Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Advice Welcome

I need help! Go easy on me, because I'm ashamed that I am graduate level educated but can't figure out my grocery budget.

In the last 2 weeks I have spent $320 on groceries (madness, I know.) Our usual budget is $450 a month. (Including diapers, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, etc.) This 450 has worked for our family for a LONG time. I used to be able to stick to it. Last 2-3 months... not possible. And there's only 3 people in my family!

Menu planning used to really work for me. But that also has led to my downfall. When I plan menus I get more intentional about what I'm making... and that leads to planning intriquite meals. I need simple/cheap dinner ideas to mix in with our more exciting meals. I also need help with lunches! With Mark and I both working 9-5:00 and neither of us enjoying preparing lunches, I find myself buying expensive pre-made things for us to just grab and go. (That are still cheaper than eating out and a little healthier.)

Kids snacks are expensive too!

How do I avoid filling my family's belly with either boring tasting foods or foods that are chalk full of pesticides, corn syrup, or refined everything but not spend a small fortune doing so??What works for your family?


Kristine said...

I try to buy whatever walmart has that's organic. They usually have organic carrots, spinach, and sometimes apples. They don't continuously carry the same organic products though. Mason LOVES avocados and bananas, but I don't buy organic b/c he doesn't eat the peel. I also try to buy produce from the farmer's market, or the roadside stand. My SIL kids love their veggies dipped in hummus, especially red bell peppers. They also love rice cakes, cracker sandwiches, and annie's cheddar bunnies. Sorry I can't offer more advice. I tried matching coupons with sales, but it just doesn't work if you don't buy overly processed and prepackaged foods.

P.S. Toys r us or babies r us usually carries a good variety of healthy snacks. Mason loves the Sensible Portions Multi-Grain Crackers. Kashi is a good brand too for cereal bars, cereal, crackers, and granola bars. I hope this helps. It is so difficult trying to feed your kids healthy foods free of additives and artificial preservatives.

April Hardy said...

My weekly menu varies depending on what's on sale. That's what mom did when we were little too- what ever was on sale was what we ate for the week. But that requires looking at ads and seeing who has the best prices for the week. Plus you shop at CostCo, where a simple trip to get 3 or 4 things can leave you walking out spending over $100. But sometimes buying in bulk like that is worth it. Parker likes fruit and veggies, I would give him that as snacks, instead of nutri grain bars or whatever. I am guilty of giving my kids not the healthiest snacks but my kids aren't as good as eaters at Parker, and my grocery budget is much smaller than yours. Also, for lunches, Drew takes his lunch everyday and mornings when he has time he makes a sandwich and pulls a whole meal together, when he doesnt have time, he takes left overs. I used to make just enough of everything because I hated left overs, but now I always make extra so that he has something to take to work. And he never takes it the day after we had it, it's usually a couple of days after so he doesn't get sick of it. Freezer meals are great. I have just started getting into that. When I make Cream Cheese Chicken (which is to die for!) I make 2 batches, we eat one, and I freeze the other half of the sauce/chicken for another time, and then when we want something tasty I just pop it in the crock pot for a couple of hours. That helps if let's say chicken wasn't on that sale that week, but I am low on chicken and want a chicken meal. Plus people say to eat from your food storage, I had a huge stock pile, but when we decided to cut back I had to start using my canned goods, which led to me discovering Autumns love for peaches. It's really trial and error w/budgeting and groceries. I only started watching our budget after Weston was born and it took me about 6 months before I had a good grasp on things. But I am sure others have better advice!

Rebel said...

Recently I made chicken fried rice and it was AWESOME! And Super easy with left-overs!
Ingredients: handful of peas
one large carrot diced
a tiny amount of green onions chopped small
minute-brown rice

Cook chx. Cook rice while chx cooks. Once rice is done (10 mins), put in a bowl and sit in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down. Cut chx while rice cooks. Cut up carrots and tiny bit of green onions. Get the biggest pan you got and put on medium. Throw the rice, carrots, peas, and chx in. Let sit and mix for a few minutes until the peas are hot. Take it off and serve. It's super duper easy. and easy to reheat at a work microwave!

