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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Food Chain

I love grocery shopping. I have a mild addiction to collecting coupons and cashing them in when the item is also on sale. I go on every grocery shopping trip with anticipation of seeing the "You saved $XX" at the bottom of my receipt. I even save the receipts to see if I can beat previous high score attempts.

Video games? Meh. Grocery shopping? Game on.

Problem is though that I have come to the conclusion that whether it is grocery shopping, clothes shopping, home improvement shopping, or whatever shopping, nine times out of ten you walk out of the store with a purchase you didn't plan -- or need -- to make. I'm guilty, and I know my husband admits to it as well. I run into the store to grab a block of cheese and I come out with a pineapple, some ice cream and a frozen pizza; he goes in for peanut butter and ends up with a cart full of wine.

Obviously it adds up but we tend to forget about these purchases... they are rarely ever things we really need and we just categorize them in with the grocery bill or home improvement project cost instead of taking them for what they are: wasted money.

In my attempt to simplify life around here, I'm doing my own experiment with the grocery shopping since that's one of my self-proclaimed jobs around the house (not that my husband objects at all): I'm going to see if we can go for a month without going to the grocery store.

It's not usual for me to go 3-4 times a month. This is 3-4 times every month I have the opportunity to throw things in the cart I hadn't planned to buy and we don't need.

My theory is that by planning out meals and focusing on things that keep longer, we will stop making those quick and carelessly overspent trips to the store and therefore save money. I spent most of yesterday morning making a list of meals we could have for the month, including meals that made good leftovers, meals that were quick and easy, and a couple that would satisfy our want for a nice fancy "dinner date night" spent at home.

Unfortunately our gardens are not in production (except for the lettuce right now) so we currently have to rely on the grocery store for nearly all of our vegetables, but that should be changing by the end of the month and going into next month. Even so, I mainly purchased vegetables that we aren't growing anyway, especially ones that keep well such as sweet potatoes, carrots, corn on the cob and cabbage (fruits: apples to keep in the fridge, oranges, and a honeydew melon). For veggies we use a lot in recipes, I stocked up on frozen: broccoli, peppers, corn, peas, etc. I grabbed bags of dry beans for soups, hummus and such since I tend to prefer them over canned. I also bought a few canned tomatoes, olives, tuna and such. To avoid the "I don't want to cook tonight, let's do take out" expensive option, we have frozen pizza, jarred pasta sauce, and frozen veggie burgers. The only meat we eat is seafood so I grabbed some frozen shrimp and a box of tilapia. We use boxed almond milk (the unfridgerated kind) because it keeps so much longer for the small amount we use regularly so I have 2 full boxes in the pantry (which should be more than enough). We make our own bread so we a good stash of flour.

Our total grocery bill was under $300. This also included two bags of dog food, ingredients I needed to make a couple side dishes for a potluck cookout we are having this upcoming weekend, and a couple other necessities. But since we are starting off our grocery money counting with a kitchen pretty well stocked with several things anyway, I feel fine just calling our grocery bill for the next 30 days $300.

Anything grocery related that I buy in the next 30 days will have to be out of necessity (ie. a missing ingredient I can't get around that will mean the rest of the purchased ingredients will go unused or we are held up at gun point and we don't have enough sugar to hand over to the demanding gunman) and it will be added to the total.

My hypothesis (wow, I found a use for that word outside of my 1992 high school science class) is that 1) even though I spent a lot of money all at one time with a "stock up" trip, our total grocery bill for the month will be less and 2) we will be forced to use foods already in the house that we commonly pass up.

So we'll see. Of course we are starting off on an oddly oriented week for food because of my graduation; last night we went out for dinner (buy one/get one free at Ruby Tuesdays) in celebration of my official pinning ceremony for school, Thursday we are being treated out for dinner at a fancy-schmancy restaurant after my graduation, and Saturday is my graduation cookout. But I'm not going to let that be an excuse, we've gatta start somewhere.

I'm interested to see how it goes.

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