Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The fierce complexity of groceries.

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It's been a while since we talked about anything deep and meaningful here on the blog, and by golly isn't it about time already?!?  Let's dive deep!  Let's get insightful!  I'm talking profound here!

GROCERIES
THE FORMIDABLE GROCERIES


Does anybody out there hate grocery shopping as much as I do?  I mean, is it just the worst or what?  I LOATHE grocery shopping.  I would rather do any chore in the whole world over grocery shopping.  Even toilets.  Yes.  Toilets.

Since I've been married I've switched up my shopping strategy many a time.  First I followed my single grocery strategy and that was to just buy whatever looked good at the moment.  That didn't work very well as a man can't live on fruit snacks and cold cereal alone.

Next I decided to be chef extraordinaire   I planned meals out a month in advance, writing endless grocery lists filled with ingredients I didn't know existed like cumin and water chestnuts.  Meal planning and grocery shopping was a four hour affair, but once I was done I was done for a month!  And only $250 down the drain!

There were obvious disadvantages to this.  The food started going bad before we could use it.  And I never remembered what ingredient I had bought for what recipe.  And I burned half the recipes anyway.

Next came the eat out approach.  I bagged groceries completely. (Get it... I bagged groceries... too good, Bonnie, too good.) We'd go weeks with nothing more than a half gallon of milk and a bottle of ketchup in the fridge.  Hubs would say he needed food and I'd tell him there was a Taco Bell across the street.  Four sicknesses and nine pounds later I realized man can not live on Dorito tacos alone.  (But a girl can dream can't she?!?)

My most recent strategy has been the in-n-out approach.  I go to the store two or three times a week and just pick up the few things that I need in the immediate future.  AS FAST AS I CAN.  In store.  Out store.  Bam. No huge meal planning, no stressful lists.  A loaf of bread here and some sliced turkey here and that's that.  The problem is I am still having to spend entirely too much time in a grocery store.  And even though it's only $20 a grocery session I'm spending that three times a week.  It adds up.

This would be the point in this long, rambling blog post where I turn to you.  Help a hopeless shopper out?  I've got two questions that I would desperately like some answers to:

1.  How in the world do you do grocery shopping?  Do you plan your meals out for an entire week?  Or do you just pick up whatever?  Do you always have a grocery list when you go to the store?  What is the easiest way?!?!

2.  How much is normal to be spending on groceries a month?  I spend $200-250 a month on just me and Hubs for a month's worth of groceries.  And we go out to eat once or twice a week.  Every month I feel like I way overspent and yet I can't seem to make the bill go any lower.  What's normal?

I told you girls I was going to get deep, didn't I?!?

P.S.  Saturated Canary readers, welcome!  You didn't know you were going to get a topic as fascinating as groceries, did you?!?  If you want to stick around, check out my Best of Bon posts and I'll love you forever! Don't forget to follow on twitter: @thelifeofbon and instagram: @thelifeofbon.

53 comments:

  1. I make a meal plan and go shopping once a week. ALWAYS shop from a list. It really helps keep your grocery budget in check. Otherwise I end up with a bunch of extra stuff in the cart that we don't need.

    http://cheerfulhomemaker.com

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  2. Haha love this! I hated grocery shopping until I started shopping at Winco. Everything is so cheap that I get excited and love it! I think of 5 or 6 meals I want to make then get the ingredients and then some snacks. Oh and of course we go to Cafe Rio all the time when I don't feel like cooking or having cereal ;)

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  3. When I plan for the 'week,' I still only buy for 2-3 planned meals. Because there's ALWAYS leftovers and something ALWAYS comes up where we end up going out or over to my in laws for dinner. I always have staples in the house though, and most last for a while so that they don't go bad quickly: bread. eggs. cheese. deli turkey. big pack of chicken for the freezer. canned and frozen Steamfresh veggies. rice. That way, if I am in a bind, there's always something I can throw together quickly. Also, I always have ingredients for my husband's favorite meals: spaghetti, chili, and chicken and rice casserole.

