Monday, January 4, 2010

Heaven Help Us - More On Dinnertime and the Budget

Who knew we would all be so abuzz over a measly ol' trip to the Piggly Wiggly?

Have any of you ever referred to the supermarket as "the Piggly Wiggly"? Or is that just an old wives tale?

Have any of you ever referred to the grocery store as "the supermarket"? Or did I just inadvertently lapse into my 1950's lingo?

Well, for those of you who don't care one stitch about any of this, you've got the day off.

For the rest of you, I'm about to bore you with the most mind-numbing, exhaustive diatribe on grocery shopping that you will (n)ever hope to hear.

Let me state again, for the record, that I rarely, if ever, hit the magic $50/week number. For some reason it is lodged in my brain as the end-all be-all, but I don't have a good reason for that. Truth be told, I typically don't even walk out of the store under $60. It's a goal. A lofty goal. A fun little game. You can't imagine the fun, the suspense of standing in the checkout lane, watching the unhappy girl scan each of my items and thinking "I'm gonna hit the mark!... I might hit the mark!...Crud - there's still a box of clementines and a family pack of porkchops back there, I'm probably not going to hit the mark...."

The point is, I have a goal. Goals are good, although there may be something to be said for setting goals that are attainable.

Right now, our budget allows $350/month for food. Any and all food. Food that I make and food that someone else makes for me. And toiletries/cleaning stuff, etc... Very recently the budget was set at $400, but I'm throwing caution to the wind right now, for reasons untold.

It's also worth mentioning that we pay for all of our stuff with cash. My food envelope holds 7 $50 bills at the start of the month. I highly, highly recommend buying groceries with cash. It makes you that much more thoughtful about what you toss into the cart.

It is also worth mentioning that I frequent a local joint called The Dented Can. It's run by a Mennonite family and it is housed in their pole barn. Swear. The cans are dented and the boxes are a little funky. Some food is slightly expired. Does that gross you out? I'll tell you what doesn't gross me out - $1.50 for a box of name brand cereal. $0.99 boxes of Swanson chicken broth. I never know for sure what I'll find on any given day, which is at least half of the appeal.

Now, where should I start?

That's right, I haven't started yet.

Let's proceed in steps, since we all appear to share the list-making gene.

1. Plan the week's menu.
I usually just plan dinner and scrounge around for lunches. We are also big believers in left-overs. I shared this week's menu on my last post, so there's no need to revisit that.
2. Make your list. I try to adhere to mine closely, although there's always a surprise or two that leaps into my cart.

You will notice that most of the list is produce. Part of my reasoning behind my menu was that I knew I already had chicken for 2 of the meals and ground beef for tonight's meal. I also had the tortellini for the soup, as well as the broth. In short - this was a total cheater week, and I still failed miserably.

Which brings me to...

3. Shop!

I'm reviewing my list now and in full disclosure, here are the items that wound up in my cart, even though they were not on the list:

1 lime
1 lemon
2 containers of frozen juice
deli turkey and ham (50% off after 8 p.m.)
1 head of Romaine
1 box of waffles
1 Red Baron frozen pizza (on sale - because it's always good to have a back-up meal)
2 boxes of tissues (I appear to have passed my sinus issues along to Cory's)

It's all pretty standard fare. Nothing super exciting. I look for sales, and buy some things accordingly (mostly fruit for the week), but I do not clip coupons. I also do not "stock up" when there are sales. I sometimes wish I could, but it just messes me right up.

I really believe in cooking most things from scratch, although I do not buy organic. I am sure that I save some pennies here and there by shredding my own cheese (and it's so much better!) and chopping my own lettuce. We don't really eat a lot of boxed foods, although I'm certainly not above a mushroom soup-smothered casserole. Or, you know, the occasional baloney boat.

I loved reading all of your ideas and questions from the last post. It pains me to say that there is not Costco within a 200 mile radius, so no more bragging about that, ya'lls.

In a nutshell - make your list, check it twice and stick to it. Then let me know how it goes.

Hand to heart, I hereby promise to share every success and every failure with you this month. I'll be watching every dime. And I'll be reporting back.

And if that's not a cliff-hanger, well then I just don't know what is.

PS - Tonight's dinner was goood.


  1. mmmmmmmmmmm looks really good!!!

  2. Shoot...I'm gonna try ONCE AGAIN. I've tried a billion times, doing the menu thing w/ the specific ingredients thing, and I've given up many times. BUT, you inspired me, so I'm gonna try again.

