Farm Adventures · How To

Grocery Shopping by the numbers

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Two carts, Two kids and a $200 budget for two weeks worth of meals for six people.

I had one of my epic shopping trips today. I’ll admit that I’m exhausted …but satisfied. The fridge and pantry are loaded with food, the calendar has meals listed for the next two weeks and I came in $60 under budget. What’s my secret? Using an extreme grocery budgeting system!

I described my system previously in “Grocery Budgeting For The Insanely Broke” and the feedback has been great. There have been a few disbelievers and plenty of curious folks though so I’m going to outline today’s shopping adventure so everyone can see my process in action.

First, I created a list of dinners for the next two weeks. I try put them in the order that I’d like to cook them (but with two kids it’s always negotiable) as a reminder to make dishes that utilize perishable ingredients first. Spoiled food is both depressing and a nightmare for the budget.

After each meal on my list, I included codes for each ingredients that can be purchased cheaper in bulk. This makes it easier to add them up when I make my shopping list. CH is “cup of cheese”, GB is “pound of ground beef” and CB is “number of chicken breasts”.

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A “chub” of bulk ground beef. It’ll be broken down into 1 lb quart-size freezer baggies and frozen.

Meals:

1. Oyako Donburi with rice
2 CB

2. Breakfast For Dinner:
Ham, Broccoli & Swiss Strata, Banana Wheat Bread, Fruit

3. Italian Meatloaf with roasted garlic onion potatoes, Green beans
1 GB

4. Hearty Beef Stew Pot Pie
2 CH / 1 GB

5. Green Chile Grilled Chicken Sandwiches, mixed veggies
2 CB / 1 CH

6. Layered Burrito Bake
2 CH / 1 GB

7.Breakfast For Dinner:
Turkey Egg and Cheese “Protein Flower” Cups, roasted onion potatoes, canned peaches
1 CH

8. Homemade Chicken Mac and Cheese, broccoli
1 CB / 2 CH

9. “Secret Ingredient” Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry with rice
1 CB

10. Spaghetti with Tender Simmered Meatballs
2 GB

11. Tortilla Chicken Bean Soup
2 CH / 1 CB

12.Breakfast 4 Dinner:
Fluffy Egg Nests, Country potatoes, canned pears
3 CH

13. Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie
1 CB

14. Minced Meat with peas & Rice
2 GB

15. Oven Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with rice and peas
2 CB

Eventually I’ll get all of these recipes up on the website! 🙂

Once the meals were chosen, I went through each recipe to make a preliminary shopping list and used my Shopping List app to assign the correct price to each ingredient. Keeping an updated record of prices I’ve paid for grocery items assures that I stay within budget when I make my shopping lists. If I don’t have the price of an item, I just “guesstimate” it. I’m usually pretty close too! I also separate my shopping lists into categories for easier shopping: Bread, Dairy, Produce, Meat and Nonperishable.

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Bulk cheese is cut into 1/4 pound (1 cup) size cubes and stored in the fridge in quart size baggies.

This was today’s initial list, with a budget of $200:

