Thursday, September 11, 2008
The Grocery Dilemma
With all the price hikes in gas, I've seen quite an increase in the price of my groceries, too. It's more common every week to get through the check-out stand, see the total, and just cringe. My poor pocketbook.
I tried to keep it all balanced, but found as I was using my debit card that instead of keeping a better track of how much I spent while shopping, I'd end up over-spending and killing my weekly budget. My hubby and I finally sat down, went through our spending for the last few months, and came up with a few solutions to try.
First, we switched to using cash for our grocery budget. I used to budget with cash when we lived in Utah. After moving to Kansas, we chose to keep our bank accounts with our totally awesome credit union back in Utah and only open a savings account locally. So it's a little tricky, but we've got a system worked out that seems like it will work. When I previously used the cash system for groceries, I was much better at keeping to my grocery list and adding up my purchases as I shopped. This helped me to make better choices before splurging for that bag of Oreos and also nixed any unpleasant surprises at the check-out stand.
(Although, I think it's really sad when you hand money over to the teenager manning the register, and they get wide-eyed because you actually carry cash. Do kids even learn how to handle cash anymore? So maybe my budgeting system will keep our kids from going totally techno-crazy. Probably not, but it's a slight possibility.)
Second, we canceled our Dream Dinners appointment. This was really sad for me, cause not only do I love the Dream Dinners meals, but the owner is just so much fun. She's one of those people who really takes the time to get to know her customers. Anytime she saw me outside of Dream Dinners, she knew my name and asked about various activities we had talked about at my last session. But alas, it was an expense I needed to cut out. Sigh. I'm really going to miss visiting with her each month.
Third, we decided to start making meals that would be easy to double, then freeze the extra portion for a meal later in the month. This past Sunday, we made a nice size turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing for dinner. Then we took the left over turkey, divided it up into three bags (about 1-1/2 lbs each), and put them in the freezer. Later this month, I'm planning to use one of those bags to make Turkey Vegetable Soup (see recipe below). Another bag will be for a simple Turkey, Rice, and Veggie Stir-Fry. Monday night, we had meatloaf for dinner. I bought enough hamburger to make two, then put the extra in a disposable tin pan, and into the freezer it went to be pulled out later this month. I've already seen good results from doing this. Even though I bought more meat than I usually do, I watched for sales and was able to purchase the meat I needed, and still have budget left over. And since those meals were doubled, I have less I need to purchase from my next budget check. Which makes my money go further and I feel less cramped. Which always makes me a happy girl. :)
Turkey Vegetable Soup (crock pot)
1 lb Turkey, cooked & cut up
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 cups of chicken broth
2 potatoes, cut up into cubes
3/4 to 1 c. dried minced onion
15 baby carrots, cut into thirds
1 can (15 oz) green beans, with liquid
1 can (15 oz) corn, with liquid
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Combine all ingredients into a greased crock pot (I like to use the crock pot liners so the clean up is easier.) Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low 6-8 hours. Serve with rolls or corn bread muffins.
I have a really hard time coming up with recipes that work well to double, then freeze. I purchased a book last summer that teaches you how to do all your meals for the month over a weekend. Of course, then you freeze the meals and pull them out during the week. It's called Girlfriends on the Go by Suzie Roberts. I got mine in the Cedar Fort Online Outlet.
I also asked some of my girlfriends for recipes and their wise-shopping tips.
My friend, Amy, had a great tip. When her grocery budget got squishy, she went on the prowl for good deals on meat. She discovered that two of the local food chains put their meat that is close to the "sell by" date out early each morning in a special section. You have to get to the store early - like 8:30/9:00 am, but you can find some really great deals. I asked Amy to show me the ropes, and I found a whole cut-up chicken for $1.25. I kid you not! Is that like a FABULOUS deal or what?
My sister had another great tip. She does some of her shopping through Angel Food Ministries. "With a heart to help others and a generous spirit, Joe and Linda Wingo founded Angel Food Ministries in 1994 to provide food for friends and neighbors who were struggling financially. Today, they are still doing the same thing. The Angel Food program now is helping provide food relief to more than 500,000 families each month."
Basically, how it works is you place your order and pay up-front. Then, because the food is ordered in bulk, you get incredible discounts. For example, this month's menu Regular Package includes:
1.5 lb Top Sirloin Strip Steaks
2 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
3 lb. Breaded Chicken Chunks
1.5 lb Boneless Pork Fillet
20 oz. Supreme Pizza
1 lb. Ground Turkey
1 lb. Cheddar Cheese Bratwurst Sausage
1 lb. Green Beans
1 lb. Stir Fry Vegetables (Broccoli & Bell Peppers)
35 oz. Crinkle-cut Fries
32 oz. Borden 2% Reduced Fat Shelf Stable Milk
7.5 oz Macaroni & Cheese
15 oz. Pork & Beans
7 oz. Chicken-Flavored Rice & Vermicelli
1 lb. Pinto Beans
One Dozen Eggs
One Dessert Item
This package is supposed to be enough to feed a family of four for one week. You get all of this for the low price of $30. After purchasing the Regular Package, you can also add on other packages for $20 each. For more information or to see if there's a ministry near you, check out the link above.
So, my friends, here's to my first month of trying to be a budgeting queen. (Don't choke on that candy bar! I'm really going to try!) I know, it's going to be hard for a spender like me. But hopefully with these new strategies and tips, it will work out well. I hope some of this info has been helpful for you as well. Happy grocery shopping, one and all!
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