December 4, 2009

Old Dog, New Tricks - A Story

When I was growing up I lived in a house with a grandmother* who liked to spend money and had a knack for being paranoid about "what ifs". (What if there was an earthquake/flood/fire/locust swarm and we couldn't get to the store?). Food was never an issue. We always had plenty and then some. I learned to buy more than you could possibly need because you never knew what might happen. Since that was the way I was raised, that has been how I've shopped since Ben and I got married. Having a pantry and fridge so full of food that you can't get anything else in always seemed to be a source of comfort for me. Good for being prepared. Bad for the budget.

Now, as things get a little tighter and we're trying to pay things off, the only thing left to really cut down on is groceries. This means retraining myself and being realistic about food. I've always budgeted $300 a month for food since the boys were born. This is supposed to cover 4 people - 5 once the little man starts eating - and should be enough. About a week ago I sat down with our financial software and realized that, on average, we were spending about $600 a month on food. Not acceptable.

How it happened: I thought we were doing great by going to the store once a month and doing a big trip. I'd plan meals for 4 weeks and stock up. The problem was the little trips in between for milk, eggs, that thing we forgot... Oops. It really added up. So now, since we can't just "let it slide" anymore, I'm making an effort to shop once a week (maybe every two if I can stretch it) by watching the sale flyers and planning around those.

"Easy enough." I thought. Shouldn't be a problem. Flyers come in the mail every Wednesday. So yesterday I sat down and figured it all out with what's on sale plus the things we need to get and can't wait on a sale for. Went great! Until I added up the price of everything I thought we needed. No way I was going to spend half our monthly budget in one week. So I grabbed my pencil and started reworking.

My biggest downfall is meat. I looked at what I had put on my list. Did I really, seriously, need 14 pounds of meat?? That was the "be prepared" gene screaming out. I also had to remember that this was for one week, not one month. Wow. This is harder than it looks. So I scratched things out. 2 pounds of chicken breast, rather than six. 2 packages of ground turkey, instead of 4. I don't really need that pork loin from Vons if it's the only thing I'm going to buy there. And Savemart is way too far to drive to get one whole chicken, even if it is .77/lb.

Much better. Still going to be a little more expensive for this trip because we're out of a lot of stuff. But it's a little bit less ridiculous now that I've cut out some extras. Going to take a lot of retraining, but maybe I can do this.

*Before I get in trouble I have to say that I have a very sweet grandmother. She'd give us the moon if she could and I'm very thankful for all she's done for us. I just think she's a little crazy sometimes. :)


NetRaptor said...

I've found that buying those bags of frozen chicken breasts/thighs/tenders are also pretty good moneysavers. At Winco they're like 7 bucks. Also, if you cook 2 lbs of ground beef and freeze it, you can put small portions of it into sauces and never notice that you didn't use the whole 2 lbs.

Meg said...

Hmm, I haven't thought about the bags. I usually just get the trays. I'll have to check those out. I'm also going to start trying whole chickens in the crock pot instead of buying pieces. Way cheaper for more meat, plus the carcass for stocks.

NetRaptor said...

I know I should cook chickens that way, but boiling dark chicken meat makes the house smell just like my horrible great aunts' houses, and I can't bear it. That and the smell of mothballs are the most horrible smells on earth for me.

Meg said...

Rofl mothballs?

Here's an idea: I'll start making stock like that and I'll trade you stock for something else. Maybe we can start a co-op between you, mom and I. :D

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