Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Third Week of February, Shopping

This month I've been trying to save money by planning my meals ahead of time and only shopping twice a month. The first two weeks went pretty well, although I got sick at the end of the second week, which threw things off, and ended up changing the plan to accomodate a guest for a weekend as well. I spent $140.00 at the beginning of the month, starting from what was very nearly a bare kitchen, but for condiments and spices. Over the course of two weeks, I did make two additional shopping trips, both times to take advantage of irresistable sales, which added another thirty dollars to my total. One thing that has become shockingly evident is that we spend far more money on groceries than I had initially believed. In my offhanded budgeting, I'd always alloted about 200 dollars a month to food, but the total, including meals out, was obviously considerably higher. 

This weekend I made a new food plan for the next two weeks, and this evening headed back to the grocery store to shop for it again. My total bill was 103 dollars, which included 11 dollars to cat food, a once per month purchase, and ten dollars for the ingredients for the nacho dip I'm taking to this weekend's Oscar party and a family-sized bag of tortilla chips. I go to a party once a month or less and figure my husband and I will likely not need supper on the evening of the party, so it nearly balances out. 

I made mistakes, though. Or perhaps not so much mistakes as unaccounted deviations from the plan, some of which were probably mistakes, and some of which I should start accounting for next month. I do most of my food shopping at Meijer and Sams Club, which are the cheapest stores in my area. Mejier suckered me in this week with a 10 for 10, get the 11th free sale. I love those things, and I ended up with all 11 items, only two of which, English muffins, were actually on the plan.  Three of the items were packs of fresh mushrooms, which I love but usually don't indulge in, and two  were frozen orange juice concentrate, which has been very expensive lately. I can forgive myself that, because I do need to put more fruits and veggies in the plan. But I also bought two personal pizzas, and two pints of ice cream. Not so good. 

To a certain extent, I'm ready to beat myself up for not following the plan. I made the plan, the plan is smart, the plan is wise. I don't have kids badgering me for sweets, why can't I just buy what I should? But at the same time, it's very hard to give up all indulgences, no matter what kind of fiscal hardship you're in. The foods that I bought were not terribly expensive, and will either count as a full meal or last over several snacktimes. And given the number of times I looked longingly at some favorite or another and said "no," I could've done a lot worse. Four sins at 91 cents apiece is not going to break the bank... as long as they keep me from the bigger sins of places like Pizza Hut or Dairy Queen. 

The real major issue I'm going to have to come to terms with is beverages. I've been drinking a lot more water on the first two weeks of the plan. I got a Brita pitcher for Christmas, a happy necessity since what comes out of the tap smells fresh from a municipal swimming pool. But both my husband and I are caffeine addicts, and we generally prefer it cold. For a long time, we would go through four or five twelve-packs of pop every week, but that was one of the first things to go when the budget needed slashed. We discovered the small miracle of tea-in-a-tube, those little ice tea mixes that you shake into a bottle of water for delicious instant caffeine. The water cost is small, we each use one new bottle per week and just refill over and over, and it's very convenient for my husband to take to school. At an average of 20 cents per tube, or roughly .8 cents per fluid ounce of tea, it's a lot more economical than any bottled or canned beverage. But we still go through a lot of it between us. My single biggest purchase was finding a sale on Crystal Light tea tubes and buying six boxes of 14 for 15 dollars. That was half the original price, 18 cents per tube, but it's still an exceedingly healthy bite of my monthly budget. We'll see how far  I can stretch them before I have to decide whether to buy again. 

Food I bought for the plan today and yesterday:  
Bananas, 1 bunch
Baking Soda 
Fried Rice seasoning, 1 packet
Eggs, 1 dozen
Onions, 2
Penne Pasta, 1 box
Ground Turkey, 1 pound
Sugar, 2 pounds
Garlic, 1 bulb
Dry Split Peas, 4 pounds
Cereal, 1 box generic Choco-Peanut Butter Puffs
Jalepeno Peppers, 4
Velveeta, 1 block
Frozen peas, 1 bag
Cream of Mushroom, 1 can
Apples, 7 pounds (good sale this week, and I've got the dehydrator out)
English Muffins, 2 six-packs
Skim Milk, 2 gallons
Artichoke Hearts, 2 jars (one for next month, on sale)
Spaghetti, 3 boxes
Spaghetti Sauce, 2 jars
Hot Dogs, 1 pack
Generic Chips, 2 bags
Potatoes, 10 pounds
Chicken Breasts, 2.5 pounds
Sunflower Seeds, 1 can
Rolled Oats, 1 can
Tuna, 2 cans
Ramen, 24 packs (case sale, for now and later)
Corn Muffin Mix, 24 boxes (ditto)
Shank Ham, 8 pounds (good sale! good to freeze!) 

Total plan spending: approx. 94 dollars
Total non-plan: approx 27 dollars, including party food

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