Weekly Grocery Shop - Kitchen Experiences of a Student Blog at Allrecipes.com - 137521

Kitchen Experiences of a Student

Weekly Grocery Shop 
Nov. 15, 2009 8:52 pm 
Updated: Nov. 20, 2009 6:08 am
My boyfriend and I have been getting better and better at budgeting. I only work part time because I am a full time student, and though he has a full-time career with benefits and all that, he’s still paying back loans from college and is saving to buy a new car (even though he’s still in debt... yeah... still don’t really understand it, just glad we don’t have joint accounts lol). One area that we have been trying to cut back on is food – we’ve stopped going out or ordering in as much, and we’re working on getting our groceries down to less than $200 a month. When I first moved out, everyone’s advice for saving money was to stick to the grocery list – I was terrible at that for the first few months, and I managed to find excuses to buy tons of things I didn’t need (like, “oh, a huge, $15 box of goldfish crackers – they’ll probably all get eaten and they’re so cute, so I’ll get them”). But now that we shop every Sunday, rather than just when we need it, I find we’re actually saving money because we buy much less food every time, knowing that we’ll be back in a week.

My boyfriend works in the corporate office of a large grocery chain here, so we get 10% off all our groceries – I can’t even tell you how nice that is. However, the closest store of that chain is 15 minutes away from our apartment – we do a weekly shop there every week and then buy any forgotten items, or any emergency items at a more expensive store that’s just down the block.

The chain we shop at has coupons and flyers every week, so I look for good deals and add them to the list, even if I’m not making something with that in it – it’s nice to stock up when things are cheap. When we get to the grocery store, we look at the “coupon wall” at the front of the store and pull off things we might get (there’s very rarely a coupon for something that’s actually on our list, unfortunately, but again, cheap off-list items are allowed). Then we start shopping. We get all the main grocery items in the aisles first (cereal, canned veggies, frozen veggies, crackers, baking stuff, and so on), then we hit dairy. The dairy items are nearly the same every week – milk, eggs, and butter.

In the meat and produce departments we have a little bit of freedom, because we generally just go by what’s on sale (unless there is something specific I need for a recipe). We’ve actually cut down on meat quite a lot – I’ve made chicken once in the last two weeks, and we’ve had ground beef only once as well. We’re eating lots of fish, so I’m always glad to find new recipes for any kind of fish (especially salmon or tilapia!) – if you have any to share I’d really appreciate it! :) We like to keep lots of vegetables on hand but with only two of us it’s not very practical, so we try to get small amounts of everything: peppers (sweet and hot), green onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lettuce – then we stock up mid-week at the expensive place down the street on a few other produce items.

So far, we’ve been so good about sticking to the list – while we’re shopping if there’s something one of us wants that isn’t on the list, we put it on there for the next week, and if by next week we realize it’s unnecessary it comes off the list. One thing we have started doing, however, is a weekly “splurge” item – each of us is allowed to choose one item under $3 that isn’t on the list. This week I bought flavoured cream cheese (it’s more expensive than the regular stuff and we only need one container at a time – but I splurged this week) and the BF bought canned oysters (and stunk up the living room with them – ew.) The week before I got a small jar of sweet pickles and the BF got a bag of candies. This is a really fun (you know, compared to how fun grocery shopping is) way to buy the unnecessary things.

So, this week our groceries cost $42, but the list was a little smaller than usual because there weren’t any “staples” on it – peanut butter, ketchup, and other “lasts forever” kinds of things. Just produce, dairy, and fish mainly – plus the splurge items :)

