Mrs. Rocket on groceries

by Rocket Finance

Mrs. Rocket has posted here before and I am trying to convince her to guest post on Rocket Finance at least once a week. I think it would be great for this blog if we heard from her regularly. (Yes, it has taken me almost a year to figure this out.) It is difficult to fit posting into her already busy schedule with three children, however, she managed to write a response to some of you who expressed some curiosity about how she feeds our family of five on less than $200 a month. From Mrs. Rocket:

Planning our menu:

  1. Sit down with your local grocery store ads and check the sales on meat. I plan my weekly meals around what meats are on sale.
  2. Buy a Sunday paper, so you can cut out coupons. Only cut out coupons for things you already buy or need. Otherwise you are tempted to buy “frivolous items”.
  3. Use your family calendar to figure out how many meals you will need to cook that week. Plan your meals for the week, and make a list of every ingredient you need. I actually write the meal planned for a particular day right on the calendar.
  4. Look for items from the list in the sale fliers. If your choices are not on sale, use alternate items, check for on-line coupons, or change your menu.
  5. Buy yourself a Quick Cooking cookbook (any edition will work) or subscribe to the Simple and Delicious magazine. (These are from Taste of Home, based in Greendale Wisconsin.) I plan almost all of my meals from recipes found in these books and magazines-they are quick, easy, and use items mostly found in your pantry. Another good source is the All You magazine at Walmart. All You contains frugal meal plans and coupons.
  6. Plan to cook a couple of tried and true recipes each week. In our family, they include spaghetti, chicken enchiladas, mini pizzas, chili, stir fry, tacos and other sometimes healthier options. If you make one or two of your “home run” recipes a week, you are more likely to have the ingredients on hand.

Shopping to cut cost:

  1. Buy canned goods at a discount store like Aldis. They are much cheaper and because they are used as the base for many meals, it is not as important to use name brands.
  2. Keep a list of items you buy each week, and find out which stores have the lowest non-sale prices on such items.
  3. Only use membership warehouses after you have priced the same items at your grocery store. More often than you think, you can buy an off-brand of the same item for much cheaper at your local store. But if your family tends to consume more of a certain item, it can be cheaper to buy in bulk at one of the big clubs.
  4. Purchase meats, fresh fruit and veggies, ice cream, and snack items only when they are on sale. They are the priciest parts of your grocery budget, but they are always on sale at least once a month. You can rotate your menu according to the sales.
  5. If you have children, serve easy and kid-friendly items for lunch. These are typically cheaper and easy to fix. Examples: mac and cheese, pb&j sandwiches, quesadillas, ramen noodles, grilled cheese, etc.
  6. Use staples such as rice and pasta in your meal planning. They are cheap and can be made into creative side dishes.
  7. Tossed salad is cheap (if you buy all of the items on sale) and is a great side with any meal. Cut up the lettuce and other items yourself though-you get more for your money than bagged salad. We usually eat salad at every supper.
  8. Make items from scratch. Waffles, muffins, cookies, even bread if you are ambitious (I am not…) are all cheaper when made at home.

Additional comments and observations from Rocket:

  • Our budget benefits from the fact that my employer provides my lunch once or twice a week. The other days, I come home for lunch or “bag it”.
  • Our budget also benefits from the fact that our kids are young. Although when you consider that we spend $40 a month on diapers. . . we probably break even.
  • We usually eat supper at home six days a week.
  • Our “eating out” money does not come from the $200 grocery budget.
  • There is a deficit in our grocery budget every week that is made up by random occurrences like someone slipping us a $10 or $20 bill, some kind of bonus, eating at a friend or relative’s house, church fellowships or other “free meal” situations. One time I coordinated an event that had left-over food and the director told me to take it home. It saved almost $50 from our monthly budget. So the reality is that our monthly budget might be closer to $220. We believe that God has promised to meet our needs. . .
  • I do not believe that our family menu is monotonous in the least. I was surprised when Mrs. Rocket stated that she sometimes fixes the same meals from week to week. I doubt that she repeats the same supper meal more than once a month.
  • Choosing a good cookbook is a huge key to frugality in the kitchen. Recipes that include common, versatile ingredients will help to hold down expenses.
  • Baking waffles, pancakes, muffins, etc. from scratch is generally cheaper than purchasing those items, but I am not certain that baking bread at home is cheaper than purchasing it in the store.
  • I still think that there is more room to tighten our budget. If our deficit gets too big, we will consider the so-called “nuclear” options:
    • Eating cereal every morning for breakfast
    • Eating meat less
    • Peanut butter toast is good for any meal
    • We could consider growing our own vegetables
    • I personally could afford to quit eating seconds and thirds
    • We could never buy fast food
    • We could sometimes do a better job of re-using left-overs

Hope you found a tip here that helps your budget! For more ideas I strongly recommend Digerati Life. The Silicon Valley blogger often posts great suggestions for decreasing your food bill. Her latest is coupon tips and tricks that can cut your grocery bill by 80%.

  1. 6 Responses to “Mrs. Rocket on groceries”

  2. By [email protected] on May 12, 2008 | Reply

    Great tips! I’m going to Stumble this one 🙂

  3. By rocketc on May 12, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks! I’ll pass it along. I was surprised by some of her techniques for getting the most out of a buck.

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