I've talked about how to start cooking, why you should cook and how to develop a plan. But Kristoe pointed out on my LoseIt page that most of us have to not only worry about a calorie budget, but also a financial budget. How do you feed a family when money is tight? (And I understand that question. With two teenage boys, it's like trying to keep ahead of the locust swarms at every meal.)
Fortunately, in addition to be determined (aka stubborn) I am also organized. Not about everything in life, but when the organization bug bites, it bites hard. My wife and I set the menu for the week together, but I do the grocery shopping for the family. In fact, last night, as I was making the evening meal detailed below, we were also looking at recipes and cookbooks to plan next week. Today, I will get the grocery shopping done and start some of the prep cooking.
I shop for groceries at two stores. I don't know what is available where you live, but I'll tell you about mine. I have a great store ALDI that serves about 80% of my food needs. ALDI is a company based out of Europe (Germany, I think) and it carries almost everything we need at great prices. Most of the food is "store brand" but is made by name brand companies for that label. The quality of the food rivals any other brand in comparison. Additionally, our stores get a supply truck daily, which means the produce and meats are always fresh. The downside is that produce and meats are not heavily stocked every day, so if you shop in the evening, your selections will be fewer. But the prices are 40 to 50% of what I find in other stores. ALDI does not have a deli, a bakery, or anything like that. It is a simple grocery store.
My other store is a local chain that offers a very wide range of services, from a bakery, deli, huge meat department, and sushi bar, to a liquor store, bank and postal services. They even have a "Tot Spot" where you can drop off your children and they will be supervised while you shop - and since the Tot Spot has video monitoring, the video feed is broadcast to monitors all over the store so you can see what the children are doing. Of course, these services result in higher costs, so I only shop there for items that ALDI doesn't carry.
I will sometimes vary my shopping and pick up things at Walmart, but that is only if I am already at Walmart for other items. I try to maximize my efficiency by making as few trips as possible. In general, the ALDI/Festival combination works best because they are in close proximity to each other and my house.
But the real key to successful budgetary control is the shopping list. Ah, this is where the OCD enters the picture!
I think I am probably the only shopper that walks the store with a clipboard in hand and preprinted shopping list clipped to it. But this is what gets me through the store quickly, efficiently and without spending too much money - because even though I am a tightwad, I can spend money when the mood hits me. Here is a close-up of one section:
If you want to make one for yourself, they are easy. I broke mine into basic categories of food, and then got specific within each category. Everyone's list will be different, and mine has been refined over the past several years.
So. Sit down and plan a menu. Be specific. Indicate exactly what you are making, as well as the sides that will accompany each meal. If the recipes are in a cookbook, indicate the page and book on your list so you can easily find it when you are ready to cook. And use a shopping list, buying ONLY what you need that week. Use coupons if possible (ALDI doesn't accept them) but only clip the coupons AFTER you have created your list. Buying something just because it is on sale is not a good way of being financially responsible. And then shop, but only after you have eaten. Never shop when you are hungry.
And speaking of hungry, see the next post for last night's meal.