GROCERIES 08/05/12

1 x (pack) BREAD: Small Corn Tortillas ($3.00/pack, $3.00 subtotal)
3 x (loafs) BREAD: Wheat Bread ($0.98/loafs, $2.94 subtotal)
1 x (bag) BREAD: Whole Wheat French Rolls ($2.58/bag, $2.58 subtotal)
1 x (pack) BREAD: Whole Wheat Tortillas ($2.50/pack, $2.50 subtotal)
1 x (block) DAIRY: 1 lb Block Swiss Cheese ($3.99/block, $3.99 subtotal)
1 x (block) DAIRY: 1/2 pound Cheese ($2.00/block, $2.00 subtotal)
1 x (block) DAIRY: 2 Lb Block Sharp Cheddar Cheese ($6.98/block, $6.98 subtotal)
1 x (pound) DAIRY: Butter ($2.98/pound, $2.98 subtotal)
1 x (can) DAIRY: Fridgerator Biscuits ($2.00/can, $2.00 subtotal)
2 x (gallons) DAIRY: Milk ($2.98/gallons, $5.96 subtotal)
1 x (tub) DAIRY: Shaved Parmesan ($2.98/tub, $2.98 subtotal)
1 x (tub) DAIRY: Sour Cream ($2.50/tub, $2.50 subtotal)
2 x (bags) FROZEN: Brocolli ($1.10/bags, $2.20 subtotal)
2 x (bags) FROZEN: Country Mix Vegetables ($1.68/bags, $3.36 subtotal)
2 x (bags) FROZEN: Green Peas ($0.88/bags, $1.76 subtotal)
1 x (bag) FROZEN: Long Green Beans ($1.20/bag, $1.20 subtotal)
1 x (bag) FROZEN: Mixed Vegetables ($0.98/bag, $0.98 subtotal)
2 x (packages) FROZEN: Stir Fry Mix Vegetables ($1.68/packages, $3.36 subtotal)
1 x (value pack) MEAT: 6 lb Ground Beef ($14.00/value pack, $14.00 subtotal)
10 x (breasts) MEAT: Chicken Breast ($3.00/breasts, $30.00 subtotal)
1 x (package) MEAT: Turkey Lunch Meat ($2.48/package, $2.48 subtotal)
1 x (15 oz can) NONPERISHABLE: Black Beans W/ Jalepino ($1.10/15 oz can, $1.10 subtotal)
6 x (cans) NONPERISHABLE: Black Olives ($0.78/cans, $4.68 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Black Pepper ($3.00/can, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (box) NONPERISHABLE: Cereal ($4.00/box, $4.00 subtotal)
1 x (box) NONPERISHABLE: Cheerios ($3.98/box, $3.98 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) NONPERISHABLE: Chocolate Syrup ($3.00/bottle, $3.00 subtotal)
3 x (cans) NONPERISHABLE: Corn ($1.00/cans, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Diced Tomatoes With Chillies ($0.68/can, $0.68 subtotal)
2 x (large cans) NONPERISHABLE: Fruit Cocktail ($2.00/large cans, $4.00 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Green Chilis, Whole, Canned ($0.98/can, $0.98 subtotal)
2 x (boxes) NONPERISHABLE: Hamburger Helper ($2.50/boxes, $5.00 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Ice Tea ($2.28/can, $2.28 subtotal)
1 x (bag) NONPERISHABLE: Nacho Chips ($3.00/bag, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (shaker) NONPERISHABLE: Parmesan Shaker ($4.18/shaker, $4.18 subtotal)
2 x (large cans) NONPERISHABLE: Peaches ($2.50/large cans, $5.00 subtotal)
2 x (large cans) NONPERISHABLE: Pears ($2.00/large cans, $4.00 subtotal)
1 x (box) NONPERISHABLE: Penne Or Macaroni ($3.00/box, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Pinto Beans ($1.00/can, $1.00 subtotal)
1 x (jar) NONPERISHABLE: Salsa ($2.40/jar, $2.40 subtotal)
2 x (boxes) NONPERISHABLE: Spaghetti Noodles ($1.28/boxes, $2.56 subtotal)
2 x (jars) NONPERISHABLE: Spaghetti Sauce ($1.48/jars, $2.96 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) NONPERISHABLE: Spicy Ranch Dressing ($3.50/bottle, $3.50 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Stewed Tomatoes ($1.00/can, $1.00 subtotal)
1 x (packet) NONPERISHABLE: Taco seasoning ($2.00/packet, $2.00 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) NONPERISHABLE: Teriyaki Sauce ($2.98/bottle, $2.98 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) NONPERISHABLE: Vegetable Oil ($2.98/bottle, $2.98 subtotal)
1 x (bag) NONPERISHABLE: Walnuts ($3.00/bag, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (10 oz can) NONPERISHABLE: cream of mushroom soup ($2.00/10 oz can, $2.00 subtotal)
1 x (4 oz can) NONPERISHABLE: Mushrooms ($0.88/4 oz can, $0.88 subtotal)
3 x (pounds) PRODUCE: Bananas ($0.66/pounds, $1.98 subtotal)
2 x (carrots) PRODUCE: Carrots ($0.25/carrots, $0.50 subtotal)
4 x (heads) PRODUCE: Garlic ($0.50/heads, $2.00 subtotal)
1 x (bunch) PRODUCE: Green Onions ($0.50/bunch, $0.50 subtotal)
1 x (package) PRODUCE: Mushrooms ($3.99/package, $3.99 subtotal)
6 x (pounds) PRODUCE: Onions ($0.35/pounds, $2.10 subtotal)
1 x (bag) PRODUCE: Potatoes, 6 Lbs ($2.00/bag, $2.00 subtotal)

$1.54 of budget remaining
Items = 97 Total+tax = $198.46

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Shopping lists look much less tedious in the app!

Once my list is complete, I take it into the kitchen where I remove items I already have in the pantry or freezer and add any kitchen staples that we’re low on. This is the updated list:

GROCERIES 08/05/12 (REVISED)