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  4. I meal plan for the whole month using a magnetic calendar thing I made (see here: http://brittanysbigsky.blogspot.com/2012/05/my-revamped-recipe-binder-magnetic-menu.html). I try to make it so that I am using the same ingredients for multiple dishes so that things don't go to waste. I usually make one color-coded master grocery list that lets me know what ingredients I need for when. I try to buy all dry goods and things that'll keep in the first week, but obviously can't put off going to the store the other weeks because I need more milk and other perishables... So basically I have one crazy horrible long shopping trip once a month, and then each week I dart into the store for milk :)

    We also buy some things in bulk which helps cut down on the prices!

    Of course, I deviate from my meal plan all the time due to laziness, so I always have some super easy meals on hand. Gotta love mac n cheese and frozen chicken nuggets :)

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  5. I feel your pain! I don't think there is a good answer. I have tried it all too. Even now that my children are older and I have one 17 year old boy in the house until he leaves for college, grocery shopping/meal planning has been my worst chore. If you are only spending $200 - 250.00 a month, you are doing great. My husband has a rich palate, which makes it hard for saving money. He likes to eat out a lot. I prefer to make easy, economical meals. Mostly when the children were growing up, I would plan 5 - 7 dinners, lunch packable items and snacks. The dinners were kid friendly like homemade tacos, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, spaghetti/meatballs, stir-frys, beef stew, chili, etc. Another problem I had, some of the kids didn't like cereal or other breakfast foods so it would just be forcing a granola bar or fruit at them in the mornings. Now I am burned out on thinking of meals to fix. Every time before I go grocery shopping I ask for meal ideas and no one can ever think of anything. I hate grocery shopping and look forward to the day when I can just eat what I want and that will include no cooking. If I lived somewhere like NYC I would have my food delivered. Good luck!

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  6. Will you PLEASE post the answers to this post? I have the exact same problem, and have seriously gone through each of the approaches you tried. I am at a loss as well!

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  7. I meal plan every weekend and shop for the next week. I do the whole thing (three meals a day and snacks) and only buy what's on the list. It was hard at first but then you figure out what works for your family and lifestyle. I used to make all 6 serving of whatever recipe but then we would be sick of it. Now I freeze half right off the bat....we don't get sick of eating it and have some meals already done for later. It works really well for soups for lunches and you can easily add an apple or something on the side. This also helps with the budget. I spend approximately $250 per month. I say look for some different ways people do it, try a few, and see what works. I have been doing this now for 3 years and couldn't imagine it any other way. Good luck!

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  8. I want to hate grocery shopping but I try to have a good attitude about it. Mostly because it has to be done and it has to be done often, so why not make the most of it. So I use it as a chance to feel blessed that I can afford to feed myself/husband what we want to eat. That we don't go without. I know that sounds cheesy but I try to keep it positive because I too shop at Winco and sometimes that place can be worse than black Friday.

    Here's what I do:
    *I do write a shopping list. I have a list of "go-to" favorite meals. Yes, I actually wrote the list with basics like spaghetti, tacos, bbq chicken sandwiches, etc. I like trying new recipes so I start with a new recipe I want and I write down the ingredients for that on my paper. Then I look to my "go-to" list and see which ingredients might overlap. If my new recipe calls for chicken, honey mustard, and brown sugar for instance, I'll also add meatloaf (using the honey mustard/brown sugar) and bbq chicken sandwiches. Then I am doubling up on ingredients. I do a week's worth of meal planning like so (trying to overlap) adding the things we don't have to the list

    *I have main staples that I always keep on my list: fruit, carrots, other veggies almond milk, meat
    Some of the fruit stays the same (bananas) and some of it changes based on season/mood. It gives me a chance to do your in and out thing with a more relaxed approach.

    *I also decide what's for breakfast /lunch. We're easy breakfast people. We are satisfied with eggs/fruit, a frozen banana smoothie (hence all the bananas), or sometimes just fruit. For lunch I usually pack my husband the leftovers from dinner all week and I make a big pot of homemade soup each week to pack for lunch...I usually utilize whatever meat I have more of and the veggies I buy at the store.

