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.