Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Budgeting 101: To Market, To Market

Well so much for being consistent about blogging. A month and a half later here I am back again. Truth be told, life caught up with me a bit. The Bear got bronchitis (major ugh!), work got a little hectic, we celebrated year 4 of married life, and let's face it the energy level is ever decreasing as I near the birth of baby #2. That said, I am here to deliver my shopping plan as promised.

Step 1: Take Inventory
Probably the most important step is to know what you have in your stash and what basics you're running low on. My basics are things like coffee, crackers, cheese, flour, sugar, rice, pasta, canned soup (tomato, cream of chicken and mushroom), canned veggies and beans, potatoes, as well as paper goods (TP & paper towels). Things of that nature. These are things my family uses a lot of and so I make sure we have it all in the house. After the basics I take inventory of our meat. Know what you've got to work with.

Step 2: Plan Your Meals for the Week
1. Take into consideration what you already have in stock before you start looking at what you need to buy. If you are really trying to save money, also look at what you can substitute in recipes. For example this very evening I substituted a can of green chiles for a few chopped jalapeno slices in my chili recipe.
2. When it comes to planning meals, find a balance of proteins and get creative with them. Let's face it, unless it's majorly on sale, beef is really not an affordable option, even ground. We stick with whole chicken (it can go a long way), pork when on sale, beans (pick a night to go all veg), and fish. I try not to have the same protein more than two meals in a row just to keep the variety going.
3. Shop the ads. I'll be honest, I don't really do this but I have been blessed by Aldi where I don't necessarily have to shop ads because their prices are already lower than most brands on sale. That said, I don't buy meat from them (solution added is not okay in my house). So in the way of meat, shop the ads. And fresh produce, buy on sale and in season!

Here's an example of a weekly meal plan I did. Hopefully in the near future I can post the recipes.

Monday: Roasted Chicken & Greek Potatoes w/Green Beans
Tuesday: Southwest Veggie Bake (lots of beans) & Salad
Wednesday: Honey Garlic Pork Chops w/Broccoli and Baked Potatoes
Thursday: Chicken Lo Mien & Crab Rangoons
Friday: Mushroom Steak (using cube steaks) w/Green Beans & Mashed Potatoes

We are a family of 3 and yes my toddler eats like an adult so I count him. I usually make enough for 4-5 servings so that there is a little left over the next day for lunches.

Step 3: Make Your Shopping List
Now that you've got your meal plan and know what you have in house. Make your list. The key to this is being detailed. I shop two stores: Wal-Mart & Aldi. I know these stores and where everything is. I make my list according to the store's layout. At Wal-Mart I start at the back and work my way up. Aldi you walk in and end at the check out. Making your list to suit your store is important for a few reasons. First, it saves you the time and frustration of going back and forth and up and down a bunch of aisles as you realize you've missed something on your list. *Disclaimer: this still happens to me as I sometimes skip over things even when they are in order on the list.* Second, it saves you from going down aisles you don't need to go down and being tempted to purchase things not on your list.

Step 4: Go Shopping!
Normally, a woman loves to go shopping, but let's face it grocery shopping is tedious. Having the list makes things so much easier and more efficient. There are two major tips: 1. Stick to the list & 2. Write down the price of each item. This second step is super important when it comes to the budget aspect. When I write down the price I over estimate to the next half dollar. Actual price, $3.15; Written price $3.50. This helps take into account tax. I like to add as I go so I know where I am budget-wise and know what to expect when I get to the register. Sometimes the prices will ring up different from what you estimate. Don't be afraid to double check on stuff if it rings up more than you wrote down.

Okay, I think that's it. Probably not as detailed as I could have been and may not even be that helpful, but I got it out there.
Forewarning, next post will probably be baby related. I'm thinking 'What's in my bag, hospital addition' and probably my amazing recipe for postpartum care.