As always happens at this time of year, I spend some time reevaluating expenses and costs and seeing where I can make adjustments. Usually when one thinks on this kind of thing, what comes to mind are insurance, cable, cell phones and other monthly expenses. I am slowly working through all of those areas. Sometimes I find a better price and sometimes I eliminate something. On occasion I keep things at their current level.
While I'll share all of those choices eventually, my most current effort has been in a different area. In order to free up money for a couple other long term projects and plans, I also looked at our grocery bill. I wanted to make some definite cuts. However, I was unwilling to change the way I (we) eat. The question was, could I do that. The answer has been, it would seem I can.
As of this date, my grocery budget is now $50 a week, and it may go lower. I know that some of my readers may well have that beat. To clarify what is covered in my case: that amount is for three people and two large dogs, for five days a week and breakfasts on the weekend My sister does most of the cooking on the weekends and does buy those items she cooks those two meals most of the time. She also buys her own kind of wine and some special items. We don't eat meatless meals. In fact, we eat a variety of meat including steak, fresh salmon, variety meats and game on a regular basis. This budget also includes wine, coffee, some organic produce and good quality dog food. Note: While I love all my readers, realize that suggestions on how to do more meatless meals will probably be ignored. I like my meat, lol.
My goal is to lower this budget even more, but or now, I am on a steady road. This week we have had steak with all the fixings, brown sugar and spiced rubbed pork chops with rice and salad and fresh vegetables, chicken with cranberries and celery, home made macaroni and cheese with cubed ham and tomatoes and various sides, and brats and all the fixings. This weekend we will have crab ravioli and a butter sauce and home made cheddar broccoli soup with ham.
Obviously we enjoy eating at a certain level. That level is well, but not over the top. This budget does not include the extras purchased for special family meals like the veal for schnitzel-that comes out of entertainment. Next week my sister will probably ask for Cioppino for her birthday for example (I'm not at all sure it isn't cheaper to go out!).
This is how I have gotten my grocery bill lower (and hopefully still dropping). It works for me in retirement. It may or may not work for you:
- We eat almost everything. I'm the mom who fixed her kids one meal and they ate or starved as children. No short order cooking. I'm the woman who took her kid to Normandy and when her twelve year old son asked her what she was eating, she didn't say "escargot" she said "snails" and asked her child to try one (such mistakes we parents make). We eat healthy foods and have things that we each dislike. However, we eat chicken, beef, pork, lamb, anything that lives in the sea, and all vegetables and fruits except some of the squash family.
- Even though I am not great chef and as many readers know do not have a deep love of cooking, we make almost everything from scratch. I just made about twenty waffles, half with blueberries and half without. Nary a frozen waffle, even healthy whole grain, enters my home. Simple recipes and slow cookers make this easy, even for a so called "non cooker" like myself. There are even slow cooker entertaining books, as I have found.
- Downsized or no, I still make room for a freezer. Most recipes serve at least six, and we are not big leftover ears. It is much easier to freeze half for another time. When I bake, I bake lots and freeze so things can be pulled out of the freezer, and I stock up via sales.
- I only, no matter what, ever, ever, buy the lowest loss leaders each week (the exceptions obviously being needed dairy and fresh produce). This past week, lamb shoulder chops were on sale for two dollars a pound at Sprouts (I love sprouts). Also on sale were chicken tenders for 1.69. If you had seen the unloaded groceries on the table you would have seen fruit, salad items, fresh milk and butter. Then you would have seen many packages of lamb, many packages of that chicken, and lots of Barilla pasta (free at Target after a sale price, five dollar gift card rebate and many coupons). This week, bone in, thick pork chops were 2.99, and that is what I will buy.
- I obviously do stock up, both from a financial aspect and from a simple common sense. I don't live on the Eastern seaboard (where a friend has not been to the store in two weeks). I enjoy not having to go out to shop for a week if I am not in the mood. And I well remember thee years ago when I did not have the flu shot, when I was down and out for well over a week, as was my eldest child. Yes, I had many friends. But asking them to risk exposure to me to bring me soup and Kleenex did seem like a bit much. We had soup, drinks, medicine of all kinds and tissue to spare for almost two weeks.
- I do use coupons. While I won't go into on this particular article, there actually are coupons for meat and produce and coffee and pasta and four and sugar. More importantly, using coupons I get the rest of the stuff I buy almost free (shampoo, soap, razors, tuna fish, canned tomatoes), leaving more free money for the good stuff in life.
- Finally, I do NOT only by in season produce. I spent many years in Germany, where the EU free market makes produce from other EU countries available at in season prices. Oranges from Greece in Germany in January! I also lived in Texas, where everything is grown locally except some citrus, and farmers markets go except for four months of the year. When I want blueberries or raspberries I want them-and I want them fresh!!
Meanwhile, Trader Joe's has finally come to Colorado! I'm afraid to venture near for a week or so, although I am more than ready. More importantly (and hopefully) Trader Joe's arrival means that Aldi's cannot be far behind!