Today’s $64 Grocery Budget Series contributor post is from Natasha. Natasha is a wife, mom of 4, and skilled writer at Houseful of Nicholes. She took on the challenge at her local grocery store, Mariano’s, and did an amazing job. Check out her tips, tricks, and final tally below!
I’m not one to shy away from a challenge. Usually it involves how creative I can be with a limited budget. However, shopping for my family of six, for a week on a $64 budget seemed a bit scary for me. Especially at one of my favorite grocery stores, Mariano’s, but I would not be defeated. It took quite a bit of finessing, and I managed to come away with a week’s worth of groceries to feed my ENTIRE family, full portion sizes.
What I Did
Usually, I do not look at circulars. I make a list of what I need, and I go for what I know. I do a lot of comparison shopping while in the store, but if I was going to be successful in this challenge, I had to change the way that I approached my grocery shopping for the week. I took inventory of what I already had at home – thank goodness for a good staples base of rice, flour, eggs, etc – and proceeded to make my list, with some help of course.
Mariano’s has an online site, where you can clip their store coupons directly to your rewards card. I did that for the first time ever, and it kept me focused. By doing this, I was also able to create the menu for the week, because I could pair everything up properly instead of standing in the middle of aisle nine calling my husband to see if we had a certain ingredient at home.
I also created meals that were heavier on the side of the produce that I was buying. If I could make a whole meal from it – of course that was a hit already in our home – then I was going to do it. It’s not me reinventing the wheel, but oiling it for efficiency.
How I Shopped
This is something that I learned in college when I was taking my economics course – not to mention having to write about it – but I shopped the anchor of the store, meaning the outer three walls, since the front of the store is the fourth wall. I stayed in produce, meats, and dairy, which also can be the most expensive areas to stay in. In order to avoid that, I shopped the sales, and actually weighed my produce (something which I don’t do often – and end up having to throw away money because I either don’t use it quickly enough, or cook too much, and end up not eating the leftovers.) so that I could only buy what I was going to use.
I didn’t buy the store brand for everything. Amazingly, the store brand milk was NOT the cheapest, so I saved in that area. I purchased a turkey. In April. Yes, in April. This is something that I wouldn’t normally do, because TURKEY IN APRIL, but it was only 8 pounds, and would create three different meals that none of us would tire of.
I used what I had at home. I bake bread every week, so I nixed the three loves of bread I usually get, which eats up a large chunk of my grocery budget anyway because of how many PB&J’s and grilled cheese sandwiches we consume during lunch time.
I kept a tally of what I was spending on my phone. Yes, I did. While I may have looked a bit odd to some shoppers while entering bits of information into my phone after each addition to my cart, it helped me stay on task. Bringing the husband along didn’t hurt this time either. He’s a stickler for rule following, and made sure that I stuck to my list, INCLUDING my meal plan.
I used the smaller grocery cart. It helps. It really does.
I shopped AFTER making the meal plan, instead of making a meal plan after shopping. Of course, it seems to be common sense type functioning, but I told you I like challenges.
What I Spent
My grand total for the shopping trip came to $58.22 . It was magnificent.
What I’m Making
We’re easy around these parts – which also helps with meal planning. Dinner tends to be the area where I change things up quite a bit. Breakfast is usually cereal, or toast and eggs. All of these things, we had on hand, so for the week, we were set.
Lunch is a variation of PB&J’s, Grilled Cheese, and Turkey Salad Sandwiches.
Dinner is as follows:
Rigatoni with homemade meat sauce
Turkey pot pie
Chicken In Milk, with red potatoes and brussel sprouts
Steak Tacos and salad
Greens and Cornbread with Sweet Potatoes
Turkey Breasts with beet salad
In closing this book, I had a lot of fun stretching my cooking creativity, and creating a grocery list that everyone could be happy with! Knowing that I can shop at my favorite upscale store and not starve gives me a LOT of hope in knowing that I can still provide fresh, TASTY food for my family, and use those extra savings for experiences.
Thanks so much for taking on the challenge, Natasha! Didn’t see do a great job for her family of 6? If you shop at Mariano’s, I hope this post helps. To learn more about Natasha, her wonderful family, and her amazing but simple family-friendly recipes, visit Houseful of Nicholes.