What would you buy with splurge items (or, more importantly for me, what are some good ideas I could get next week??)
Nov. 16, 2009 7:49 am
Wow! what a great job you two are doing at living on a tight budget! The only comment is that you need to guard against getting bored with scrimping, and blow the budget. As long as it is a challenge and that challenge is fun and healthy, you are on your way to becoming truely FRUGAL. Benjamin Franklin listed Frugality as a virtue. I find that meal planning while incorporating a variety of meats/fish/poultry helps balance the budget as well as the diet. If you make your own salad dressings and soups, you are also able to save. There used to be a cookbook called "Good, Cheap Food". The basic idea was the timeless concept of: roast a whole chicken for Sunday dinner, make a casserole with pasta, veggies and leftover chicken, use small leftovers for chicken salad sandwiches, and make a soup or stock from the bones. You certainly wouldn't want to do that every week, but the idea is to not waste anything. If you want to explore this concept, check out some very old cookbooks - People who caught their own fish and grew their own turkeys used every ounce of them - even feathers for pillows and burying the fish parts for fertilizer. I prefer to shop in supermarkets. My favorite "secret" is to look for marked down protein. There are usually stickers on meats that are getting near their sell-by dates. They are marked down for a quick sale. Often the pricier steaks and lamb and pork will be 1/3 of the regular price. Even if the piece is too small for my family, I will get it to combine with something else, or save until I have enough for a stew, etc. I either freeze it right away, or use it that night. It does provide us with a variety of higher-cost meats on a budget. Some stores also have a frozen hamburger section where they sell burger and burger patties that were getting close to the sell-by date. These are the best bargains. You have to look for or ask for them, and be impeccible with keeping them cold and using them up. These are the best meats for meatloaf and pastas. I don't buy poultry this way, and don't recommend it in general. As for flavored cream cheese - blending any fruit or herbs into cream cheese is so easy. Fresh strawberries are the easiest, but crushed, drained pineapple is good too. I once made tea party sandwiches for 5 year old girls and their moms using toast spread with pink cream cheese (strawberry bits in food processor with a block of cream cheese). I then cut them with a heart shaped cookie cutter and decorated them with a slice of strawberry which was incidentally, heart-shaped. I made ice tea and used my glass punch bowl and little glass punch cups. I even put cherries in the ice cubes. I probably should have made pink lemonade. It was all very elegant and very frugal. It looked good, tasted good, and made us all feel good. I would splurge on a small quantity of the best fruit in season or produce in season. Or even the best dried apricots or maybe organic cashews. The 100 calorie packages of tiny cookies or Craisens. They cost more per pound in those pre-measured packages, but they last longer and travel well.
Susan Smith 
Nov. 16, 2009 11:46 am
I would splurge on pesto, sun dried tomatoes or olives. I've found all of them at the $1.00 store. The pesto was name brand and the olives and sundried tomatoes were very good quality. (I actually bought 12 jars of the tomatoes because you never know what the store will have next time.)
Nov. 16, 2009 2:20 pm
Living thrifty has its rewards. If the budget allows store up on pantry items canned soups, flour, sugar when they are sale. Weekly I keep onion, celery and carrots in the fridge so I can make a flavorful soup our of any leftovers. Today was sweetpotato and chicken soup. Even the little ones liked it. Team Up cooking is another way to take advantage sales by cooking with friends in bulk. Utilize the freezer when possible.
Nov. 16, 2009 2:32 pm
I splurge on different kinds of cheeses. If I know I'll have a little extra leftover after getting everything on my list I buy a cheese I haven't had in a while and crackers. Heaven!! ha ha ha Good job on sticking to the budget. My BF and I do something quite similar actually.....its nice to see other people's ideas. Thanks for the great blog!
Nov. 16, 2009 3:30 pm
I like to have candy bars and chocolate from time to time, so I would get that as a splurge item. One thing I save tons of money by doing is baking all my own bread items. It is *very* cheap and pretty easy to make your own muffins, bagels, english muffins, sliced bread, rolls, etc. and flour goes a long, long way!
Nov. 16, 2009 4:24 pm
i splurge on little treats for family and friends
Nov. 17, 2009 2:00 am
Gosh. I'm going to have to take everyone's advice and use it on MY groceries. Thanks for bringing up the subject PlokaDot!
Nov. 17, 2009 11:11 am
