Budgets, groceries, and meal planning... oh my...
I admit that the stuff I am about to type my sound a little odd (although I said it out loud before)... there is something about the challenge of keeping on budget and buying my groceries that brings out an interesting side in me... competitiveness.
First I should point out that I'm not a real competitive person, and second I would never maul down anyone in a store for any reason. It is competing with myself more than anything!
It all starts with my little notebook. Keeping track of what I need from the store has been an evolving process. There were little pieces of paper with notes here and there, there were the FREQUENT trips back and forth to the store because I never had a list when I needed it, and there were sticky notes that would inevitably lose their stickiness before they wound up where they needed to be! I even would type up my lists on the computer so that I could easily arrange (or rearrange) them depending on what store I went to. I sometimes (ALWAYS) have a sick compulsion to arrange my list based on the layout of the store (I feel more efficient that way). Ultimately what I figured out was that I needed a small notebook (steno sized) to keep track of what I needed throughout the week. If I had my notebook on hand always, then more than likely I wouldn't miss something that I needed! I mentioned in a previous barnyard about marking down what you've run out of during a cleaning of the bathroom. If you have this notebook handy, then you have a safe place to keep track of odds and ends that come up during the week.
Just as a side note, I decorated the cover... I just used a piece of scrapbook paper that I liked and some stickers. First it made it distinct among the other pads in the house, made it easier to notice, and makes me happy every time I use it (let's face it, this can be a big thing to help us continue using something, right?!)
Meal Planning and Circulars
It's no surprise that constant trips to the store isn't saving you any money. A well made plan for a weekly shop is much more efficient in both time and money. For my family and budget, I generally shop on Fridays. First, because we don't school on Friday's; I have the time to be out of the house to take care of this errand. Second, Bubba has his allergy shots on Friday... which causes us to be out of the house... and let's face it, with gas prices as they are, combining trips is very important in order to cut down on the driving cost! Third, payday is on Fridays for our household. Okay, so I (generally) shop on Fridays... but how do I get from my odds and ends to full weekly meal planning and then to the store?
One reason I really like my steno pad is because it is set up in a two column format. On the left side of the sheet is where I keep track of the groceries, and on the right side is where I plan my meals. It's as simple as simply writing out the days of the week, and sticking the name of the meal beside it! Before I plan all of my meals I rummage through my freezer, fridge, and pantry to see what I have and what needs to be used soon. I come up with as many meals as I can from that first. No need to spend money on more than what you need! Next I pull out the circulars.
I guess I should back up just a little bit here... I usually get the circulars in the mail on Wednesday (sometimes on Thursday). When they come in, I will browse through them making mental notes of what I've seen, and check dates of extra great sales that may or may not include Friday. For some reason around here Albertsons will do 2 day sales that only include Saturday and Sunday... on a rare occasion it will include a Friday, and this will impact my shopping schedule depending on how good the sale is! Thursday, throughout the day, is when I actually formalize my list.
Alright, so it is Thursday now, I have my notebook with the odds and ends I need and the meals that I already have the makings for (or most of the makings for)... now I take a much closer look at the circulars to see what they have to offer (and/or any coupons I have). I start with looking at the meat. Depending on what is on sale, I finish out my meal plans. This is also the time I go ahead and print out any recipes I might need for the week that I don't have memorized! Next up I check to see who has the best prices for the stuff I NEED. After I've gone through those (and I usually mark the price down or the deal like buy one get one free kind of thing next to my item on the list), next I decide if any of the specials they are running are better than normal and if I should stock up on a few things while the price is so low even though I may not need them at this very moment. This is one step that is a little tricky for me. We have limited storage space, so before I buy any substantial quantity I first have to decide whether or not I have a place to keep it... or should I wait till I need that item and by then will it have gone through the cycle and be back on super sale?! I have one other mantra that goes for all types of shopping...
Just because it's on sale, doesn't mean it's a good deal for me or something that we need!
And I mentioned the notion of a competition... knowing I have a budget, and working at coming in right on budget or under... well I always find great satisfaction with that. I suppose I look at it kind of like a goal or requirement for a job. Do I meet target (sadly, fallen short), or have I in some way beaten the target for my job description?! Plus, working so hard on this type of thing really gives me a sense of contributing to the family... while I don't contribute financially... I contribute by being fiscally responsible with the purchases made for our family!
There you have it friends... happy planning and shopping to each of you!