These are the basics to my grocery budget of $600 a month. I have not yet mastered the art of couponing. I saw a program a few weeks ago called Extreme Couponing, featuring 4 different people who, through the use of coupons, would buy hundreds of dollars worth of groceries and then pay pennies on the dollar. Some instances they paid pesos on the dollar! Crazy savings, indeed.
I don’t know if I want to aspire to this kind of a budget because, frankly, a lot of the foods I saw being purchased were crap. Lots of snacks, frozen foods and cold cereal. In other words – sugar and carbs. I don’t even want these items for free.
So! I am using coupons when I can, but the majority of my budget has been relying on the weekly specials at the store. An example. Last week Stater Brothers had chicken breasts on sale for 99 cents a pound. Chicken legs were on sale for the same price. I stocked up on this chicken while still staying in my weekly budget. The next week all roasts were on sale for 50% off at Ralphs. These meat sales are my biggest savings because we are a meat eating family. If there isn’t meat on the table every night, my family is not happy. I also purchase pork when it is on sale. That was not the case this past week. With the meat purchased, my next step is to create a menu around the beef and chicken. I’ll save my menu planning for another post.
One good money saver is to plan my menu where one item is used in two or three separate dishes so nothing goes to waste. If I have an recipe that calls for a half of a bell pepper, I also add another recipe to the menu that calls for the other half. Whole chicken will be on sale next week and I’ll be sure to purchase at least two of them because I can have roast chicken one night and save the carcass for stock to make Chicken Tortilla soup or Rice Salad later in the week. The chicken I purchased on sale still had skin and ribs attached but that works great for soup stock also, and I can easily remove skin and bones if I need boneless chicken breasts. I also use potatoes as a “filler” when making a skillet dish like chicken curry or guiso.
For savings while shopping I always look at the cost per ounce to compare prices. I also use store brand items, especially if it’s going into a recipe. The only exception to this rule is tomato sauce. My Spanish Rice just doesn’t taste right without Hunts tomato sauce. Also, sometimes the store brand is still cheaper than the name brand with coupon.
I avoid almost all snacks and cold cereals. The only snack foods that I will buy is pretzels or popcorn. Snacks at home consist of yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and fresh fruit/vegetables. I don’t buy canned fruit. I do buy applesauce if on sale. Popcorn or pretzels with apple slices are dessert, unless I bake cookies, which are usually oatmeal.
Breakfast is oatmeal, cream of wheat, scrambled eggs (with or without vegetables), and occasionally pancakes from scratch. We have bacon when it’s on sale.
Lunch is usually leftovers from the night before. I don’t like to buy sandwich meat so sandwiches are whatever roast meat we have leftover (or meatloaf), egg salad, tuna fish, peanut butter with jelly, or faux grilled cheese (cheese sandwich toasted in toaster oven) along with fruit.
Side dishes for dinners are rice or potatoes (mashed, scalloped, baked) along with a vegetable. All vegetables are fresh except for green beans. I can’t get my family to eat fresh green beans. The vegetables are whatever is on sale. this week it’s all about the cauliflower that I bought at 4 heads for $5. I do sometimes treat the family to mac n cheese or rice a roni on occasion if it is on sale.
Beverages. I do splurge on soda for Fish and I. The Littles drink milk for each meal and in between meals they can have water with a splash of juice. A bottle of juice lasts about a week and a half and we use about 2 gallons of milk every week. Clarabelle only drink water, with an occasional soy milk when she’s in the mood for it.
So this is the bones of my budget. Will write more specifics as I share my menu plans.