the budget is getting tight – we prefer Heinz ketchup but President’s Choice brand isn’t too bad as a compromise.

- Have one fun dinner/week whether it is a new recipe, a slightly more expensive meal, or a family member’s favourite. 

Some meal planning tips I use are:

1.     Write a list of your staple items. The ones you need every week like bread, milk, and eggs. Write out the cost of these items beside. You should know this!
2.     Write a list of the other items you need to buy (maybe you’re out of toilet paper or coffee). Also write the corresponding prices beside. Calculate this and the rest of your budget is what you have to work with for planning meals for the week. If you have a lot of household or staple items you need to buy, you might have to plan simpler, cheaper meals for the week.
3.     Survey your cupboards before planning your meals. Try to incorporate ingredients you have on hand into your meals for the week to avoid waste and save money.
4.     Check the flyers and set aside the ones you’ll use for price matching. Incorporate the deals into your meal planning. Martina has a pretty good process for this!
5.     Be somewhat generic in your list so you can take advantage of in-store sales (not always advertised). For example… my list says Fruit ($10). If I shop the sales, I can get more fruit for my $10 budget or transfer the unused budget to another category like snacks!
6.     Organize your list in the same layout as the grocery store (fruit/vegetables, bakery, frozen).

In case you’re interested, here is what we’re eating this week for dinner:

Thursday – Bacon/avocado grilled cheese with vegetable soup
Friday – Pan-fried crispy beef strip loin with mashed potatoes, peas, and steamed carrots
Saturday – Turkey sloppy joes with salad (bagged garden $1.47!)
Sunday – Macaroni and cheese with frozen left over bacon from Thursday added and salad (same as above)
Monday – Fish sticks (frozen), noodles, and peas and corn (frozen)
Tuesday – Sheppard’s pie (homemade frozen filling) – so only mashed potato to be added to the top and cooked
Wednesday – Spaghettini with sausage and veggie tomato sauce (homemade frozen sauce) and garlic bread

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