Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The skinny on smart grocery shopping

I hate standing in the kitchen 20 minutes before lunch or dinner wondering, "What should we eat?!"  There have been times that I have pre-planned, shopped smart and had a week's worth of meals posted on the fridge.  I have tried clipping coupons, shopping sales (with coupons), made a menu off of what we had at the time in the freezer and pantry and thrown countless meals together at the last minute.  I want some consistent ORDER in my kitchen!  I have been reading a lot on the subject trying to see what is realistic for me.
Here are some options I have found:
1.  Coupon Clipping
No doubt the stories of buying $150 worth of groceries for $22.16 are inspiring.  There seems to be tons of info to help you get started.   Some tools needed for this method could be coupons, subscriptions to coupon sites, coupon filing method and pre-planned menus.  At you can get a course on clipping 101, printable coupons and they even compare weekly sales for certain stores.  These- and allow you to also print coupons online.  Just do a simple search and find more resources. 
The basic gist I get is that coupon clippers buy one or more newspapers every Sunday.  They also get the weekly paper with grocery ads.  They either clip or store the entire coupon flyer.  They match up coupons with sales to get the biggest bang for their buck.  Food menus are made according to what's on sale.  I admit, I get a little jealous when I see a super-organized mama with her trapper-keeper full of coupons (I just want to hold it and flip through each beautiful coupon-stuffed page). 
2.  Stocked Pantry Method
This is where you shop to stock your pantry.  Some tools required for this could be a price book (more to come on this), quality storage containers, food inventories, pantry space, extra freezer, menu plans and grocery list(s).  While still trying to take advantage of sales and coupons, this method works off some serious up front planning.  Cleaning out and taking an inventory of cupboards and the fridge/freezer is a good place to start.  Getting input from family members regarding favorite meals and foods will help with the menu planning.  Take time to put together menus of tried and true meals as well as new ones you want to try.  Make a master grocery list of weekly items you need to purchase.  Here's the getting your pantry stocked part- make another "wish" list of things you want to buy to bulk up your pantry.  Each week set aside an amount of money to make these purchases.  They could be certain spices, baking goods, pasta, etc.  As sales or clearances occur, you can really stock up.  Build your pantry slowly.  Eventually you will have enough that you can "shop" from your stored goods to supply the ingredients for your menus.  Your grocery lists will help you to know when to replenish.  Your lists will be determined by your family's needs.  You can do a search of "stocked pantry lists" to give you an idea of what to look for.
3.  Other methods that can be used with either of the above or on their own are a) Eat certain foods each night of the week.  For example, Monday is chicken, Tuesday is beef, etc.  b) Make sure to include leftover night.  We call ours Left-over-palooza.  Let everyone try to come up with their own creations using the leftovers.  c) In your menu planning, designate meals for eating out at restaurants or with family/friends.  This will give you something to look forward to.  And since you are saving money from actually cooking at home, when you do eat out it will be much more appreciated. 

The few times I have gone all out and done the coupn clipping/sales, the savings were definitely noticeable, but... I do not seem to be programmed for this right now! I can't remember to buy a paper on Sunday much less sit down with the coupons, ads, computer, cute trapper-keeper, and cook book!
I have not shopped to stock my pantry.  I am a little hesitant because of all the up-front work and then... what if I do not stick to it.  However, I feel like if I can get that part done (and it will be nice to get soooo organized) the method itself really appeals to me.
My plan:  I am going to tackle the stocked pantry. I will make 4 different weekly menus that we can recycle each month.  I will add in a new dish here and there to keep it interesting.  From that I will make my master grocery list.  Then, I will make a "wish" list for the other stuff. 
We do not have a pantry, but we do have decent cabinet space.  Here where most of the food is stored:

I may rearrange some things as I get going.  I am excited to finally have a system figured out!  BTW- I first got a great glimpse of this method here. 

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