Wednesday, December 4, 2013

grocery shopping for less

I have been wanting to post this for awhile but life got in the way.
It's a long one so good luck getting through it!!

I was asked a couple years ago to do a workshop for women on saving money at the grocery store, and though I am no public speaker I really enjoyed sharing some of my ideas.  I taught 3 sessions that day and had a very positive response from so many of the women there.  I have received many emails about the topic, and have had the opportunity to teach the same workshop many times since then.  It just feels like something we all need a little help with.  

A little background information first:

Awhile ago my daughter was in a car with a friend.  The girl’s mom was driving and had a friend in the front seat with her.  My daughter takes all AP classes & honors classes and has straight A’s with a 4.2 gpa.  She plays the piano, and she’s a cellist in the Idaho State Civic Symphony.  She’s very driven, but unfortunately her friends tend to be at the bottom of her priority list.  Her friend was trying to bribe her to go to a football game with her by offering pop tarts.  Apparently my daughter really likes pop tarts.  Then the mother leaned over to her friend and said “they have 10 kids so they really can’t afford things like pop tarts”.   It’s funny to me because pop tarts cost ___cents a box, and the generic brand is even less.  At first I was kind of offended…..(pride), my kids dress nicely and we have the money to pay for expensive music lessons, dance and gymnastics classes,  it’s not like we’re so poor we can’t afford ___ cents for pop tarts.  But when I thought about it I realized she probably wasn’t trying to insinuate that we were poor, but rather that because we have a large family we have to be more careful with our budget.  I also thought that for us it has nothing to do with being able to afford it, but rather choosing not to purchase things like that for reasons I’ll explain more later.   There are just other things I would rather spend my money on......

We have 10 children, so it’s important to stretch our budget as much as possible.   When I looked at our monthly budget I didn’t know where to cut back.  We don’t have cable, and we don’t spend money on many non-necessities .   We only eat out a couple times a year with our whole family.  Our weekly dates are a necessity in our opinion.   Mortgage is set, utilities are set, and savings is set – so where can we cut back?  My answer is at the grocery store.   Through experimentation and trial & error,  I spend between $300 and $400 a month on groceries for my family of 12 (one daughter is in college).

I want to share some things I’ve learned – these are tips that can work for anyone….even if you don’t have 10 kids!

I found a book called “America’s Cheapest Family”.   It has all kinds of great tips on every aspect of our finances, but I’m only focusing on saving at the grocery store.  I was doing many of the tips already, but I did get some ideas.

One quote from the book….."There is no 'one way' to save on groceries. It's through the use of
hundreds of little strategies that you'll get the greatest savings.  

You may already be doing many of these things, and you may have other ideas that work better for you.  I’m just going to share what works for me and my family.  And I am still experimenting and trying new tricks also.

First off I had to get organized…..

1. The Menu
                * I use a 3 month rotating meal list
                                In order for a meal to make it onto our 3 month list, we had to like it enough to have it again in 3 months, and it had to be healthy.  Sometimes I feel like making something different, and sometimes we get tired of a recipe so I replace it with something else.
                                To make it easier I keep a binder in my kitchen with all 90 recipes together.

2. Shopping list
                       *After creating my meal list I created a shopping list for each month by listing every ingredient I would need to prepare those meals.
                              My shopping list is also in my binder in my kitchen.

But, I have to take a step back…..
My shopping list will depend on how I am going to prepare my food……. 

3. Cooking from scratch
Have you noticed the knowledge and art of preparing healthy meals for our families is vanishing?
Because we are being conditioned by our fast & furious society to want everything now – instantly (microwaves, fast food), some people think they don’t have time to cook from scratch.
For me it’s important enough to find the time because it cuts costs, it tastes better,  and it’s much healthier…..
Cooking from scratch puts the control back in my hands.  I control what my family eats (no chemicals, preservatives, or additives).

