Monday, June 9, 2008

Once a Month Shopping

I usually do most of my shopping 'once a month'.

This requires some pre-planning but it is well-worth the time spent for many reasons.

1) There's food here when there's hungry people here! Yah!

2)It saves time. (Town is nearly half an hour from my house and with 6 kids, it can turn into a big deal to have to go to town. Make sure everyone is fed, everyone has been to the bathroom, nobody is too tired, etc.)

3) It saves money. (Buying in bulk, hitting sales and stocking up on sale priced items, pre-planning allows for more control rather than making lots of impulse buys, etc.)

4)It gets it done and over with so less time is spent worrying 'what we're gonna eat'.

How much do I spend? Well, in the last 3 years, I have kept my average around $500 a month but not going over $600 for just food. My cleaning supplies are kept to a minimum as well by making a lot of my own with simple products like: vinegar, citrus fruits, ammonia, and bleach. I also make my own laundry soap, which you can read more about under 'cleaning' if you would like.

Don't forget--there's 8 of us! We have 6 children, 5 of which are boys! 2 are teenagers at present! A lot of food is required needless to say. 3 meals a day plus 2 to 3 snacks a day!

My 'adventure' starts several days before shopping and some of this is practiced throughout the month when a few minutes of extra time rears its head!

1) I clip coupons from Sunday papers. I go to the big 2 or 3 sites on the net where coupons can be printed and cut. (Smartsource and are my favorites but there are others!)

2) I get the Sunday and/or sales papers (or internet sites with adds)prior to my shopping trip and go over thoroughly. I have a notebook that I keep for writing down what I want from where and I make a note of any coupons that I have beside the list of items to purchase. For example, under my Kroger section I may have this note: "Kraft BBQ .79, coupon for $1 off 3".

3) I keep a ziploc bag will about a dozen envelopes in it for my coupons. Each envelop has a title such as these; "fresh foods", "frozen", "dairy", "Kroger" (for the ones that I am certain that I will be using), "Leo's", "Drinks, juices", etc.**** Many ladies have more extravagant systems but this is cheap and easy for me and it fits inside my purse so I can always grab it if we are just on a quick 'run to town' --because you just never know when you might could use a coupon!

4)So, I have my list of sales, my bag of coupons, and I can either do one of two things and both have worked for me fairly well. A)I can take my 'menu' notebook out and right out several weeks worth of meal plans just in case I need anything extra OR B) I can wait until I have finished my shopping; buying sale items and basic pantry items, and then make out my menu-meal-plans based on what was bought. I don't recommend the second plan until you've established some sort of a system and you've gotten somewhat used to the items that you will need to keep on hand.

5)The trip: first let me say, if at all possible, shop alone or with the older kids who can learn to help. It takes some concentration to pull this off, especially if you are going to try to do some fancy stuff with your coupons! Examples of why this is important: if you catch spaghetti sauce on sale at one store, you will need to remember to pick up noodles at the store that has the best price. Write it down if you have to! Also, if you have your coupon envelope out for 'cereals' , its great to tell the bigger kids to look for 'General Mills' cereals that are on sale or "Kellogg's" because you have coupons for those.

Ok, one of the first places that I try to go is the Bread Store.

Sometimes they have big buns on sale that my kids like for me to use to make Pizza Bread (see Frugal Lunches) OR Hoagie/Sub buns on sale that we use for ''Subway" sandwiches. I always try to pick up 6 to 9 loaves of whole grain bread (its just went from 1.79 for 3 loaves to 2.19 for 3 loaves), to put in the freezer. (This is useful for toast for breakfast, quick grilled cheeses when you have 'one of those days', bread crumbs for meatloaf, french toast, or sandwiches.) If I can get those special big buns or sub buns for 99 cents, then I will need to make a note to pick up those things to go with them from the other stores.

Next, I hit IGA and Leo's (a local supermarket with good deals on meat and produce, and often bathroom tissue). I go through both of these combing for good deals on meat and produce but both are pricey unless running a sale on most other items. They both are picky about internet coupons too so I have to watch that because they won't take them. Leo's usually has a good price on chicken and roasts and IGA has a great deal on frozen chicken almost every time that I shop.

I then turn to Save-a-lot and Dollar General Market to buy canned food and cereals. Canned veggies are my least preferred but for quick and frugal meals, I usually try to keep items like these handy: cream of mushroom soup, beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, re-fried beans, etc. DGM has pancake syrup for $1 as well as ground turkey, but its a little higher in fat, because it has dark meat, than the rolls at Walmart. They both have dressings for $1 too! I always go through the produce and find the best of deals as well. Save-a-lot often has markdowns that I can take home and chop in the mini-processor and freeze until I need them!

The longest part of my trip is spent in Kroger. I have my list and my envelope of coupons that I will be using but I also go through my other envelopes as I walk through the store looking for in-store sales. I have found great deals doing this. For example: an in-store sale price on some cheese was $2 and I had a coupon for .45 cents off which they doubled! ......This takes a lot of work and a lot of concentration but just THIS week, my total at Kroger was over $200 and with coupons and my Kroger card, I only paid $117 for my groceries and saved a total of 98.59. How does that average out? Well, looking at my receipt, I bought a total of 99 items, which means I averaged saving almost a $1 on every item! Not to mention, I get a 10-cent per gallon savings on gas for every $100 I spend there, which tickles DH!

And on my final stretch, I run through Walmart. I comp any prices that other stores may have ran out of or the couple that I don't go to like Food Lion on the other side of the planet. I also pick up bulk flour, sugar, and things that are just always cheaper there. (Like fish-Tilapia. It just went up from $9.98 for a 4lb box to 13.98-sad days! I didn't buy it this time, hoping against hope that the price will come back down.)

In closing, I sometimes will break this up into two days for the sake of my family. I personally like to get it all done while I have the 'mindset' that I need to do it and while 'what I just bought at the other store and what I need to go with it' are still fresh--BUT-- for their sake, I will take two days to do it or even this last time, I did half in the earlier part of the day and saved the Kroger/Walmart part until the late evening, which is a great time to shop.

I sometimes run out of room in the van too, lol.

This 'trip' takes me about 7 or 8 hours including driving time. But remember, I am shopping for 8 and I live out from town, so many could do it quicker! But once its done, its done for a whole month!!!!! (With the exception of milk:-)


craftymom said...

I'm amazed! We use the grocery game, but I feel like we could save more.
I have four kids, so we're not as large as your family, but close. Two of mine of teenagers and they sure do eat a lot!
I've never tried making my own laundry soap, so I'm going to give that a try, as well as our own cleaning products.
Thanks for sharing your shopping method!

Donna said...

Thanks for posting!
Yes, teens do eat alot!
I have one pre-teen who seems to out-eat the older two more times than not---I don't know how they burn that many calories! If only I could figure out their secret...:-)