Grocery Budget

The way I grocery shop has changed considerably over the years and it’s continuing to evolve. Since we eat most meals at home, the grocery budget is a double-edged sword. On one hand, we’re eating in to save money so I have to be frugal in my purchasing decisions. On the other, we eat in so often that I have to prepare quality meals in order to avoid rushing out to eat all the time. Now that I’m a Mother, organic food and healthy meal choices are creeping onto my radar as well. But, now that I’m a Mother, I need easy-to-prepare meals more than ever. Thankfully, we have two refrigerators and a beautifully remodeled kitchen so I’ve got the space to do it all!

The spendthrift in me pores over the circulars, shops the sales, and uses websites like http://www.forthemommas.com to find out how to match coupons with sales for huge savings. I make a meal plan based on what’s on sale at the store and I check my cabinets to make sure I’m not over-buying. Most importantly, I shop with a list so that I don’t go overboard. When I was devout to this practice and trying to keep the budget as lean as possible, I spent about $50 per week on our groceries. Coupons generally saved me $7-$13 and the store discounts accounted for another $30-$40.

My wholesome, eco-conscious, lover of local goods, self has decided to loosen the purse strings to allow for meats from the butcher. My husband works closer to Lancaster, so he picks up a “Freezer Pack” of roasts, t-bones, ribs, ground beef, chicken, bacon, and sausage. Having the meat on hand makes it so easy to pick out dinners. It’s also saved me on many occasions from having to rush out to the grocery store for food. The portions are sized for 4, so I always save half the meal for leftovers. This bulk purchase costs more up front, but is actually affordable in the long run. We’ve also started to go to the farmer’s market. I’m hoping to do this more and more, but I have to shut off the part of my brain that allows me to only buy items that are on sale. I truly draw a blank when I walk past the booths, since I am pre-programmed for bargain shopping.

Last spring I debated joining a CSA and I’m glad that I decided not to. Although I would have loved to have access to local produce, I know that too much would have gone to waste. My goal next summer is to shop at the Farmer’s Markets often and to learn more about cooking with fresh, wholesome fruits and veggies. Since the most expensive item in the kitchen is the one that gets thrown out, I need to practice using everything I buy and storing food. This means trying new recipes and learning how to freeze produce.

When I do have to splurge, it’s usually because I’ve been inspired by Food Network. I’ve had tremendous success with Portabello Lasagna, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Homemade Fudge, and Twice Baked Potatoes to name a few. You’ve got to live a little, right?

This is where the magic happens!

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