    I try to stay out of the "inside aisles" and shop the outside of the store with the exception of canned veggies/pasta. Those two aisles are right next to each other at my store so it's pretty simple.

    I put my stuff in order on my list for the layout of the store. I promise, I'm in and out in 30 minutes! I am efficient and it's quick and fairly painless.

    I say, why not get it over and done with for the week. I would loathe having to go back to the store after already visiting. If I'm there, I'm getting everything I need, I'm not going back. :)

    Hope this helps. It was on the lengthier side for a comment.

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  9. Grocer shopping is a royal pain! I still do a big trip and little trips throughout the week. It's tough feeding hungry kids and hubs, each likes something different than me. My one and only tip that stands any test, is shop the perimeter first then hit the inner isles. The outsides of a store are cheaper and healthier. And always have take out menus stashed under the visor :)

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  10. Personally, if I cooked and went grocery shopping for myself, I would try my best to plan the week. It just makes things simpler and you don't have to go back to the store multiple times a week.

    I live with my grandparents though, so my grandma is the one who takes care of these things.

    I love how your grocery store picture is of beer.

    anddd I don't mind grocery shopping. My least favorite chore is putting away laundry. Cannot stand it!

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  11. I do a monthly shop and then halfway through the month i'll do a top up of fresh things plus my freezer is constantly in use as its stores my meat and fish so I can use them throughout the month! Best of all I can do my shop on line so I dont have to go to the supermarket! Saves time and energy, I can plan my meals go on line order the food and the next day it gets delivered in an alloted time slot by a very nice Sainsburys man. Brilliant. Grocery sghopping made simple!

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  12. I love grocery shopping so much that Matt lists it as one of our hobbies. I also looked up all the grocery stores to near the places we might move to, and I know all the mangers at Macey's. Writing this is making me realize that I'm kind of a grocery store freak...Anyway we spend around 150 a month. I do "loose" meal planning, since half the time we don't feel like the meals that I planned out. I write the "planned" meals on the calender, so if we know what meals we have all the needed ingredients for, but we don't actually have to make them. My trick is having a board in our kitchen that has the list of our perishable items, and one way or another we make sure that those ingredients disappear. I usually go to the store when I feel like it or when all the items on that list are gone. It works really well for us. Food rarely goes bad, and it relives a lot of the pressure of sticking to a strict meal plan. I also keep all the ingredients for homemade pizza in the freezer along with some sugar cereal for those days that really suck.

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  13. I find myself at the grocery store as many times as you! I plan out my week but then run out of stuff so back to the store I go! I don't mind going so much as long as it is not on the weekends, it's way too crowded! Have a great day!
    Theresa

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  14. I may be a weirdo but I love to grocery shop! My husband and I spend about $150 a month on groceries. I like to go on pinterest and pick out recipes I have pinned that we haven't tried and pick about 18 of them. Why 18 I don't know, it just always seems to come out that way. I will write down all the ingredients and write them down in the order I know they are in the store so that way I can just move through without having to go back and forth between aisles and then start gazing off into the vast options of un needed items. It also takes less time.I cut it from three hours to an hour tops. If we love the recipe Ill write it down and if we hate it then it's never spoken of again!

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  15. I detest grocery shopping. But, for my Hubby and I, I spend about the same amount as you, $200-250 per month. Have you discovered the crock pot? Seriously, has changed my life.

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  16. I always plan for a week. I'm terrible at cutting back recipes for just 2, so I usually save one day for just leftovers, trying to get rid of what's in my fridge. Doing slow cooker recipes are usually nice for cutting down on the budget because you only need a few ingredients to make something good and it does most of the cooking for you. I have this cookbook called $7 slow cooker cookbook. You may want to try it! I try to go grocery shopping every Sunday. Plan out my weeks menu and get what I need. Some nights we don't do what was planned and we go out or we will eat a frozen meal that I made a while ago that I just have stored in the freezer. So the next Sunday, I add those same recipes that I didn't use to the list and then I only have to buy for say 2 meals that week. That's been working so far and I try to hit the grocery store in the morning when it's not so busy, it keeps the stress level down lol.

