Soooooo, yeah. Over the weekend, I lightheartedly posted on my Facebook page about my grocery trip, shared a couple of pictures, and said that sometimes, I buy fruit and veg and all kinds of ingredients to make "stuff" -
and sometimes, I shop like I'm feeding a Frat House. This was one of those Frat House trips, because a couple of my kids start back to school in a week
say it with me, Yaaaaaasssss, thank you, Jesus
and a few of them are struggling with trying to find foods that they can eat quickly and toss in a lunch bag before they go to a full day of work
because I may be a great food cooker and baker but I've not been successful at getting my grown kids to think about their need to pack a lunch more than 30 seconds before they launch themselves out the door (except, mysteriously, I did succeed with one, so there's that).
And a couple of my friends asked me to write a blog post on grocery shopping and budgeting and I'm all whattttt????
Because it's long been a sticky point with me and the husband that I do not budget for groceries. I can't. I just - can't.
Yes, I've seen that thing your friend loves, and yes, I know about that new cool idea you tried last week, and yes, I've even tried that too. None of it seems to stick and none of it has been successful and yes, I do try all of them. I do try to coupon and I'm minimally successful - if I remember to bring the envelope with me I can save $10-$15, most big trips. Which in the grand scheme of things isn't successful at all, because I know that some of you are complete wizards at it and get an entire basket full of groceries for pennies. I am proud of you. I just don't have the patience for it. I stopped getting the paper and I just - don't have the patience for all of the work that makes couponing successful.
Yes, I've tried that method too. Thanks for thinking of me.
What I find is that most of the coupons I see are for items I don't buy. We are brand specific for some things - for flavor, ease of use, allergies, etc. We are brand specific about somethings because we are just - brand specific. If I see a coupon for those things, I will definitely cut them and use them - but it doesn't happen as often as I'd like.
I do, definitely, use coupons for things like detergent, cleaners, feminine products, shampoo, etc - for the brands we use, because of course.
A long time ago, when I was the mom of something like four kids, I had a long talk with my husband about what we wanted to eat like, how much we wanted to spend, how much we thought we should spend - I pulled up the Federal Guidelines for Grocery Budgets
Which were really kind of illuminating, to be honest. Take a second and look there - how do you fit in?
We don't eat out as a family hardly ever. (Lovely, lovely grammar, I know. Sorry about that.) We eat at home, and there are 8 of us, although my oldest boy mostly covers his own food costs now. So the bulk of our food is purchased and cooked at home and consequently, we spend more on that than a family who eats out most meals. What hurts us, a bit, is that some members of my family don't like to eat the cheaper things - lots of pasta, soups, etc - and really want and like to eat the more expensive things - meatloaf, grilled chicken, lasagna, etc. Also, we buy some extra things that are a bit more expensive because of allergies. And, one other thing - I buy whatever fruit or veg my kids want and eat - even if it's out of season, although, hi, I do draw the line at winter watermelon, because no. Otherwise, I am a huge believer in fruits and veg and I buy it even if it's more expensive. I'd rather do that for snacks and with meals than chips, etc.
Also, my kids love cereal, and I will only buy specific ones, but they can eat a box a day.
I buy bulk when I can - I have a membership to the restaurant supply store, and I buy butter/flour/sugar/cake flour/milk/half and half there at insane discounts. I do a big shop once a month at Wal-Mart, and I go weekly to a smaller store to grab other things I need. I try to buy the best deal - usually Family Size, but not always - it pays to look at the shelf labels to see the per serving cost. Especially if you happen to have a couple of coupons, it can be cost effective to buy two smaller boxes. Check the square footage for your toilet paper, and you'll be surprised at how the package you thought was the best deal maybe isn't.
I remember a conversation I had with a friend about the same time I had the conversation with my husband, in which I was trying to suss out how much groceries should cost and how we proved out with other families of the same size. She told me that she bought food first, before anything else, because they could do without lots of things, and make up time on others, but they needed food. I kind of walk by this philosophy - within reason - but I do spend money on food.
One thing I've found to be successful is the Walmart savings catcher. Every time I shop at Walmart, I scan the receipt and a couple of days later, it alerts me to the money I saved. I hold onto those and stack them, and use them every couple of months. This week, I saved $15. Not huge, of course, but it's almost zero effort.
One other thing I do, every time I go into a grocery store? I buy something for the Food Pantry at my church. If I'm just picking up one or two things, I'll buy one or two small things - but if I am doing a once a month run, I'll spend $15-$20 for donation. I buy cereal, oatmeal, rice, soup, noodles, and canned pasta (in pop top cans, mostly). I also buy toothpaste, shampoo, tampons, pads, toothbrushes, and soap. I do use coupons for these bath items - maybe my family doesn't like the Tampax line of tampons, but if I can save $2 on a box and donate it? Someone is going to be happy.
I know that there are families who are the same size as mine - or larger - and they are really, really good at cooking cheaply and budgeting and sticking to it. I just don't seem to have a knack for that. What I do have a knack for is cooking from scratch - except when I do a run of "let's get ready for school and buy the hot pockets/bagel bites/pretzels/frozen waffles/goldfish/cereal" - and making sure I get the best value for those things.
This entire post has been a two day long stream of consciousness and I feel like I didn't answer any questions or shed any light onto anything. Have a question, or a thought that might help me be more focused? Lay it on me.