  3. dinner looks good, and no I didn't skip down to the picture... I am stuck in a bad way, ignoring the budget or the 'list'.... that is fatal. truly fatal.
    So I read this, and no I wasn't bored. :)

  4. Holy Cow! I am very lucky if I spend less than $150 in the food store...and it's just me and my hubs. We eat in a lot, 3 meals a day, but I must be doing something wrong. I look forward to your tips.

  5. Oh, are saving the world one grocery shopper at a time! I am right there with you on all of it. I plan a menu, I check what I have on hand and only buy accordingly. I live my the rules of 'nothing out of a box' and it is sooooo much cheaper! You can buy a bag of hashbrowns for $1.99, but a potato for only 19 cents. I have made good friends with my grater because of this. It is so worth the 15 minutes of menu planning to save so much cash! I will be awaiting this weeks installments of "dinner on a dime" from you. Get cookin'! ~mary~

  6. I love the details...and this week I started by making a list of things we have, so the "we don't have anything to eat" comment can not be use. *By me...

  7. bet you didn't know i was a coupon clipping addict?
    nope..didn't think so.
    I shop for my family of five for less that $50 a week.
    you spend $1.50 on cereal at the barn..i spend less than $1 at the market.
    ever heard of grocerygame? i think it's free for your first month...but i swear by it.

  8. Love your menu ideas. Keep 'em coming!

    P.S. The grocery game charges monthly---I suggest among a variety of others! They will pay YOU to take things out of the store! At the very least, check it out for things like toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. You will never "buy" those things again!

  9. come cook for me. Please. :)

  10. Great idea cash in the white sleeve I'm gunna try that.I know how you feel I lived in Eastern Montana for years and the closest Costco was 220 miles.A few of my friends and I would drive up there to shop just for the day and back to save a buck.Those rural areas charge so much more for items to be shipped in it's amazing.
    I am now back in Oregon and can find great deals.We also have a Trader Joes and that is my favorite place.
    I also use to buy from the mennonite people as well and they grew the largest chickens ever.Never have ever seen or tasted a better chicken.
    Yes, I have heard of the Piggly Wiggly they had them in washington when I was little.
    O.k so I feel inspired and if you want to send me your address I will send you five meals in a box from the very special Trader Joes.........Let me know it could be fun to see what you do with it? Thanks for sharing~ Kim

  11. I'm officially inspired, Grocery Girl! Can I call you "Groceries" like in "Eat, Pray, Love"?

    I'm in awe of how much thought you put into this. Seriously commendable, my friend. I need you to come with me as I try to stay in the cash allotment on a grocery trip!

    We have no "dented can" here...wish we did.

  12. Forgot to mention, that I love, love, love the tree image. It's calming :)

  13. Supermarket names:
    USA: Piggly Wiggly (in Chicago)
    Kenya: Uchumi
    Bulgaria: Picadilly
    Poland: Piotr i Pawel (Peter and Paul)
    Germany: Lidl

    No matter where you shop the tips you are giving are so helpful. Love it!

  14. oh you're good...we spend a lot more for just 2 people!!

    never shopped @a piggly wiggly until we moved to GA. don't forget Winn Dixie! yeeeehaw!

  15. Truly, we are soul sisters! Like you, I watch my budget very closely. I have very lofty goals one of which is to rid myself of the one credit card debt I owe. I am thrifty with cooking and have a $50 a week budget as well. Do you have an Aldi's around. Now, let me tell you they don't carry many brand name items, but I have yet to have purchased anything there that tastes differently than the brand names. OH! and they have the freshest produce.

    I love your blog and it is the first I visit daily.

    Keep sharing your tips and recipes!

    Stay warm - it is cold and snowy in my part of Ohio!

  16. Oh, I'm so totally with you on the cheese! That dry, yucky stuff in the bags doesn't even resemble cheese, and it's cheaper and so much better to shred your own!!! I buy store brand (Kroger) and it's considerably better than the major name brand, and is much less expensive.

    About stocking up . . . we'll have to agree to disagree there! Last spring my store of choice (Kroger) had a 'case lots sale', and I bought two cases of green beans, one case each of whole kernel corn, petite diced tomatoes, kidney beans, sharp cheddar cheese, and tomato sauce. Do you know how much money that saved me??? And I have a set of shelves in the garage just for that kind of thing (except the cheese, which went into the fridge), so out there they sit until my pantry is bare, and I go raid the store in the garage! Of course I buy other veggies, fresh, canned and frozen on a regular basis, but those are staples that I have on hand for whenever I need something quick, and I don't have to buy them but once a year.

    I love this topic, and could go on and on, but I won't bore you!