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  17. I like grocery shopping! I do a monthly meal plan, and shop weekly. My budget is $100 a week for 2 adults and a toddler.

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  18. I usually do weekly meal planning.. because how do you know what to buy if you don't know what you're going to eat?
    But even with that being said, I don't really enjoy grocery shopping. But let me just say, you're gonna hate it THAT MUCH MORE when you have kids. Because trying to grocery shop with kids is like someone throwing you into the 7th level of hell and then adding a bunch of fleas to do small and annoying things while you're already suffering.

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  19. I try to only go grocery shopping once a week on Sunday or Monday, but I normally end up having to stop by the store a couple extra times during the week. I get enough food for 2-3 meals, but it gets expensive for us because my husband eats enough for 3. He also never gains weight. How is that possible?!

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  20. I plan simple easy meals for the week as I work and don't have time (nor do I enjoy) cooking. I make stuff like tacos, pasta, etc. I plan meals a week in advance (usually plan on making enough to pack for lunch the next day) and then I make a grocery list based on what I need for dinner. I also clip coupons on Sundays if I have time...to save $. We have a family of 4 and spend about $150 a week.

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  21. Good to know I'm not alone!!! Grocery shopping is my worst nightmare!!!

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  22. $600 + a month for our household. Of course we are feeding 5 people (3 of which are growing little boys who eat like pigs). I list meals I would like to make, check what we have on hand, and make my list accordingly. Even when I go with all three boys in tow I can be in and out in less than an hour. But NEVER go to the store hungry or without a list. You'll end up with a bunch of junk and an insane bill.

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  23. Hi Bon! My first time commenting. I think $200-$250 is reasonable for 2 people, but it depends on where you live, groceries are more expensive in certain parts of the country, and certain items you may like can be, based on where you live.

    I, too, hate grocery shopping with a passion. It's so overwhelming and it never ends. You do it and it needs to be done again. I've also tried the same solutions as you and nothing worked...until...

    I was complaining about it to my best friend and she said she hated it, too. So, one night, we went together. We shopped for ourselves, but chatted and laughed the whole time. It's not faster, but it is more fun. Now we have a standing date every two weeks. And I still go occasionally in between to pick up one or two items.

    And if one of us can't make the standing date, I still go, but I'm reminded how much better it is to do unpleasant tasks with a friend.

    So that is my suggestion. Call up a girlfriend and shop with her.

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  24. I try to go once a week. I try to plan meals out for the week and stick to my list. I will only need to cook 2-3 meals each week this way. We eat the leftovers the other days. I also keep my list with my and make sure to put where I found the recipe...like what pinterest page and the name or if it's in a cookbook, the name of the recipe. This helps me keep on track and not forget what I was supposed to make that week. I have done that many times before.

    As far as how much I spend, it depends. On my weekly trips I buy anything we could possibly need for the week. I just like to get it done and don't want to go back. It also depends on what you are buying. Meat is so much more expensive than veggies.

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  25. I hate grocery shopping with a passion. There are 5 people in my house right now, and I try to keep our grocery budget around $600 a month - I do almost all of my shopping at Aldi. Some months we are way over, it just depends. I try to write down dinner ideas for the week as I'm making my list and get whatever we need. I have more of a problem coming up with easy healthy lunch ideas than dinner ideas. When it was just my husband and I most of the time, I spent around $60 a week. I only go to the store for big shopping once a week - there is a Dollar General down the street if we need something quick. I try to keep our meals quick, healthy, and cheap, but that's not always possible.

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  26. Plan a menu for a week... you can always use leftovers

    Shop once a week

    And always ALWAYS have a list

    And yes, grocery shopping is a pain. I got really depressed the other day when I was shopping and realized that I would be doing this for the REST OF MY LIFE! Something we took for granted as kids I guess, a hot meal on the table every night and all we had to do was the dishes!

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  27. PS Make Greg do it too if you really hate it and you trust him to do it. It's easier for me to just do it because Ben calls 10 times from the grocery store asking the most trivial questions and he can never find anything. But if I had him do it more he'd get the hang of it.

