Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Grocery Shopping + Budgeting + Recipe Links

A couple of friends have recently asked me to share a little bit about my weekly grocery trips and lists and how I stay on budget.  I don't have a revolutionary system, but I have figured out the way that is the least amount of work for me with the highest amount of savings. (Just FYI, this will be a long, boring post if you aren't interested in this type of thing.)

Here are the three main things that make up my system:

1. I exclusively shop at Kroger, with the exception of some things, like diapers and clorox wipes, that I order from Amazon's Subscribe and Save...and with the exception of most toiletries, which are just flat-out cheaper from Walmart.  Part of why I picked Kroger over Walmart as my go-to is because I'm happier with the quality of their store brand as opposed to Walmart's, I love the fuel points I get by shopping there, (I always do the survey found on your receipt and receive 50 bonus fuel points, which adds up to 200 extra points - 20 extra cents off gas - per month!) and their mobile app is easy to use. The night before my weekly grocery trip, I check the weekly savings ad on my Kroger app so that I can have an idea what's on sale.  Then, I check their coupon section and can upload coupons directly onto my Kroger card, which means I don't have to keep up with paper coupons.  (Because I always forget them.  Always.)  I'm not an extreme couponer, by any means, but I can usually save about $5-$10 per trip with coupons, and while that doesn't seem like a lot, if you're on a tight budget, every little bit helps! Also, Kroger offers "Best Customer Bonus" coupons to customers who use the app regularly, and those coupons are personalized and tailored to what you normally buy.  I often get special coupons for frozen fruit, french bread, coffee, and baby supplies.

2.  My best tip for staying on budget is also my most time consuming.  While shopping, I keep my calculator pulled up on my phone, and I add up each item as I put it into my cart.  Yes, this is a little bit of trouble, but once you get used to it,  it becomes an automatic reflex and really is easier than you think.  This has been the biggest help to let me know EXACTLY how much I'm spending.  It makes me less likely to add unnecessary items on impulse, and it lets me knowledgeably choose between store brand/name brand based on how much my tally is when I'm picking out that item. (For example, I prefer name brand pasta.  But if I'm in the pasta aisle and my total is higher than I'd like, the number on my screen makes me reach for the store brand instead.)  Before doing this simple thing, I'd have a vague idea how much was adding up in my cart, but I'd often be $15-$20 off when I went to check out.  That pesky tax always threw off my calculations and I never remembered to factor it in. Ha!)
I know that lots of people only carry cash with them to the grocery store, and I'm sure that's a really amazing way to ensure you stay below your budget!  However, I like to have the ability to spend a little extra $ on a reduced item not originally in my budget, or to stock up if there's an amazing sale on something we use every single day.  (For example: cereal.  Tyler eats cereal every day, and Honey Bunches of Oats and Frosted Mini Wheats are expensive.  BUT Kroger puts those two cereals on an excellent sale periodically, and I usually buy 10 or so when that happens. Obviously that puts me over budget a bit, even though I make up for it the next few weeks.)
Also, maybe everyone knows this, but Tyler didn't, and so just to make sure, because it's my biggest crutch, every price tag has a price per ounce or unit on it, which makes it easy to compare brands or sizes and know what is really the best deal.

3. The night before my grocery trip, I scroll through my Pinterest food board and see if any recipes jump out at me.  If they do, and I don't have the ingredients required, I'll add those to my list.  That is, I'm afraid, the grand extent of my meal planning, although I'd like to do better about that in the future.  What I find in the reduced meat section heavily influences my meal plan for the week though, so it's difficult to have one set in stone in advance, not knowing what I'll run across.

Just for kicks, here's my grocery list from this week, and links to some of the recipes I'll be making for supper.

  • Quinoa (for this)
  • 1 Rotisserie Chicken (perfect for adding to recipes, like the Quinoa Enchilada Casserole above, and for making quick sandwiches. Also, had a $1 off coupon)
  • Package of Smoked Sausages + baked in-store buns, to grill and eat with the leftover potato chips from our Super Bowl party (I never keep potato chips, but might as well use them up!)
  • Cereal
  • Milk
  • Cheddar Cheese (one block)
  • 1 Lemon 
  • 1 bunch Kale
  • 1 head Broccoli and 1 head Cauliflower (both for roasting with salt+pepper+olive oil)
  • 2 apples (whichever type is cheapest per lb, not counting red delicious)
  • 1 yellow Bell Pepper (to sauté with onions for the smoked sausages)
  • 2 large Sweet Potatoes (for these muffins and for cubing and roasting with olive oil+dried rosemary)
  • Salad Greens
  • 1 loaf Potato Rosemary French Bread (best customer bonus coupon = free!!  I love having a loaf of french bread to serve with dinners throughout the week, and if there's leftovers at the end of the week, I make croutons with it.)
  • Chicken Thighs (for this)
  • Orzo  (for this)
  • Dried Thyme (one of my favorite herbs)
  • Whole Wheat Flour (for this bread, which has never failed me)
  • 1 can Black Beans
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 package Kroger brand Frozen Peas
  • 1 package Kroger brand Frozen Corn (best customer bonus coupon = free!!)
  • 1 package McCafe' coffee (I base my coffee brand choice on whatever coupon I have + what is on sale.  I get either Starbucks, (Tyler's favorite, but also the most expensive,) or Gevalia, or McCafe'. Surprisingly, McCafe' coffee is very decent.  I never buy Folgers or any of its equivalent, because even though my husband has low standards, he does have standards. ;))
  • 1 Arm and Hammer Free and Clear Laundry Detergent (don't fall for the expensive Dreft, mama ladies.  Any Free and Clear detergent is perfectly fine to wash wee baby's clothes.
Items not on my list but that I purchased:
  • 2 packages of reduced pork chops, 1 for dinner this week and 1 for the freezer
  • 2 bottles of Bolthouse Farms Fruit Juice Smoothies, because they were buy 1 get 1 free, and everybody needs to splurge now and then. :)
  • 1 pack of cut-out Peanuts Valentines for Jeffrey to give to his cousins at our annual Valentine's Day breakfast at Mama's. (I'd like to be a crafty Pinterest mom, but no way is that happening this year!)

So, like I said, my system isn't completely new and exciting and life changing, but it works really well for me, and I hope something here has helped you! To end, here's a picture of my adorable baby "helping" me shop a few weeks ago. Now he sits in the cart itself, which makes everything way more interesting! I have a cart cover with toys attached to it, and that's a lifesaver.