    BTW, there are very few Piggly Wigglys left in GA now, at least the northern half. We have mostly Kroger, Publix, Ingles and a few other strays mixed in. And I just call it the 'grocery store', because that is what it is after all!

    Blessings, Becky

  17. Yep, I grew up in a small southern town with a Piggly Wiggly. We also have a Mennonite joint called "Sharp Shopper." I love it. There's no shame in your game!

  18. My dear Shannan, you are frugalicious, and I love that about you. In the upcoming weeks on my blog, I was going to be talking about grocery shopping, planning and weekly routines. I hope you won't mind that I'll link to your blog for the grocery section. I love making George squeal at the grocery store. If it makes you feel any better at all, I had a membership at Costco and I let it lapse. I didn't really find any 'deals' that were any better than sales at grocery stores, and I found that I spent way too much money out of excitement there. Wish there were a 'dented' can here! Speaking of canning, do you? Are you gonna? I found a great website called "Food in Jars', and their motto is 'put up or shut up', o ma ga, I love that!

    Keep the menu stuff coming!

  19. I have to admit, that was a lot of info ... but I think it's great that you plan your list/menus and stick to a budget. I like to plan meals too, I just don't do it every week -- it pains me to be that organized :)

    And I just call the grocery store "the grocery store."

  20. My best grocery shopping tip is the tried and true...don't go to the store hungry. It leads to budget disaster. Keep up the good work FPFG!

  21. My husband does the shopping (and the cooking for that matter) and we spend LOTS more than you do. I am not sure if it because of the diapers... we also add toiletries and laundry detergent and what not to this portion of our budget. But, still, I think we could trim. We don't buy a lot of prepared stuff either. Are you buying your meat somewhere else in bulk... I may have missed that part. I am just thinking our family of 3 could trim alot... maybe enough for momma to stay home ;o

    Great post!

  22. ohhh, you're so funny:)

    yes virginia...there are really piggly wiggly stores, down south.

    i always make a list & stick to it. i even come home & get mad that there aren't any fun suprises in the cupboard, but that would be my own fault because i only buy what's on my list. shopping with troy can be irritating because he just puts what he wants into the cart - and that's not right i tell ya!

  23. Failure. That's what happened to me today. Do you feel like that when you go over? I'm a big believer in cash too by the way. That and counting as I put things in the cart. Invariably I lose track before I get to the register though. I spent the rest of my grocery budget today and still had plans to go to Costco on Thursday. Now I must regroup because I'm determined not to go over. I think we'll just make do instead. I think this whole thing is going to take practice. That and more time than I gave it this morning before I ran out the door with my list. I'm a work in progress. But I'm inspired.

  24. What is your breakfast strategy? That is what kills my budget the most, I think. And drinks! Ty only likes to drink that V8 Fusion (which is partly my fault because I wanted to be sure his growing body was getting it's fruits & veggies) but that stuff is now expensive!
    Yeesh! My goal this year is to get back on to our strict cash budget too since we'll be making 2 house payments again in a few months. So far I have yet to make it to the ATM. *sigh*
    I want to be like you.

  25. love it! My hubby & I have been "talking" about using only cash for groceries but while we are talking about it...we have to run into the store to pick up a few things....$50 later, we continue our discussion. Next day, gotta get a few things...$50 later, we plan some more....oh yea better get a few basics at costco...$100 later still need to finalize our plans...pretty soon it's a new month...ugh. I drive myself crazy. Your post was perfect timing!!! I'm GONNA do it & maybe I won't "talk" about it w/ anyone! :-)

    Great job & good luck!

    btw, do you have children? just wondering about how many people you feed on your budget.


  26. We went to a Piggly Wiggly while in Florida a couple years ago. To get boiled peanuts. I know..I know ;)
    Im enjoying reading about your grocery adventures. Im glad Im not the only one that has a hard time sticking to the food budget. might be mad about not having a costco...but we sure dont have any amish like stores around here!

  27. We're starting a trend - I just published my meal plan for the week, but dang! $60 limit! How do you do it? You probably don't get tempted by the poptarts with sprinkles and junk like that. I am usually a slacker when it comes to planning, but it sure made my life easier this week as the kids went back to school. I'm going to keep it up!

  28. I'm not sure where you are located, but I have tested out "The Grocery Game". It didn't save me enough money to mess with because I'm in a small town with only a Jay C, Sav A Lot, Rite Aid, and a dented place much like yours. But, one of my college friends saves TONS using it. She and I are also both Dave Ramsey fans-- which it sounds like you have a version of-- even if you don't know it.. with the cash. I cut coupons like it is my job and check out the JayC ad. There are just two of us and I barely seem to make our $350 per month (including soap, tp, etc). And, I'm guilty of buying more than my fair share of frozen meals... I am trying to stop, honest.. :)

    Do you can? In the summers, we can as much as we can (har har, no pun intended). Really though, it helps. And, we know where the produce came from and it is handy!