Go PolkaDot! When we first cut out eating out and started budgeting, I felt restricted, and a bit stressed. I started making everything from scratch, which was interesting at first! My family had to suffer through some bad meals at first:) Now that I have the hang of budget shopping and cooking all the time, we actually don't care to eat out. We save that for special occassions, unless it's a quick drive through meal on a crazy day. Now that I have 4 kiddos, I actually shop once a month. It saves a lot of time, but you do have to have plenty of storage and freezer space. AR makes this easy, with their handy shopping list. In our area, the Baptist church organization started a store, where local businesses donate foods. This has really helped out on our grocery budget. You can buy canned goods for a fraction of the price. Just this weekend, they had an expensive, healthy cereal for 50 cents a box. The cereal wasn't outdated either-I thought I'd hit the jackpot! I'm proud of you guys for starting this from the start...wish I had:) There's always a saver and a spender in a relationship...learning how to work together is the trick!
Nov. 17, 2009 12:26 pm
You are doing it the right way. Congratulations. A marriage will be much better because you do work at it togeher. I used to keep a sheet of paper on the fridge. When an item (we used always) got low, it went on the list. That way you do not go over your food budget by going to that expensive store. Try buying your favorite veggies from the part of the store where you have to eat it right away mark downs. Bring fresh home, saute' it in olive oil and freeze in baggies. I save a lot doing that. You can even put a group of things in the gallon freezer bag as long as each type is wrapped several times in the plastic wrap first. You may too find that sometimes a roast is the least expensive way to go. For instance, in a pork shoulder is on sale, roast it with potatoes, onions, carrots. Use it sliced up this way twice at least. Then slice leftover and make a ham/potato casserole another 2 nights. Make a pot of split pea and ham soup for 2 meals (freeze leftovers). Make ground ham and pickle relish with mayo for delish sandwiches. Think that way and you will find, if it is on sale there are tons on ways to make one kind of meat go dozens of different ways. We like Mexican so, once you have the spices (make up a taco seasoning (see this forum). Put it in a jar. Use corn tortilla's, refried beans, salsa and top with tomato chunks and an avacado when on sale. (That would be my treat food as I LOVE avacados and only get them on sale). I get artichokes once a year and I only get two. Oh my, sigh, in heaven. Keep that list on your fridge, it will help you out soooo much. My weekly menu went up there too, so I always knew exactly what we were having each day. Buy your flour, sugar, etc. on sale. Buy yeast in the jar, not the little pkts.. God Bless, you are doing an amazing job. May you have 50 years of happiness like my hubby and I have had.
Nov. 17, 2009 12:32 pm
Put all your food into a coolor with an ice pkg or two especially your meat and definitely any fish.
Nov. 17, 2009 12:37 pm
Have you considered shoping other days of the week, grocery stores seldom have in-store specials on weekends, then too I find them out of so many things. I NEVER shop weekends, my favorite time is EARLY MORNINGS, before 7:30 AM on Wednesdays and/or Thursdays. Also, avoid the Bakery and Deli Sections. Keep it up, you're on the right track!!!!
Nov. 17, 2009 1:32 pm
Find a copy of "The Tightwad Gazette" for REAL inspiration!
Nov. 17, 2009 1:49 pm
Thanks everyone for the encouragment and advice!! Cajunchef, we used to shop Tuesday nights but found that our grocery store stocks up on Sunday morning - so we get the fresh stuff if we go Sundays. It's a discount grocery store so they always have some kind of special. Beverly Jane, I freeze as much as I can but our freezer is small. I'll defniitely start sauteeing veggies to freeze though, thank you!! :)
Nov. 17, 2009 6:59 pm
What great ideas....our family has cut eating out as well I clip coupons like crazy and pair them with the sales ad whenever possible it helps especially when the grocery store doubles them :-)....as for a splurge I'm a huge coffee lover so I'd say a smaller bag of flavored coffee beans that you can grind in the store or at home sometimes I buy a quarter or half bag depending on price and mix it with my reg cheap coffee to strech it:)... Your on the right track as others have mentioned I wish I would have started out this way would have saved lots of money!!
Nov. 18, 2009 3:05 am
I TOTALLY relate! I moved in with my BF last September, and consistently our budget downfall is food! (What can I say, we just love it!) We order in/eat out too much because of unplanned (or sometimes planned) things like a girls' night (or guys' night) out, or a "we need a date night" splurge. Despite that we both enjoy cooking, its a weekly obstacle to not only get the grocery bill to around $50/week, but to only eat in with that food! It's nice to see someone else around my age w/o a family trying to balance cooking and budgeting with having fun. We also enjoy fresh veggies but I find that we tend to throw out leftovers. Good luck! :)