If you’re not used to cooking, making food from scratch probably sounds overwhelming….but there are ways to make it easier.
*#1 way is to use the crock pot.  I use my crock –pot 3-4 times per week.  It's fast, easy, my house smells delicious, and I can use cheaper cuts of meat because a crock-pot acts as a tenderizer.
*To make mealtime faster I brown huge family packs of ground beef at the beginning of the month (going from frying pan to freezer doesn’t change the taste), and I cook chicken in the crock pot and shred it.  Then I put it in individual ziplock bags.
*I also make several freezer meals at the beginning of the month to be used on busy days.
*My 2 favorite kitchen appliances are my wheat grinder and Bosch mixer.  They are used on a daily basis.  I make a large batch of homemade wheat bread every other day.  Each loaf of homemade bread costs .64 per loaf – it's super healthy & delicious!
*Snacks - instead of sugary fluffy snacks my kids eat apples, carrots, toast, and other homemade snacks
*Breakfast - granola instead of expensive cereal, homemade pancakes – takes 5 minutes to make batter, and I often make large batches of whole wheat waffles and muffins on Saturday to use through the week.
*Vegetarian meals twice a week (saves money & fat)
*Use less meat in recipes (chili) - add rice or more vegetables to make it go further

Ok, I've made my menu & shopping list…… now it's time to go shopping!

4. Shopping Strategies
These are a few shopping strategies that can help you save money at the grocery store:
                *  Price Book (go here to see a sample and make your own)
Basically, the price book helps you to -
*Create a list of frequently purchased products (foods, heath care items, beauty aids, etc.)
*Track prices – and only purchase products when they are truly “on sale” (this does take several months of tracking) i.e……..
I had been tracking the price of canned corn at a certain grocery store.  For months, the price of canned corn hovered around .50 per can. (Now more like .65 per can) In September last year, the price dropped to .40 per can.  A great time to buy, right?  Nope.  I knew, because of my grocery price book, that they tended to drop even further nearer Thanksgiving.  So, I waited – and lo & behold in November, canned corn was on sale for .25 per can!  That’s when you stock up!

Important to know….. You should write down the item, and the price, plus the price per oz, foot, sheet, whatever. The price per unit is the most IMPORTANT information. You will want to know if the 36 or the 72 ounce is the best deal. If using coupons, it is sometime CHEAPER to buy the smaller item. Without coupons, it is USUALLY, but not always, cheaper to buy the bigger item.

                *  Frequency of grocery store trips
 From the book “America’s Cheapest Family”……*Shoppers making a ‘quick trip’ to the store to pick up a few specific items usually purchase 54 percent more than they planned
*Forty-seven percent of shoppers go to the store three or four times each week.
*Consumers graze at the grocery store, with impulse buys making up between 50.8 and 67.7 percent of total purchase
*A certain family member I know goes shopping at least 3 times a week because she doesn’t plan ahead, and she spends as much as we do on groceries for only 2 people!
In other words, when people shop more often, they buy more stuff.
We have all gone to a store looking for just one item and ended up buying several.
   Less Trips.  I go to the grocery store once a month for the majority of our needs through the month  (I go back after 2 weeks for perishables) – if shopping only once or twice a month sounds ridiculous at least cut out 1 or maybe 2 shopping trips each month.
  Buy in bulk (I purchase 15 gallons of milk each time).  It really helps to have an extra fridge & freezer in our garage!
  Bring Cash -- you spend less if you don't have any more to spend!
  Seasonal Produce  (use price book….if apples are usually .97 lb. and are now 1.28 lb. buy the pears for .78 lb.)
  Coupons        Reasons I don’t use coupons:
                                    1.  Time ( it takes so much time to cut the coupons and prepare ahead, and I just haven't taken the time to practice and learn the best way to use them)
2.  I’m very particular about what goes into my storage room.  I’m trying to lose weight and I want my family to be healthy, so I don’t want a storage room filled with fruit snacks, granola bars, and sugar cereal even if I can get them for .10 each!
A friend of mine is an extreme couponer.  Recently she came home from the grocery store with 4 gallons of milk, 3 packages of cookies, 1 bottle of crisco oil and 1 package of styrofoam cups,  and only spent $1.59.   That’s a great deal just for the milk!  

I realize that I don’t have to be an extreme couponer to get some good deals.  Some of you may think my ideas are extreme, but you might be able to take some ideas and make them work for you – so it’s the same for me with coupons!  I just need to learn how to use them!

So I've made a menu, shopping list, gone shopping, prepared food – 
NOW it's time to EAT!
And believe it or not - there's a better way to eat!!