  29. Oh yeah...
    And, I've also been making my own laundry detergent and cleaners with vinegar. I'm about to make some dishwashing detergent too. It is all SUPER cheap and really easy.

  30. I'm so glad you've written this post. My main mission this year is to stop wasting money. I always really overspend at the supermarket and end up tossing out loads of food - such a waste. I am so determined to stop doing this that I bought a book by Larry Winget called You're Broke Because You Want To Be (I know the irony - spent money on a book to help me stop spending money!!) Larry Winget is not a familiar face here in the UK but it's as though the book was written just for me. Middle income families with no money left at the end of the month - where does it all go? The supermarket, that's where. Your post has made me more determined to write a menu, stick to the shopping list and use cash. I really hope I can manage it as working full time with two kids who have loads of activities after school I usually end up shopping late when I'm hungry - another no no!
    Thanks for your advice - I hope I'm smart enough to use it - time will tell!!

  31. There is a knock-off grocery store in North Carolina called Hoggly Woggly. I laughed for 20 minutes after I saw this sign.

  32. I don't clip...I'm kind of ashamed to admit it! You go girl. I totally admire your budget mind and that dinner looked amazing:)

  33. First of all I need the recipe for the meat loaf and the potatoes, they made my mouth water. I am also glad to see you making meat loaf. And I will continue to work with you on the "stocking up thing". I can see that the two of us will learn from each other. Love you ever so much!!

  34. I so loved this entry! You are a girl after my own heart! We have a $100 budget every week that includes, diapers, paper goods, cleaning, you name it. My goal is always to see how far under that I can be :) I too plan a "dinner" menu each week and try to keep stock on breakfast and lunch foods. I, however, stock up on really good sales sometimes...and then other weeks, like this week, try to use up what I've got...almost got away with not needing to go at all this week :)
    We are trying to eat healtheir, so I am now trying to stay out of the "middle" aisles and stick to the fresh stuff...hard to make that change when you're used to the other.
    Anyway, looking forward to this months usual!

  35. p.s. I so much love the challenge of staying under budget and seeing how much I can save, I turned Brooks down today when he offered to take my list and go for me...I just couldn't do it!

  36. my official goal is $30/week...but yeah, that doesn't happen. (i fully believe it could happen, even with our family of six, but i'm not that disciplined yet.) my realistic goal is $50/week. usually we average about $60 (and yep, that includes everything...all cleaning stuff, skin/body care, any meals eaten out--which obviously happens like never, or we'd be doing toast and water the rest of the week). i'm aiming to get back to the $40-50 range, though...

  37. You are doing GREAT!!!
    50 for a family of four is fantastic!!!!
    36 years ago, we had a 20/week budget and often we would eat a Sunday meal with my folks and take the leftovers.
    I'd take my little calculator with me to the store. I planned weekly menus as well, but as the kids became older and busier, sometimes the time or mood didn't gel with the menu.
    Thanks for sharing because I think that it's time to become intentional in EVERY way for me and meal planning/shopping is an easy way to get back into the swing and save some $$ to boot. You're so on target @ using cash as well. That credit card doesn't sting when it's being swiped thru...
    annie g

  38. i'm so glad you mentioned the dented can..i had "heard" there was one around that you've given me the name i was able to google and find it! YES! thanks!!!!

  39. OMG, please teach me how to do it. I love the idea of only cash. I won't even tell you how much I spent this week and I can't even tell you if there were more than 3 meals out of it. I think I learned the wrong way. My mother always ran to the market and would pick up stuff to make for dinner that night. I am guilty of that too.

    I think my biggest problem is (well, this is the only one I am going to tell you about, right now) is that I really hate to cook. I would rather just have someone cook for me and I would gladly do the dishes. I will be a follower now, because I want some recipes, lol

    Do the kids go to the market with you? That just kills me when mine do, I can't concentrate at all.


  40. I "shop the pig" every week. It's no wives' tale... it Wisconsin!

  41. You gotta check out this blog: My good pal writes it and spotlights gobs of supermarkets around the country with their weekly sales, coupon match ups that you can print off her site or clip from the paper, and lots of other free stuff that only she seems to know about... it is all for free, and I check it often. She has saved me a ton, and I hope you find it just as helpful!