Nov. 18, 2009 3:46 am
I take advantage of sales on staples and canned products too, but I go a little futher by buying produce on sale and canning it myself. I love to put up little red potatoes with parsley then we even have them ready for on the grill in the summer without taking as long to cook.
Nov. 18, 2009 9:05 am
Congratulations! I wish I could do that with my weekly grocery shopping, but with two teenagers in the house, it's pointless to even try. After spending $250 on food - what I hear is "Mom, there is nothing to eat in this house!! Drives you crazy. Best recipe from Salmon (a favorite in our house): if you care to try. 2 TBSP Hoisin Sauce 1 TBSP Soy Sauce 1 tsp sesame oil 1/4 tsp ground black pepper Combine ingredients. Pat fish dry and coat with sauce. Bake in 425 oven - to your liking.. Enjoy!!
Nov. 18, 2009 4:00 pm
We are on a budget as well, but I have learned to love searching for Kopy Kat Recipes. I find similar recipes for our favorite restaurants and once every week or two, I spend an extra $5-7 and duplicate a favorite. It allows us to enjoy some of our restaurant favorites for about 1/4 of the price!
Nov. 18, 2009 4:06 pm
I don't know if you are carnivores, but there are a ton of ways to save on meat, as well. Slow cooking lesser cuts to tender them up, etc.
Nov. 19, 2009 7:14 am
Kathleen - that's a great idea! Where do you find those recipes? Usually when we go out, we go for some kind of ethnic food - shawarma, Indian, or Vietnamese are our favourites. I'm going to start trying some Indian recipes out.
Nov. 19, 2009 8:22 am
if there are certain things u buy a lot go on their website, most places have coupons as well.
Nov. 19, 2009 10:57 am
My big spurlge items are chocolate for baking because I love to bake and eat it too. I might spend some on a nicer cheese than just American such as Meunster, blue, gorgonzola, feta or Farmers Cheese when I can find it. Since we are on a very tight budget, I might get those glazed donuts from Krisy Kreme. I might be wanting a different spice that might be expensive for us, like Saffron. We are a family of 5 with 2 large dogs and a budget of about $300 per month. Sometimes I make it sometimes I don't. I had a very large garden and a friend has chickens. We trade for eggs. We don't starve.
Nov. 19, 2009 1:44 pm
I too have found that meal planning has made my food budget go down. Each week I sit down plan what we will have for each day and make sure I have all the stuff I need before shopping. Of course life happens so sometimes there are adjustments made but otherwise it have been the best money saver
Nov. 19, 2009 3:25 pm
PolkaDot- Just type in Copy Cat or Kopy Kat recipes in Google with whatever recipe you are looking for. I have had great luck with Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Carlos O'Kelly's. If you are a Red Lobster addict like we are, Bisquick makes a great Cheddar/Garlic Biscuit mix for about $.78 a bag that is a close match!
Nov. 19, 2009 3:26 pm
We are new "empty nesters" so we are enjoying eating out more often than before, but we love to cook. Hubby & I get in the kitchen and make a whole afternoon out of preparing a feast. Usually it's seafood, we love seafood. So, when I "splurge" it's on shrimp, crablegs, oysters, or mussels - a little more than $3 but if it's on sale we can rationalize it's a good deal. And, using PolkaDot's $3 limit, if we combine our limit it's not much over $6 for a lb. of shrimp or crablegs. I'd also splurge on chocolate. When my kids were home that's usually what we splurged on, that, or ice cream.
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About Me
I'm a 22 year old novice cook - I live with my boyfriend in a small apartment with a teeny kitchen. Right now I'm trying to eat healthier and cut some meat out of my diet - I'm writing a blog about cooking my way through a vegetarian cookbook! I love trying new recipes, and adjusting them to suit my tastes.
My favorite things to cook
I love BBQing, making casseroles, and putting together any kind of soup. I'm also trying to get into baking - my kitchen is tiny so I have to use simple recipes, but I love making muffins and cookies to share.
My favorite family cooking traditions
When I was little my mom taught me how to make brown sugar syrup for our homemade pancakes - everytime she made pancakes at home, I would make the sauce to go with them.
My cooking triumphs
Lasagna Day - My first ever dinner party in my apartment, I made spinach salad, stuffed mushrooms, lasagna from scratch, and apple crisp. It was a hit with my friends, I got so many compliments!
My cooking tragedies
When I was in high school I decided to make some cinnamon buns, but the only recipe I could find was a huge batch, so I cut it in half. However, when I went to mix the ingredients, I found myself adding the full amount of some but only half of others, and I couldn't remember how much of each I'd already done. I tried cooking them anyways, but they were terrible!
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