So you guys have my friend Emily to thank for this one. She called me yesterday wanting my advice on this topic. Kudos to Emily. I know her from work. She is a nurse who chose to become a stay at home mom, homeschooling her soon to be 4 children. The 4th being due in 3 days. I want to help her in any way I can. It is for that reason (and also cause I love to talk) that I am posting this blog post today.
Buying your groceries once a month has some advantages; less gas used; fewer trips to the grocery store means less time wasted in line, putting up groceries, etc. It does take some planning, especially in the beginning. Once you get it down though it is a great benefit. I have shopped once a week, bi-weekly, and once a month. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. I have finally come up with something that works for me and that is shopping once a month with money left over to grab a really good sale.
THE PLANNING PHASE:
Many of you , if you have read my blog for any length of time, have read about my preparations for "grocery day". It is a methodical plan of defrosting the freezer, organizing my pantry, cleaning out the nearly empty fridge, and going over ads. Just as my monthly trips require planning; when you are first starting to transition to once a month shopping, the best thing to do is go back over your last month of grocery shopping to get an idea of how much of each item you used/purchased. Use that as your guide. No worries though, you will tweek( no twerking people!) it over time. I have heard a lot of people say to make a menu for the month, but that means extra work and I always change my mind about what I want for dinner. Instead I know what meats, etc I use regularly, and I plan to have those things on hand. Rather than plan meals, I buy staples: butter, sugars, rice, potatoes, meats, flours, veggies, etc. Then I make up my meals depending on what I have on hand. This also enables me to try new recipes using what staples I have. I mean, seriously, the pioneer folks couldn't menu plan when they needed to take a days ride to the nearest general store to get provisions for winter. They bought staples and built from there. If it is good enough for them.....
So anyway, your planning phase also includes going over grocery ads to see what is on sale. Now while I do get a good bit of my regular groceries at Aldi; I watch ads. This week I am getting a good bit from Kroger. I know SHOCK! My mother once told me that grocery shopping is WAR! Those sneaky grocery people's job is to take as much of your money as they can. Your job is to keep as much as possible. The only way to be successful at that is planning, planning, planning.
WATCH FOR SALES!
Some are advertised, some aren't. I always, always, always (did I say always?) check out mark downs in the meat, bread, and dairy sections of the store. OK, Before the shocked gasps drag unsuspecting people in off the street, please note: This food is perfectly safe to buy even though the sell by date is that day or a couple of days away. It just means the store can't sell it after that date. It also means you can take it home and either freeze it ,or cook it (can it too). There are significant savings in stocking up on marked down meats, etc. When you see a particularly good sale stock up on what you can to keep you from having to buy it full retail. This doesn't apply to fresh produce unless you are planning on canning it or dehydrating it.
KNOW YOUR PRICES!
In order to know if a sale is any good, you need to know what prices are good. If you are someone who has always just gone to the store, picked out what you want/need, and checked out without really paying attn. to prices (Boggles my mind), this will be a learning experience. Check out the ads for more than one store. I always look at the online ads for Kroger, Publix, Aldi, Sams, and a local store called J&J. I may not go to all of these stores, but once I check out the ads I can decide where I am going to get each part of my groceries. When you look at these ads, you can compare prices for certain items and get an idea of the range of sale prices for any given item. When you begin to grasp the range of prices for an item, you will develop a personal price range. You will have your (rare) "AHH I can't believe my good luck I am going to stock up for sure" price , and you will have your " Eh, not great, but I really need this so I guess I will have to get enough to get by. Maybe it will go on sale soon" price. I also have my "I guess we will go without, I am not paying that for this" price. Here are a few examples:
Cereal- I love to find cereal for 7 cents an oz. When I find it for that price I get a lot. Like uh funny looks from the cashier a lot. I will buy what I have to cause my son loves cereal at 10 cents an ounce, but I am not happy about it. Anything over that, sonny boy eats something else.
Chicken breast, boneless- I love to find it for $1.49lb. YAY! I will buy what I have to at 1.99 lb. I will look for a different cut of chicken when it is over $2 lb.
Sugar- UGH! I am not that old, but I remember having a sale price of .99 for 5 lbs. (Sigh) those were the days. Now my stock up price is any combination that gives me $2 for 5 lbs. I have gone as high as $2.87 for 5 lbs, but that is reluctant. Luckily I store sugar in large volume, so I have the opportunity to wait for good sales and stock up. I have bought so much sugar in stocking up that I have gotten questions from the cashier like " uh are you making moonshine?". Really you would think the first thought would be maybe I am making jam, but I guess it depends on who's doing the asking.
Well I am still typing and I am sure your eyes have glazed over, so I am going to end this segment for now. I will be bringing up part two in a bit.