One way I’ve been able to feed my family well on such a small budget is through good planning. Each week I sit down with a notebook and write down the meals I am planning on making during that week, as well as a list of the ingredients needed and what is on sale that week.
This week, for instance, looks something like this:
Meals: pizza, burgers, dogs, chicken ? ? ?
(I also list the days of the week at the top of the page, the day I am shopping through the next week, this week the week runs Tuesday through Monday)
I know that I already have flour and yeast in stock, and was able to score several jars of 59 cent manager’s special pasta sauce, so the only thing I need this week for pizza is the shred cheese. That goes on the list.
Milk and cereal are always necessities in my house with two growing boys, so that is also on the list.
I live in an area served by Kroger stores, so I have a link to their website, which lists their weekly ad: Kroger main page, click on “weekly ads” and type in your zip code to get your store’s ad.
When I opened this week’s ad, I saw that milk is $1.98/gallon this week. I also know that when there is a sale on one size of the milk, many times the other sizes do not sell as quickly and may end up with a happy red tag on them (manager’s specials; they are one of my best friends). I have gotten milk for as low as $1.18/gallon by buying it on manager’s special.
Cereal is another thing on my list. I see that Kashi GoLean is on sale for only $2.49/box. I remember cutting out a coupon recently for $1 off two boxes of Kashi cereal, which means that I would only pay $1.99/box by buying two and using the coupon. Depending on the budget this week, and how much carry over I have in the pantry from the previous week , I may take advantage of that option.
Shred cheese is another item which we go through quickly, and this week the Kroger brand is on sale for $3.99/24 oz bag. That works out to $1.34 for the equivalent of an 8 oz bag. I will be adding a bag of the mozzarella and a bag of the colby-jack to the list.
Other items will be added at the store, as I see what is on manager’s special and as I tweak the menu for the week. Some weeks we do not eat any red meat, others we may go without chicken. I generally find some salad or some such on manager’s special, and there is a Kroger’s down the road where I almost always find good bread and buns on manager’s special. I do most of my shopping at Kroger's, but supplement at the local Asian market, bulk food store, health food store, and even Big Lots (and yes, Wal-Mart, they have the best price on yeast).
It helps to have a repertoire of recipes and a basic pantry of staples at home to build on each week. I will write about my basics on Thursday. Until then, good shopping!