Thursday, February 7, 2019

Five Frugal Things: Food Budget Edition!

This year, one of my retirement goals is the get the ole food budget down to seventy dollars a week (with a really long long term goal of a possible fifty dollars), while eating "well"

Just like plenty of households, retired and otherwise, we have a non traditional makeup. Besides myself there is my sister who works traditional hours and leaves the house before eight, and my almost thirty year old son, who works and goes to school full time. The end result of course, is that we are all our own for breakfasts and lunch and we generally eat together at dinner most days, although adult son may eat earlier or later.

My sister is not a breakfast person, buys the sweet morning snacks that she eats at work, either buys her own frozen Trader Joe's lunches or eats leftovers. My son and I eat traditional breakfast style food, leftovers or sandwiches for lunches.

So how does this all work in the grocery, cooking department? The working gal buys the above stuff and generally cooks the two nights she is off. She generally "cooks" more than I do making things from hangar steak to complicated things like oxtail stew. I cook the other five nights unless my son actually has a night off and wants to cook. We are not obsessive round here about grocery cost equality, because it works out in other ways. For example, my sister buys the plants and does the yard work. My style of cooking tends to be slow cooker and cool casseroles which usually are frugal as well as easy. And usually a meal in themselves (barring a salad or bread). Like the slow cooker chicken pot pie recipe below.




Put briefly, my method of cutting the food budget is this: We have a set amount of food items we buy every week and I buy those no matter what but am happy when they are on sale. This includes milk, bread, eggs, juice, produce, healthy snacks, and a couple other things.  Things in our house that are so regular that Clicklist (see below) now recognizes them without fail. For everything else (with a few exceptions here and there like oatmeal) I shop from the sale section of the paper (mainly the front page) and buy more than one of each. I plan my meals from our freezer and pantry, rather than making a list. And it has to be said, we are not picky eaters. I can count on my fingers things that I do not eat, and I am the pickiest. So in our house you will find beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish and seafood, Indian food, Oxtails, shortribs, German food and yes, calves liver on a regular basis (although because of price and cholesterol, the calves liver has it's limits. You will, however, rarely find vegetarian dishes. We are what we are.

Having shared all that, here are the inroads I made in our food budget planning this particular week.

1.  I've decided to shop exclusively via Clicklist, and then drop into other stores to grab sale stuff only.  Clicklist recognizes my regular purchases and fills them in for me, and while I won't say I don't do ANY spontaneous buying (this week I got valentine cupcakes from the bakery), there is none of that grabbing stuff that looks fun as I go up and down the aisles. Four dollars a week is a small price to pay for pulling up to the store and having bags loaded into your car and leaving again.. And yes, they select good produce and meat. 

You can also get paper bags, which I usually prefer because I use them for recycling!


2. I've made two very low cost meals this week that gave a second day for each (plus lunches): slow cooker minestrone with hot bread and a double batch of sloppy joes made with 93 percent ground beef at half price.

3. The past couple weeks have not yielded much in the way of those front page loss leaders (lots of steak and chicken wing type stuff). This week, thankfully, is different. Boneless chuck is half price, boneless chicken breasts and pork chops are both less than half price, and butter is $1.99 just at a quick glance. So I may be spending a bit more than my weekly to stock up on things-this always averages out with the weeks that there is not much.

4. Cooking and freezing has never really been my thing other than baked goods. This week I decided that especially when I make casseroles or oven bakes like this one, instead of making one big casserole, I will make two smaller ones and freeze one. For the moment I bought some of those eight inch square casserole pans to help me on my way. If I succeed, I'll start getting glass. While I do freeze soup and such in Ziploc bags, I avoid plastic or metal for freezing because I prefer to reheat in an oven, I think it tastes better.

5. Starting next week I will have one day when I am gone throughout the day including lunch. I purchased a nice little lunch container, so that I can take food with me from my church/bible study group to my knitting group. Admittedly this is not officially grocery savings because fast food and restaurants are charged to my entertainment budget. But still......food. I'm sure at least one week a month I'll be hitting my local A&W which is directly on the way for a diet float and a hot dog, but three weeks out of four ain't bad. I still need a good quality water bottle that is still "cute and colorful". 
When in doubt? Vera Bradely-used or on clearance, of course!!


As of next week, I'll be sharing the menu stuff in my frugal posts. Should I add the grocery list? Meanwhile, what's been frugal at your Casa? Food related or otherwise.