P.S. A helpful hint for faster cooking, cook (grill) more chx than you can eat for a meal. Save the leftover breasts and/or pieces for weekly meals. Make chx fried rice one night, reheat the chx and make chx tacos, chx & rice, chx pamedora (spaghetti sauce on top of grilled chx w/ rice pasta!


Heather said...

Don't ask me I spend a fortune in food each week with our healthy lifestyle. I do have some easy recipes, which are healthy, that I can email you. I have several that are crockpot meals which make it easy for a busy mom. Then you can use the leftovers for lunches, as April mentioned. We eat alot of fruit for snacks. Or carrots and snap peas for snacks. Good luck!

Christy said...

Ah, you can always count on family. Thanks guys. Seriously!! I'm writing each idea down and will look at how I incorporate.

Cindy Ardis said...

I am impressed with all the ideas from everyone. But one of your problems cant be helped, the price of groceries has gone up alot. I do love the fresh produce that is available this time of year. Heather buys organic fruit roll ups and organic applesauce at Costco. I still look at ads and buy meat when it is on sale and thats what we eat. I like leftovers from dinner for lunch too. Faren usually brings a can of low sodium soup or I make soup and he brings that for lunch. Eating the 20 grams of protein in the morning really helps with your appetite the rest of the day. Bryan suggests getting between 40-50 grams of protein between breakfast and lunch. Even though I don't work outside the home, the crockpot is my best friend. Red beans and rice is a cheap and really easy and nutritious meal, even makes great left overs for lunch. I have a crock pot cook book I can bring you if you want.
Love you, mom

Marie said...

Hey Christy,
I am by no means an expert. (Seriously!) But here are some things that have helped our food/house budget-ness: I don't really buy "kid" snacks. Our girls eat what we eat and get snacks like fruit, raisins, veggies, nuts or yogurt ( I buy a big thing of plain yogurt and add honey and vanilla and maybe fruit). That being said, I do have some kashi granola bars on hand, and those stretch island fruit leathers. Or we'll make granola bars, too.

If you're looking for quick and healthy recipes (and cheap depending on the season) I have a ton. I'm a sucker for quick and easy, and I love recipes. Let me know.

For lunches, do you like leftovers? Back in my working days, I would take that, or make a turkey sandwich (or something) with some carrots and an apple...that's what Alan does now.

Bianca said...

Shame on you!

Just kidding.

Here are a few tricks I have:

1. Limit the snacks you buy - instead of sugary processed snacks go for fresh veggies and fruit. James' latest favorites are apples and cucumbers. (I heard you send snacks with Parker at the sitter - slice up the apples, throw in a bag, add a little lemon juice to keep from browning).

2. Try to buy snacks on sale. I.e. Safeway just had Chewy Granola bars for $1.50.

3. Costco. I do buy the fruit snacks, mission tortilla chips, animal crackers, etc. I buy only a few and rotate so James' doesn't get burned out on them. We do splurge a little on the beef jerky, James loves it.

4. Quick and dirty meal #1:
Throw a pot roast in before work and a boillon cube. When you get home pull out the roast put it in a frying pan, add 1 or 2 cans of diced green chilis. Heat and stir. The meat should just fall apart. Throw on a tortilla and dinner is served. You can add sour cream if desired. Sides you can make if you feel like you have time are beans and rice.

5. Quick and dirty meal #2:
Costco Bourbon Chicken. Heat per packaged directions. Throw on a tortilla with shredded cheese. You got a spicy chicken quesadilla.

6. Quick and dirty meal #3:
Costco has these really awesome chicken burgers. They are in the refrigerated isle. Freeze them and grill them up. I like to top with lettuce tomato, serve them up with a nice salad, and/or fruit.