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  28. hahahahaha I lOVE this post. Double love. And I have done every approach you mentioned. Who the heck knows the right way?? I do know that we spend $250 a month and there's 4 of us. But the kids don't eat too much. So maybe you're normal? .... maybe I wouldn't go that far. ;)

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  29. Woa - embarrassing. This is Candace, not "Matt" my husband. Sorry -I was signed into his account. :)

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  30. I have a family of 5, 2 adults and 3 kids (ages 13, 12, and 3). I go grocery shopping at least once a week. I plan out dinners weekly, with some wiggle room. I usually plan it at work on Fridays. I go shopping Sunday evenings around 8pm. That works best for me, sometimes the stockers are in my way, but at my store I am able to work around them and get fresher items. I always take a list. ALWAYS. And because I am anal and ocd, my list is sorted by the way the aisles are and how I shop. I work from the back of the store to the front. Like I said, ANAL!!

    My older 2 kids want to eat A LOT. Like all the freaking time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, etc. So I spend anywhere from $150-$200 a week on groceries. I try to use our sales ads and coupons to work around my meal plan for the week to save as much money as possible.

    We sometimes eat over at parents/grandparents houses. And we only eat out 2-3 times a month. It is too expensive for my family of 5. But a lot of places offer a free kids meal with the purchase of an adult meal on certain days so we hit those up first!

    Oh, I eat breakfast/lunch at work and so does my baby daddy. So that helps to save money. Sometimes my older 2 kids eat at school and sometimes they take their own. My baby is in daycare so they feed him breakfast/lunch there (and I take advantage of it since it is included with his tuition).

    Here in Tulsa, OK we have a website called Moneysavingqueen.com and she posts a lot of good deals/ideas. Maybe you have something like that where you live???

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  31. i second the posting these answers/comments comment.....i HATE grocery shopping too. i actually posted about this not too long ago. i usually go with the in-n-out tactic, but it's kind of annoying, but i kind of hate being in the store for longer than like 20 minutes! so i'm at a loss. but seriously - i want to read through all these comments but i don't have enough time right now. thank you for asking these questions!!!

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  32. oh and if you want me to send you some easy-go-to recipes I use, let me know. I also do something called "Dump Chicken" that is for the crockpot. I use it a ton during football/cheerleading season.

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  33. I think weekly meal planning is helpful to make sure that the food doesn't go bad. =) I think monthly meal planning would get overwhelming for me!

    I'm not married yet so I usually just cook for myself...which means I don't really meal plan. I pretty much buy the same stuff every time I go to the store and make meals out of that stuff.

    When I get married, I'd love to make a weekly meal plan & only grocery shop once during the week because I don't love grocery shopping & I get overwhelmed when I go into the store!!

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  34. I love grocery shopping. Sometimes my husband comes with me, but often I do it on Saturday mornings while he is at work. I try to keep my grocery budget between $100 - $175 a month for the two of us. We don't eat out very often. I find it's easiest to plan a week's worth of meals and take a list with me. On Fridays it's very quiet at work so I bring my cookbooks with me and plan out the meals for the week and make my grocery list. Then I go to the grocery store with cash, my list, and the calculator. And then I get it done! =) I'll come and do yours, if you want! Travel might be... interesting.

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  35. You HAVE to hit up Winco. Super cheap & I buy a huge cart full of groceries for $100! Granted I always buy extra food cause my husband is a big burly football player, but I don't feel guilty shopping there. Everytime I go to Smiths I can't stand grocery shopping one bit.

    Strategy?
    Make a list of what is eaten most often, check out Pinterest for healthy snack alternatives, pick up stuff for easy and fast dinners (sandwiches, quesidillas, pizza, mac & cheese) then I pick out a few big meals I want to make so we have left overs. I go grocery shopping 2 times a month at least.

