Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Grocery Shopping with the Crew

Recently we have been trying our hand (again) with once a month grocery shopping. Our first attempt was while we lived in a one bedroom apartment in the New York City area.  It was a bit too much for us at that time.  After reading about how a few other families execute this type of grocery shopping I talked to Claude and we decided to give it another try.  We are working on modifying it to fit our family.

What do I like about once a month shopping?

Well, ideally it means that we only step into a grocery store a dozen times a year.  This helps us stay on budget and also saves time.  It also requires that we have a plan to make sure all the mouths are fed and our food is not put to waste.  We have been making weekly menus for the past year.  It works, but I was spending a lot of time over the course of a few weeks.  And we were spending more on groceries than I wanted to.

NOTE: Since our post about the cost of feeding our family, we have adjusted our food budget to $600 monthly.  With once a month shopping this is working well.  It was not working well when we were going to the grocery store a couple of times a week.

There are a million and one resources on the web for once a month shopping.  I don't have the time now or a workable system to write about.  If you're curious, just turn to our good friend, Google, and you'll find a host of articles written by all sorts of people who really know what they are doing.  Some of them even have printable grocery lists and samples of their monthly menus.

This is about halfway through a trip to the wholesale club.  It took us 45 minutes in the store and our "train" as the kids called it, drew plenty of attention from other shoppers.  I pushed the stroller and pulled the cart while Joshua helped steer from behind the cart.  It worked out well enough that we'll do it again if we can't go with Claude next time.
The kids and I braved this month's big shopping trips since Claude had his 50K race on the weekend we planned to shop.  We divided it into two days.  One day we went to the wholesale club and the next day we tackled the regular grocery store.  All in all it was successful.  We even made it to and from the store without incident.  Well...kind of...

At least our issues didn't happen in the store.  But I did find myself frantically unloading a van full of kids and groceries while Jeremiah (who had diarrhea in his car seat on the way home) screamed from the bathroom, Abigail had a tantrum right in the front doorway, and Rachel wailed from the confines of her car seat.  Oh, yeah...I also had to clean a car seat cover in the midst of that.  Ugh...

So far the once a month shopping has proven to be a good fit for our family at this stage.  I was able to quickly put together a menu for the month.  I tried to see what was already in our freezer and pantry.  I also am trying to make foods that everyone likes so that we don't have unwanted leftovers hanging around.  No more Pinterest searches for what to make for dinner.  We're sticking with some tried and true favorites.

I've also instituted a little "Leftovers for Lunch" campaign.  So far, so good.  It's made lunch preparation quick and easy (something I need in the middle of our school days) and has enabled us to keep up with eating leftovers before they've sat around long enough that we wonder if they are okay to consume.

And just to set things straight...we do actually go to the store every week.  BUT the list is generally short and we are keeping our wholesale club shopping to just once a pay period.  Each week we buy fresh produce and restock milk as needed.

We also keep our eyes open for sales on meat.  When we find one, we stock up and then use what's on hand in our menu planning (something we've always done).  This weekend Claude found ground beef marked down to $1 per pound.  He got several packages that are now in our freezer.  And when the kids and I went on our big trip we found turkey (leftover from Thanksgiving) on sale for $0.27 per pound.  I estimate that we spent about $30 on meat for this month and much of next month.  Don't you just love it when you score a good deal like that?  :)

Will we do grocery shopping like this forever and ever?  I don't know.  My "I must find the one right and best way to do something and execute it perfectly for the duration of my days" type thinking wants to plan on this system for the rest of our lives.  But I'm learning that what works now may or may not work in the future.  Right now it's working and I'm looking forward to settling into a routine with once a month shopping.  We shall see how long it will work well for us.

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