Saturday, February 2, 2008

Stocking The Pantry

This morning my husband and I went and ran some errands.  By the time we got home, we had spent $384.20.  And I don't mind at all.   Why?

Because once a month or so we stock up our pantry, freezer and cupboards, and today was it.  

The first place we stopped was at Walgreens.  $16.23 bought some toiletries and knee highs for work....I'm just not the person who can go stocking- or sock-free in my shoes.

Then it was on to Market Basket, a discount grocer in our area.  The prices are great, but it's always a mob scene on the weekends, so I try to go no more than 1x a month.  $117.53 stocked us up on milk, cheese, canned goods, cleaning products, bread, veggies and so on.  Many of these items are organic, or biodegradable, and they are by far cheaper at this store than any other.  While we'd like to ultimately switch to an entirely local food diet, at this point we are making compromises.  We will, however, always buy organic if it is available.

Then on to BJs, our 'big box store'.  There we bought soap, shampoo, conditioner, cereal, organic eggs and meat, and a ton of other food for our pantry and freezer.  Total there was $213.07 

Before we left BJs, we stopped into the liquor area for beer and two bottles of wine.  We're having company tonight, so we wanted to be prepared.  We spent $37.37 on a case of beer and 2 bottles of merlot.  We have white wine already.

While our trip was probably $50 or so larger than most months, because of the dinner we are hosting tonight and a few other things coming up this month, this is about average.  We spend approximately $400.00 per month on groceries, paper goods, personal care items and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.  Some months we're over, some under, but it balances to about $400 a month by the end of the year.  

I don't really shoot for an exact amount each month - I would rather go for an average.  For one thing, this allows me to take advantage of really good deals, like today, when I had coupons for things that we use regularly.  Since we make much of our food from scratch, coupons are a rarity for me, and I wanted to take advantage.

I've tried doing our groceries other ways, and this is what works for us the best.  There's a lot of benefits to my method, including:
  • I  have limited free time.  Shopping on a weekly basis for a full week's worth of groceries is a huge time sink - about 90 minutes to 2 hours, not including meal planning.  This method allows me to spend about 2 1/2 hours one week shopping and putting away groceries at the beginning of each month, and then maybe 20 minutes a week for the remainder of the month.  
  • It also limits my temptation.  I'm easily distracted from my list, so I try to spend as little time grocery shopping as I can.
  • I often don't have time to spend on the weekends checking out farmstands and co-ops if I have to go to the regular grocery store too, but by getting the bulk of the shopping done in one week, I can go check out what is available for local food the rest of the month. It's important to me that we try to buy local, but I recognize that our time issues need to be taken into account. 

Of the money we spent, $17.83 is eligible for reimbursement from our pretax healthcare FSA account - band-aids and decongestant.  I will submit that receipt next week and we'll see that money back in our pockets - and back in the grocery budget, covering about a week's worth of milk, lunchmeat, and veggies.

Over the next 3 weeks, I will stop off at the store to get a fresh veggies, as needed, and milk. That's pretty much it... we're set for most of the month doing it this way.  I may not even need to go grocery shopping next weekend, as we have plenty of the things we need.

Believe it or not, we eat mostly fresh vegetables.  The nice thing about winter vegetables is that they tend to keep, so when you find a good deal, you can take advantage.  We just used up the last butternut squash we got at a local farm for $0.39/lb last week.  And I still have 2 perfectly good pumpkins sitting in my kitchen waiting to be made into soup or a side dish.  I buy lettuce and baby spinach pretty regularly, and occasionally other salad items.  I also try to find good deals on organic potatoes and onions, which we use with absolute abandon.  

We do eat frozen veggies, but not as much as some might think.  We will probably eat more frozen when we switch to more local food next year, between the CSA we joined and our garden.  

By the end of February, we'll probably spend about $440 on groceries.  That means that I'll need to pay attention for the months of March - May.  Not too much attention, but just enough to ensure our budget average isn't running too high until our garden starts producing.  

I don't get the absolute lowest price on everything, and I don't try.  I'd rather buy organic and environmentally friendly.  That said, I want a good deal on that stuff too.

1 comment:

Canadian Saver said...

I've actually tried a similar shopping strategy the last couple of months and I find in the long run it's cheaper. If I plan well enough, I only need to stop at the small store (on my way to work, no extra trip) once a week for milk and produce.

I find the more I am in the store, the more I spend...