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  36. I actually love grocery shopping! We definitely plan for the week. We try to come up with at least 5 concrete meals and then a few things like pasta or soup which could be made depending on what you have on hand. Planning meals helps cut costs on what you buy for the week because you have a focus in terms of what to get. That way you're not buying excess food that you don't really need. When we were buying whatever we wanted with no focus for our meals we were wasting a lot of food. Stuff would go bad and we hadn't even opened it or only used a small portion.

    I also find that cooking meals from scratch saves a lot of money. Believe it or not, it is actually cheaper to buy a few ingredients that may last a while rather than getting the processed or pre-packaged stuff. We say no to canned soup, pasta sauces, pre-cut fruits and veggies, boxed rice such as Uncle Ben's, and that sort of thing. Basically anything that we can make using our plethora of spices and such that we have on hand will be made from scratch. Making things from scratch may end up taking a tad bit longer, but it tastes better, is healthier, and will definitely save you money in the long run!

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  37. I try to enjoy grocery shopping, but I'm just so busy that I know it usually only happens every two or three weeks. I usually plan out three meals and then just decide which one to make depending on what I'm feeling like. I also cook enough of each to leave us leftovers for a couple of days afterwards. Then I stock up on pasta and other things that come canned and dry that can last a while. And of course, you have to include the super easy stuff that even my husband will cook like frozen pizzas and we both LOVE Marie Calendar's Pot Pies (they come frozen and you just pop them in the oven and wait, so easy!) There are just some nights where I feel like cooking and doing the dishes and some nights where that sounds like an ominous task and we go for the simplicity of leftovers or pot pies or frozen pizza. I may not have the healthiest plan for grocery shopping but some days I feel like stressing about it would a trade out for the lack of stress I get from my current way of life. Also, I have to have a shout out for crescent rolls of all shapes and sizes.

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  38. How do you all keep your budgets $250 and under for the month!? It's just me and my husband but we can't keep it under $400! How do you do it!? I plan meals in advance, shop once a week, tend to stick to fresh stuff (fish, meat, veggies, fruit, milk, etc.) and only a minimal amount of processed stuff. We go out to eat a few times a month, but not too often and we still struggle to keep it under $75-$100 a week!

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  39. I absolutely LOVE grocery shopping! Check my blog page for some easy recipe ideas http://morrellfairytale.blogspot.com/search/label/food
    Here are a few tips from me:
    1) Husband and I spend about $150 a month
    2) Eat out 1-2 a MONTH (1-2 times a week really adds up!)
    3) I go grocery shopping 2-3 times a month...typically for about 2 weeks
    4) I plan meals for a week in advance with what I have (then, if we want something but don't have the ingredients, we wait till the week after we go shopping again).
    5) We have some staples: sandwich stuff (hubby is student, I'm a teacher), potatoes, frozen chicken breasts, fresh fruit and veggies, slim fasts and grits.
    6) Look for good deals: $1 pasta! Great!
    7) WalMart and WinCo has great deals on non-perishables
    8) CASSEROLES!!!! All you need for a casserole is pasta/rice, meat, cheese, soup/sourcream, bread crumbs, veggies. And, you have dinner for tonight and tomorrow!
    9) Make up recipes with what you have!

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  40. This is my first time at your blog, and I immediately related to you and your hatred for grocery shopping!! I HAD to comment- and I never do. So this is my full-proof way to grocery shop:
    I.Order.Online.

    That's right- I sit down for an hour at night and look through my pinterest boards and favorite folder of easy meals- and wham0- it's done. I shop at Harris Teeter- and I'm not sure where you live, but I know there are many other stores out there you can order online. The fee for this service- if you pay as you go is 5$ a pop. I use this service EVERY week- and that was a little too much for me- so, I signed up for their yearly fee of 99$. Now, even if I want a gallon of milk and don't want to walk in the store- I push a button from my cozy car seat, give them my name, and they bring it out and load it into my trunk. I also swear by the fact that I save hundreds of dollars a month, because there is NO impulse buying at.all!! I have two kids and shopping with them is even more of a nightmare, and saving time, money and my sanity is an all around AMAZING deal. As far as cost goes- for a family of four- I budget 550/month and stick to it like glue, but that cost can vary depending on where you live. My mom spends much less because she has no state tax on food- so it would be hard to give you an accurate dollar amount for what's 'normal' in your area. People have many concerns when I tell them I do this- but I only ask that anyone who remotely hates the grocery store should at least TRY it once. I think you'll be hooked.

