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The Brass Tacks of Doing It Cheaper

February 25, 2009 | Category: On The Job

I never really got the hang of food shopping.

It's not rocket science, OK? But with the best of intentions, I would carefully make a list and go to the store. Then I would still be running back to the store a few times a week to get things I "needed".

By the time I left the Big Gig we were spending up to $400 a week on food! Part of that was just the cost of living in Chicago. But there was also so much waste - food that would go bad, and cans in my pantry that I could swear have been there since the 90's.

It's become my mission to change the way I budget and prepare food. without sacrificing our standards or giving up our indulgences.

These days, I usually spend less than $100 a week on groceries.

[[PDF download (Free) of our actual budget and meal plan after the jump]]

Much of this has happened over time, in little choices and habits that I cultivated. But the key - the "trick" of it - is that I buy only what I need for this week.

Getting over the panic of not having a dozen choices for food at any given moment was the absolute moment of success.

I commit to a menu and I've learned the tips of savvy shopping. (Cardinal tip - one shop a week, no "pick up a thing or two" trips!) This combination has cut our budget by 66%. Plus? We still eat the same kinds of meals we've always loved, with all our favorites and even restaurant meals.

I spend, out of pocket: about $85 a week for food we'll eat for the week, $15 a week on "staples" like flour and spices, and $20 loose for Dunkin's coffee, last-minute items, and lunch out for my husband at work once a week.

Disclaimer, sorta: Cash spend is about $120 a week, but I also have our milk delivered, do stock-up trips a couple of times a year like to a Costco, have dinners out for special occasions, turkey for Thanksgiving, order food from Iceland, birthday cakes, etc. With all that added back in, our true average in '08 was closer to $148/week for the 3 of us + the dog.

To illustrate, here is a .PDF of my week's actual menus, recipes, budget (last page), shopping, with some pictures and links. If it's helpful, please let me know. [[Download file]].

If you have any tips, recipes, or stories about your own budget-crunching food efforts - I would love to reach about it!

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Tagged: Budget, Shopping, Food, Planning, Grocery, Coupon, Recipe, Download, Free Corporate, Mommy, Life
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That's a fantastic PDF. Though it's going to take me a while to get through step 2... I fear it's too painful!

Posted by: Shannon on February 27, 2009 02:33 PM

I've been in a funk the last couple of weeks, not planning ahead, not wanting to cook, and consequently I've had vegetables rotting in the crisper and we've been eating out too much. Thank you for the inspiration to do better (we'll see if I can follow through with it next week.)

Posted by: Nic on February 25, 2009 06:52 PM

Thanks, Amy.

I have a .PDF someone created back in the 90's of how they fed a family of 4 for a week on, like, $25. I love that old thing - it inspires me often. Every once in a while, we'll have a week like that and it gives me a boost. But do it too often and the peanut gallery revolts with food boredom.

I really appreciate you taking the time to comment!

Posted by: Elizabeth on February 25, 2009 12:50 PM

This was absolutely fascinating and very educational. It obviously took a lot of time to compile. Thank you for sharing it.

Posted by: Amy on February 25, 2009 12:38 PM