13 comments:

  1. Like you, the grocery list is pretty standard. I shop the sales and stock up when prices are good. I'm fortunate to have lots of pantry storage space and a freezer. I often "shop at home" - take stock of what there is and plan a menu accordingly. And therein lies the secret, IMHO - take stock, plan, know the prices. Menu planning keeps me from going to the prepared foods or junk food. Ordering in and going for take-out isn't an option; I live 13 miles from the nearest town. There's usually a pot of soup in the fridge & I usually plan to cook 3 dishes that gets me through the week. My grocery budget averages ~$450/month. It does include household items, i.e. paper supplies, cleaning supplies, etc. I have noticed an increase in prices lately.

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    1. I have to admit we have the ordering in option on occasion as well as the drive by and pick up. Yes, I have also noticed an increase in some things, which is why I am giving myself a break as we move in this direction-if my number is too Low, I'll raide it for sure!!

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  2. finding the lowest overall grocery store in my area, Aldi ahs helped us the most this past couple years. While for convenience we still stop at the close by store, but for a big shop, I can't go back to regular grocery stores. We save so much.

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    1. Good for you!! Unfortunately we don't have an Aldi, but we have store competition, so buying the things tht are on sale on the front page only of the grocery flyer ends up being cheaper than either Walmart or Aldi if we had one (I did in Texas and Virginia) a great deal of the time. Maybe some day we'll have an Aldi, since we now have Trader Joes.

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  3. I laughed at your so-right description of the Super Bowl food staples that have been absorbed the sales ads these last couple of weeks - chicken wings aplenty for sure!

    We now have an Aldi's within striking distance, and it really has had a marked difference on my weekly spend. Their continuing to expand so don't give up hope that they will eventually make it to Colorado.

    I bump into what you likely do as well, which is that by cooking from scratch, the leftovers can begin to pile up, which then leads to more meals after than I'd counted on. So even more savings from home cooking.

    And like you, shopping at a traditional supermarket is generally done only as a means of last resort, or to pick up their weekly loss leader items. It's so nice that we have so many other options these days.

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    1. In general, most places with Trader Joes get Aldis and the other way around, so I do have hope-although i never did my primary shopping there as such. We only have three grocery stores here, as opposed to other places I have lived with even more competition.

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  4. Pretty standard list here as well, however sometimes when shopping the sales fliers I will see something different to try. So pick it up. I only shop once a week (back in the day it was once every two weeks) and if something is forgotten, it stays forgotten until the next time I go.

    Right now I am in use the fridge freezer mode, that is where all the leftover bits of roasts, chicken and ham are packaged up. I am really trying to clear that out this month.

    God bless.

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    1. Oh jackie, we do eat everything and a wide variety-from steak to liver to all kinds of food-behond that basic week to week stuff We cleared out our fridge before the holidays so now i am in filling it up mode!!

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  5. It is so hard to keep groceries under control for me. Especially when I go to Costco and spend $200 in one fell swoop. Then I still need to go to Safeway for little things. Right now I'm way over budget for Feb and I guess I'm just going to be okay with it and try to get the rest of the month down to $100 a week. BTW is your $70 for you and your son??

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    1. We have a costco card but rarely use it, at least for food. I like their rack of lamb. We have purchased other things. See the notations above. I cook dinner for all five times a week and buy the stuff my son and I like for breakfasts and snacks. We generally eat leftovers for lunch.

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  6. What a colorful gorgeous bag. I have not heard of a clicklist store. So they pick the food off the shelves for you and load it in the car, I love that idea. Someday maybe I will add up what I spend on food in a month, you are inspiring me.

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    1. That's exactly what I do. Any krogerc related store has it. Safeway/ Albertsons stores the same. I order it online, choose a one hour wi dow and show up.

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  7. We are trying hard to get back to vegan lifestyle. Over the holidays we slid down that slippery slope.. soo many meals out and pot lucks.. where we just scarfed down all of it!!! We actually do like vegetarian foods.. so it's not too hard,at least our home meals. Our goal is 80/20.That way, we can go out for a nice lunch once a week and enjoy the things we do love that are not vegan, like Greek Salad (feta cheese, yum!!) and the eggplant stir fry at the Asian cafe, which has ground pork in the sauce, and our fave Hawaiian kitchen plate meal which is fish.. At home,saving $ by eating beans, lentils,cous cous, burritos, lots of fresh produce, pasta, homemade Indian food meals, and hearty stews and soups with homemade bread. Not buying meat saves a ton of $$ at the grocery. Other frugal habits: I still don't buy "new" clothes..my resale store fills my shopping needs.I have FREE gym member ship via my Humana Medicare plan, and we use the library for much of our entertainment plus season tickets to local theater. That said, we've decided to do more traveling in the next couple of years..we are such homebodies, and we're realizing that at age 65, these are our "golden" years for getting around,so that part of our budget will go up for a few years..but overall we are not big spenders..

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