Keeping meals at home allows for……

More Variety, Better Quality

                Not limited to what’s on the menu (Mexican side dish, American main dish, and Chinese dessert!)

A collaborative effort

                Cooking together creates the perfect environment to open up and spill your guts because it’s not threatening.  It always seems that as soon as I start cooking (or talking on the phone), all of my children gather around.  They’re all talking and helping.  It’s perfectly chaotic, but such memories we’re making!  They will never forget working side by side together in the kitchen!

It’s the perfect setting for new foods 

At our house picky eaters are not allowed!
A family meal is the perfect opportunity for parents to expose children to different foods and expand their tastes.
In a 2003 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children were offered some pieces of sweet red pepper and asked to rate how much they liked it. Then, each day for the next eight school days, they were invited to eat as much of the pepper as they wanted. On the final day, the kids were again asked to rate how much they liked it.
By the end of the experiment, the children rated the pepper more highly and were eating more of it—even more so than another group of children who were offered a reward for eating the pepper. These results suggest that a little more exposure and a little less "You can leave the table once you finish your broccoli!" will teach kids to enjoy new foods, even if they don’t like them at first.
Emotional Nurturing and Security
                Every family has their own styles of cooking and dining.  Certain foods that feel like home and give each member of a family a sense of their own unique and valuable place.  My husband is Italian.  Though we like many ethnic foods, we especially like to prepare Italian food in our home.  We have the recipe for spaghetti sauce passed down from his grandmother, who got it from her grandmother and so on.  They learned how to make the sauce by making it together.  My husband’s mother made the sauce with me when we were first married.  It took me a few years to attempt it on my own, but I made it one year for my husband's birthday.  When I surprised him with it you would have thought I gave him the world - it was so special for him!  Now making sauce is a special tradition in our family.

Strengthens the family
                In addition to family scripture study, family prayer, family evenings, and other events that bring the family together, eating together as a family strengthens family bonds.  With a world that tries to pull the family apart, we need the connection that regular meals together can give us.

Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together.

Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.

The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.”

Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs.
There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you. (Good, Better, Best Dallin H. Oakes, October 2007)

Profound Influence
                What happens around our kitchen tables will profoundly and lastingly influence our children’s lives.  Rather than asking the typical question “What am I going to make for dinner”, we should ask “What do I want to have happen in the lives of my family during this short time we are together today”.   Rather than wondering if the hamburger is thawed, we should wonder if our children are fortified and strong enough to make decisions and live by the values our family and the Church tries to teach.  Our evening meal can be such an important time.

An Act of Love and Service
                When I prepare meals for my family, a message that “you’re worth my time and energy” is conveyed.  Artist Mary Engelbreit said, “There is nothing more nurturing to family and friends than a meal that is lovingly prepared and presented”.
I discovered a touching story that illustrates perfectly the nurturing involved in planning a meal.
A mother was pregnant with her 10th baby and had to pack lunches for 7 children.  She dreaded this chore until one day her son came home from church.  She asked what he had learned.  He told her it was the story of lots of people coming to listen to Jesus.  Everyone got hungry but no one had food except one boy whose mother remembered to pack his lunch, so he had some loaves and fishes, and Jesus took them and fed all those people.  She realized that when she took the time to feed her children, she was feeding the five thousand – and more.  It made her think of all the hundreds of people her children’s lives would touch through the years, and she was making that possible by nourishing them as they grew up.
John 21:12-13  The Savior told His disciples to “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep”.                                                                                                                                                                                                      
I feel  very strongly that if we approach the preparation of meals in our homes as if we are “feeding” His lambs, even meal planning and shopping for food can become a spiritual endeavor.

good things:
getting presents wrapped
preparing for Christmas
grateful children

1 comment:

Jamie said...

LOVE this Angela! You are such an inspiration. You have no idea how many times I have wished I had your capacity, skill, talent, and everything!!! I need you as my personal coach!!! :)

I have been working so much on this whole topic of family mealtime and "gourmet" (made-from-scratch) cooking. It has been a tremendous endeavor this year, and I'm nowhere near as perfect as you yet, but I am trying so hard to make "food" and "meals" an anchor in our family. :) Thank you so much. I miss you.