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  41. All I have to say is I find your picture choice hilarious...all alcohol. :)

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  42. I plan out a weekly menu, but sometimes you don't want what you planned for that day right? So it's a weekly menu that can go for any day of the week, depending on what you feel like making/eating that day. That way your produce items don't go bad, and you shop once a week.
    Also when you make a dinner, if you can freeze half...do it! Meal for next week already done!

    Hope you find a good fit for you guys!

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  43. I'm relatively new to this cooking thing. I graduated from college last year and have been traveling for work most days since. I recently started staying in my home city again though and it occurred to me that if I wanted to save any money at all, that meant I had to learn to cook. What I've been doing so far is making one thing that will last me for the week and then eating it for a few meals - I assume all the others will be eaten out either catching up with friends or because I'm lazy. So I could make a pot of soup which will last me 6 days (but only for 4 meals). Also, I've been doing grocery shopping during lunch, but I'm not sure that's an option for you...

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  44. so so so friggin happy i found you on saturated canary!! you are just awesome! grocery shopping is a pain. we do it once a month and spend less than $100 (and go out to eat at least 4 times a month). we go with a list and a kind of meal plan. if we need anything that's fresh, we'll go back to the store during the month.

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  45. I write a menu for just the week, then make a list of groceries that are needed for it. This cuts back on the problems you mentioned (food going bad + forgetting what food was needed for what dinner).

    Also, if any foods are leftover, I try to incorporate them into other meals when I make the next week's menu.

    My husband and I spend about as much per month as you and yours.

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  46. Weellll...you might not like my answer, but it sure solves my personal shopping/cooking weaknesses!

    I made a MAGIC spreadsheet! What can I say, geekdom is appealing.

    ...Wait wait, don't leave; I'll explain! I made a spreadsheet that targets my main flaws: rotting food, spend too much money, no idea what to cook, and bad timing (starting a meal a half hour too late).

    So the first background step is really a lifestyle change: I switched from recipe books to recipe blogs. They have photos (ESSENTIAL for me to really want to make the dish), reviews, and personal suggestions for cooking morons (ehem...me). I can focus only on the bloggers who share my same food taste (I follow them in Google Reader). I then copy the desired recipes to a word doc (which is optional, and even if you do save it, it only has to be formatted pretty if you desire to print it. I'll explain why in a bit). If I scan a recipe book page into pdf, I'll list the main ingredients in the file title. I have to save at least 4 recipes with a certain odd new ingredient before I'll ever buy that ingredient. Forget that 'use it once and fill up my fridge with containers' crap. If you've already got too many in your fridge, this method helps you use them up.

    After I gathered a good amount of recipes that share ingredients, I installed Google Desktop. It's basically a search engine for the crap on your computer, not just the crap on the internet.

    On to the spreadsheet. I'll email it to you if you are truly interested, my addy is mishqueen at hotmail . (I think you can decode that). The first step on the spreadsheet is to look through my pantry and fridge for items that need to be used up first (problem solved: rotting food and 3/4 full ingredient containers) and write them the space provided. Then, I look through coupons and newspapers to see what foods are on sale, often in-season stuff (problem solved: money spent). At this point, I consider any food goals I may have (eg--learn to bake bread, eat less meat, etc). I then turn to my handy-dandy Google Desktop search and enter FIRST the most important ingredients to use up, followed NEXT by other ingredients it would be nice to use, and THIRD cheap ingredients from the ads. (cheap ingredients are third because if you already have it, that's even cheaper). Google Desktop search prioritizes in the order you type them in. The results will pop up with a lovely list of the recipes you have either viewed in your blog Reader or saved in a document (now you see why it doesn't have to be saved in a pretty format). All should utilize the food you already have in your fridge or freezer, or what is on sale. Select some that look appealing to you. (I often skip the ones that use 1 current ingredient, but add 12 new ones).

