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Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping & Saving Money

Wow…looking back at my track record it appears that I hop on the blogging bandwagon at the beginning of each New Year and promptly fall off after one or two posts!!! Here’s to a more productive year writing about the happenings on Once Upon A Little Farm.

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My husband gets paid twice a month and therefore a grocery shopping excursion of any size can really only happen twice a month. Basically, I am attempting to still be at home for my kids when they need me, learn to keep house (not sure I’ll ever have that one down pat), and work a few odd jobs.  If my husband is the primary bread winner, then I see it as my job to save us as much money as I can when it comes to the only kind of shopping I generally do — food shopping.  Call me crazy, but I actually find the whole process quite fun:  perusing through cookbooks and recipe boxes, planning out meals and grocery shopping – always attempting to stay close to our budget of $150.00 every 2 weeks for our family of four.  I often get asked how I manage to stay within budget or even close to budget.  Here are the steps I take….yes….it has multiple steps.

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1.) As a general rule, I do not go to the grocery store unless I have at least 14 meals planned out.  Sometimes I have to have as many as 16 planned out depending on the number of days between paychecks. It’s a known fact that the more trips to the store you make in a week or a month, the more you are going to spend. The first step of planning these meals is to first take inventory of what is already in the cupboard/pantry/fridge/freezer, etc.  I try to use up as many of those items as I can in my meal plan before I decide upon a meal that involves a lot of items that I do not have.

2.) I do not coupon.  I do not buy name brands (except I prefer Dawn Dish Soap).  I do however try to shop exclusively at Aldi.  If for some reason the fresh fruits or veggies at Aldi are not looking as good as I would like or if something is not available there (dry milk powder and food coloring are two recent items that come to mind), then I will head around the corner to Wegmans or Wal-Mart. On occasion, we shop at Sam’s Club for flour and snacks.  For canning items, many baking supplies, herbs and spices, the prices are far cheaper at our local Amish bulk food store.

3.) Once inside Aldi, I have trusty notebook with my list propped in my cart.  I have a pen handy.  I open the calculator app on my cell phone.  As silly and cumbersome as it may sound, as I put an item in my cart and cross it off of my list, I add it to the calculator.  Just because an item is on my list does not make it set in stone.  A mid-store revision is always possible if the numbers are getting too high.   There have been times when I have picked up something that was not on my list – thinking it was a good buy or wanting to give it a try, but because of the number staring back at me on my calculator, it went back on the shelf before check-out.

This is what my list typically looks like after my Aldi trip is finished.
This is what my list typically looks like after my Aldi trip is finished.

A close look at any of my grocery shopping lists and you would think that we were Vegetarian.  Actually, we are quite the opposite, which brings me to…

4.)  We grow our own meat.  The only meat-type items you will likely find on my grocery shopping list are seafood or lunch meat.  We raise our own beef, chicken, pork and Thanksgiving turkey.   I have not really purchased chicken from the store since September 2014, no pork since the Fall of 2013 and I honestly cannot recall the last time I bought beef in the store.  If the meat isn’t in our freezer, we don’t eat it.  Don’t let this concept fool you entirely — while my grocery bill might be less than those who purchase all of their meat from the store, we have a monthly feed bill for May to October (anywhere from $150-$250 depending which animals we have at any given time).  I do not claim this method to be cheaper than buying meat in the store because often it is not, but we do it because we know what went into the animal and how it was treated.  We often “eat for free” because we keep what we need and sell the rest.  Selling the remainder pays for what we keep.  This does not factor in our time, but in farming, your time is worth nothing……but that’s for an entirely different blog post!!   Chances are that even if you buy your meat from the store, you can still find ways to cut back on your grocery budget.

5.)  I try to buy as few pre-packaged, over-processed items as I can.  We are not perfect.  We don’t eat as healthy as we probably should, but I do try hard to eliminate the number of processed foods that we consume.  Not only is it healthier, it’s cheaper.  This gets a little bit trickier when it comes to kids taking a packed lunch to school, but can be done.

6.) We have a garden.  Again, this is not for everyone.  While I could actually save a lot more year round than I do by canning or freezing more produce, our garden definitely saves us the most in the summer when Cucumbers, Summer Squash, Zucchini, Lettuce, Corn, Peppers, Herbs, Spinach, String Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc. are in season.  I typically have enough Potatoes to last through the winter.  I can my own jams, jellies and preserves so those are never purchased from the store.

7.) We try to eat out as little as possible.  Technically, the amount one spends eating out should be added onto their grocery budget and for me, it would put me way over budget.   We do not have a seperate category in our budget for eating out.  Do we ever eat out? Yes, of course, but it’s not often planned and we usually regret it later.  We are trying to reserve the eating out for occasional date nights and special occasions.  Eating at home costs a fraction of what it costs to dine out or even get take out.

My hubby let me get these off of the clearance rack on our recent trip to Barnes & Noble. I have a thing for cookbooks. A few of my meals and side dishes this time around come from the Taste of Home Recipes Across America cookbook.
My hubby let me get these off of the clearance rack on our recent trip to Barnes & Noble. I have a thing for cookbooks. A few of my meals and side dishes this time around come from the Taste of Home Recipes Across America cookbook.

On my most recent grocery shopping adventure, I spent $143.00 (which includes two items from Schwan’s…I agree they are pricey, but I feel everyone needs a job and I like to support our local Schwan’s Man a little).  In addition to the 14 suppers that this will complete, it also included items for my children to pack in their school lunches 4-5 days a week (they are only allowed to buy lunch 1 day a week if they choose to), a snack for my daughter to take to school for herself each day, and enough carrots and applesauce for my son’s entire class of 16 on his snack day this month. It also includes coffee, napkins, and a few snacks for the kids I watch after school.  I usually pack the leftovers from supper in my hubby’s lunch the next day.

Here are my 14 suppers (in no particular order)…..

Tacos (fixins: cheese, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, avocado)/Corn

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese/Peas

Shredded Venison/Clauflower with Sharp Cheese (We don’t hunt but our nephew got 3 deer this year)

White Bean Chicken Chili/Fresh Bread

Shrimp Broccoli Alfredo

Spaghetti and Meatballs/Toss Salad

Hot Dogs/Cheesy Taters (these are the Schwan’s items)/Pasta Salad

Spinach Egg & Cheese Muffins/Honey Glazed Carrots/Fresh Fruit

Ham & Scalloped Potatoes/Peas

Hearty Chili Mac/Spoon Bread

Pancakes & Sausage/Fresh Fruit

Pork Chops & Rice/Applesauce  (We will pick up our pig from the butcher this week. I am so excited for pork chops again!)

Chicken Pot Pie/Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Twice Baked Potatoes/Fried Apples & Pears

 

Happy Meal Planning & Shopping to you!!!

 

About the author

FarmGirlJulie

I am a child of God -- seeking daily to walk in the Way. I am the daughter of a farmer. I am married to an awesome man who makes it possible for me to live out my dream of keeping the farm that has been in my family for 110 years. I am the mother of two. We have laying hens for eggs, raise our own chicken, pork and beef as well as have a large garden. We sell the excess produce at our roadside stand along with my crafts and photography. Thanks for reading about our adventures. God bless!

One thought on “Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping & Saving Money”

  1. I love this! You are such a wonderful homemaker Julie! You already know I’m like your number #4 fan! (after Aaron, Onnie and Reid, lol). I’m excited to read more!

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