7. Quick and dirty meal #4:
Healthy fast pizza. Use pepperoni or chicken sausage from Costco. Top Flat Out Bread - its a wheat tortilla with spaghetti sauce, sliced roma tomatoes, meat. Throw in the oven and you have a personal pizza in minutes.

8. Quick and dirty meal #5:
Chili is always fast and easy.

9. Quick and dirty meal #6:
Soup - our newest favorite is Fire Roasted Tomato Soup. Top with sour cream and tortilla strips.

Hope this gives you some good ideas! Sometimes it's not exactly what we want but it beats going out to eat and spending lots of $$.

Janalee said...

Like Marie, I don't buy kid snacks to much, just regular stuff.

I'm trying to think what I'd do if I worked all day. I think I could still pull off mush or eggs for breakfast - that's cheaper/healthier than cereal. lunches: sandwich or leftovers like marie said, it doesn't take that long to prepare.

see, Marie knows everything. do what she says.

Also Bianca's pretty gourmet and a working mom too, so she's a great resource.

Your main plus is that Parker isn't picky (someone said)! You are pretty free to pull any stunt with a kid like that - take advantage!

If you want to get really hardcore, you can buy little containers and buy bigger items of what snacks you like and divide them up yourself. Ex: Huge can of costco peaches for $5. (although that may be a bit much for your size family) but it beats those fruit cups in price by far. stuff like that. anything that comes in little snack sizes seems to be triple what it would otherwise.

also, skipping all the juice/drinks is an option. Just plain eliminate it. Water is better all around and that's less sugar, empty calories and money to worry about.

well, it's midnight and I'm rambling.

Annie said...

I like the comments so far! Here are a few ideas that work well for me.

Plan meals around sale items. I personally plan meals around the produce/vegetables for the most part.

Go meatless a few meals a week! Beans and legumes are a lot cheaper than meat and can be delicious. (Of course this depends on family preferences). I also reduce meat in a lot of meat recipes. You can cheat and combine the two also, if you just have to have at least a little meat.

Shop sales. This is a catch 22, so it has to be balanced. Spend time shopping sales--save money. Spend more money by going to one store--save time. Depends on priorities. Sometimes I go a little overboard with the store hopping, but can save a lot that way.

Allocate a part of your monthly budget for buying non perishables that are on sale. That way you can stock up on your favorite pasta or sauce or whatever without "blowing the budget" for the week and end up saving money by not having to buy them later at full price when you need them.

I also quit buying cereal for breakfast (except for Sundays:) Oatmeal or eggs and toast are great if you have a few minutes to spare in the morning.

Healthy cereals (some of the kashi ones if you find them on sale) are great and convenient snacks for kiddos and often cost less and seem to last longer than the average fruit snack (yuck). Daniel really likes the quaker oatmeal squares which I find at least passable for a snack along with raisins and such.

Don't shop if you are hungry:)

Track the spending, give yourself a limit, then keep it. Then you'll find yourself getting the essentials first and maybe letting some of the nonessentials go until the next week, or waiting for them to go on sale.

Happy shopping!:)

The Young's said...

I'm not really of much help. However, I have friends who swear by couponsense. Our old bishop's wife is the founder/owner. One of these days I'm going to get on board with that.

Also, I've heard to leave your debit/credit cards/checkbook at home. Take only cash...that way, when you run out, you run out! You're forced to stay within your budget.

April Hardy said...

You have to pay for couponsense...which in my mind doesn't make sense. You are trying to save money by using her resources but yet spending money on it. There are other resources, like pinching your pennys that I can email you the link for, and every Wed. they update it w/the sales for each major grocery chain in AZ (and other states)and they basically put stars next to each item letting you know if it's a great sale price (4 stars) or an average price (3 or 2 stars) and it's a free site, and if there are people who coupon who read your comments they match up coupons too for sale items and it's all free. No paying $40 a month for someone elses site. And money saving mom has a site where she tells you the best deals for the week. Anywho- all your friends have great ideas. I am benefiting from this post too!!