    (continued)

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  47. With a family of six I really hate grocery shopping. I have no idea why the food disappears faster then I can buy it!

    I am so EXCITED that it's almost February because I get to be a sponsor!! Like I would do cartwheels if I knew how to!!

    Laura@MiceInTheKitchen

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  48. (continued from above)

    Turn to your events calendar, and note which nights you will probably eat out, which nights you will probably eat with friends, etc. Take into consideration the size of your family if you plan to have leftovers to even further reduce your cooking days. Then choose the number of recipes that matches the number of days you need to cook this month. Add those recipes to the spreadsheet, and their MAIN ingredients (with quantities) below them. Do not bother to write ingredients you always have, such as water, salt, oil, etc. Only you know what those are. Do a quick copy and paste to put the recipes with the most perishable items first on the spreadsheet (so that you can just work from left to right and not worry about rotting food). If all your recipes have highly perishable items that are not freezable, shorten your planning period to two weeks instead of a month. Next to the recipe title, write or type the time you'll need to start the recipe that day in order to have dinner ready on time. (problem solved: late dinner).

    Then take your spreadsheet and go to your freezer, pantry, and fridge to cross out every recipe ingredient you already have. The uncrossed items are your new shopping list. No need to make a new one. Know your grocery store and make one big QUICK circle and you're out before you know it.

    Every morning you need to cook, your spreadsheet already tells you which ingredients you need, and what time to start. Cross that one off and go to the next one the next day. (problem solved: what to cook).

    It sounds complicated, but only because I overexplain. Really, after changing your source of recipes, the entire process only takes me about 20 min of home time per planning session, plus shopping time. I only felt the learning curve the first time I did it. And solves my dinner problems.

    Um, that was long. I hope it helped someone, though! And I'm willing to send the spreadsheet to anyone who is interested, just email me at the cryptic address code above. ;)

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  49. I do not do plans. I would. But I just can't, because let's face it - a pasta sauce sounds great when you're writing your list but really, who has an hour to waste cooking it?! So, we chuck whatever we fancy into the trolley - usually the same kind of stuff every week with a few treats. We shop in two stores, same every week and fill the fridge, freezer and cupboards for the equivalent of $440 over the course of the month! Granted, the cost of living is higher over here in the UK, but really $250 is a total bargain!!

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  50. SO glad to have found you through Saturated Canary- I've giggled my way through a few posts so far and am having a fab time :) I'm happy to say that I'm still using the single grocery shopping strategy and had cold cereal for dinner tonight! Loved seeing everyone else's ideas though...

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  51. Wow...me thinks you should just move to South Africa and get all those groceries for merely $30.

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  52. I make a meal plan for a week at a time and then hit the stores. I always go to Walmart and the regular grocery type store that is only in SoCal where I live. I spend about $150/week for a family of 4 and we almost never eat out so that's all meals including my lunches that I pack for work.

    I started using an iPhone app last year and I love it! Best thing ever in my opinion...because once I put in the price, it adds it all up for me so I'm usually not overspending my budget - which is good because spending more than you have is just embarrassing, right? The app is called GroceryIQ and even though there are a few things I want it to do but it doesn't, for the most part I like it a lot more than I did when I was doing paper lists.

    I have to say that I really don't *enjoy* shopping...but I'm used to it I suppose because I've been doing it for a VERY long time now - about 25 years. I think I have it down to a science...

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  53. I will trade you grocery shopping for all errand-phone-calls (you know, scheduling appointments, calling customer service, etc). I love grocery shopping. I think it's because it's mindless and it's me-time. I put my headphones on and away I go!

    I usually plan the week's meals for the next 7 days on Saturday. I make a list, that I use on Sunday to go do my shopping. Usually, I spend an hour or two Sunday night cooking for the week, and freezing what we'll be eating on the later days (Thurs-Sun). It seems to work well for us! With just the two of us, we usually spend between $250-$300/month, but that also includes a lot of toiletry stuff we pick up at the grocery store, like vitamins, hair products, and other personal items.

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