1 x (pack) BREAD: Small Corn Tortillas ($3.00/pack, $3.00 subtotal)
4 x (loafs) BREAD: Wheat Bread ($0.98/loafs, $3.92 subtotal)
1 x (bag) BREAD: Whole Wheat French Rolls ($2.58/bag, $2.58 subtotal)
1 x (pack) BREAD: Whole Wheat Tortillas ($2.50/pack, $2.50 subtotal)
1 x (block) DAIRY: 1 Lb Block Sharp Cheddar Cheese ($3.99/block, $3.99 subtotal)
1 x (block) DAIRY: 1 lb Block Swiss Cheese ($3.99/block, $3.99 subtotal)
1 x (pound) DAIRY: Butter ($2.98/pound, $2.98 subtotal)
1 x (can) DAIRY: Fridgerator Biscuits ($2.00/can, $2.00 subtotal)
2 x (gallons) DAIRY: Milk ($2.98/gallons, $5.96 subtotal)
1 x (tub) DAIRY: Shaved Parmesan ($2.98/tub, $2.98 subtotal)
1 x (tub) DAIRY: Sour Cream ($2.50/tub, $2.50 subtotal)
2 x (bags) FROZEN: Brocolli ($1.10/bags, $2.20 subtotal)
1 x (bags) FROZEN: Country Mix Vegetables ($1.68/bags, $1.68 subtotal)
1 x (bag) FROZEN: Long Green Beans ($1.20/bag, $1.20 subtotal)
2 x (packages) FROZEN: Stir Fry Mix Vegetables ($1.68/packages, $3.36 subtotal)
1 x (value pack) MEAT: 1 lb Ground Beef ($2.50/value pack, $2.50 subtotal)
8 x (breasts) MEAT: Chicken Breast ($3.00/breasts, $24.00 subtotal)
1 x (package) MEAT: Turkey Lunch Meat ($2.48/package, $2.48 subtotal)
1 x (box) NONGROCERY: Parchment Paper ($3.50/box, $3.50 subtotal)
3 x (cans) NONPERISHABLE: Black Olives ($0.78/cans, $2.34 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Black Pepper ($3.00/can, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (box) NONPERISHABLE: Cereal ($4.00/box, $4.00 subtotal)
1 x (box) NONPERISHABLE: Cheerios ($3.98/box, $3.98 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) NONPERISHABLE: Chocolate Syrup ($3.00/bottle, $3.00 subtotal)
2 x (large cans) NONPERISHABLE: Fruit Cocktail ($2.00/large cans, $4.00 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Green Chilis, Whole, Canned ($0.98/can, $0.98 subtotal)
2 x (boxes) NONPERISHABLE: Hamburger Helper ($2.50/boxes, $5.00 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Ice Tea ($2.28/can, $2.28 subtotal)
1 x (bag) NONPERISHABLE: Nacho Chips ($3.00/bag, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (shaker) NONPERISHABLE: Parmesan Shaker ($4.18/shaker, $4.18 subtotal)
1 x (large cans) NONPERISHABLE: Peaches ($2.50/large cans, $2.50 subtotal)
2 x (large cans) NONPERISHABLE: Pears ($2.00/large cans, $4.00 subtotal)
2 x (box) NONPERISHABLE: Penne Or Macaroni ($3.00/box, $6.00 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Pinto Beans ($1.00/can, $1.00 subtotal)
2 x (boxes) NONPERISHABLE: Spaghetti Noodles ($1.28/boxes, $2.56 subtotal)
2 x (jars) NONPERISHABLE: Spaghetti Sauce ($1.48/jars, $2.96 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) NONPERISHABLE: Spicy Ranch Dressing ($3.50/bottle, $3.50 subtotal)
1 x (can) NONPERISHABLE: Stewed Tomatoes ($1.00/can, $1.00 subtotal)
1 x (packet) NONPERISHABLE: Taco seasoning ($2.00/packet, $2.00 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) NONPERISHABLE: Vegetable Oil ($2.98/bottle, $2.98 subtotal)
1 x (bag) NONPERISHABLE: Walnuts ($3.00/bag, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (bag) NONPERISHABLE: White Flour ($3.00/bag, $3.00 subtotal)
1 x (10 oz can) NONPERISHABLE: cream of mushroom soup ($2.00/10 oz can, $2.00 subtotal)
1 x (4 oz can) NONPERISHABLES: Mushrooms ($0.88/4 oz can, $0.88 subtotal)
3 x (pounds) PRODUCE: Bananas ($0.66/pounds, $1.98 subtotal)
2 x (carrots) PRODUCE: Carrots ($0.25/carrots, $0.50 subtotal)
4 x (heads) PRODUCE: Garlic ($0.50/heads, $2.00 subtotal)
1 x (bunch) PRODUCE: Green Onions ($0.50/bunch, $0.50 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) PRODUCE: Lemon Juice ($1.00/bottle, $1.00 subtotal)
1 x (bottle) PRODUCE: Lime Juice ($1.00/bottle, $1.00 subtotal)
1 x (package) PRODUCE: Mushrooms ($3.99/package, $3.99 subtotal)
6 x (pounds) PRODUCE: Onions ($0.35/pounds, $2.10 subtotal)
1 x (bag) PRODUCE: Potatoes, 6 Lbs ($2.00/bag, $2.00 subtotal)

$34.47 of budget remaining
Items = 85 Total+tax = $165.53

This is the list that goes to the grocery store with me but I usually come in well below the estimated total. Why? Because I never save sale prices. That means I assume I’ll pay full price for everything, which has never actually happened. No matter what store you shop at, they ALL have sale prices that generally change weekly. As they say: “Prepare for the worst but hope for the best!”

How’d we fare this time around? Well, our budget was $200, we found EVERYTHING on our list and the final total on my receipt was…drumroll please…$136.31! Success!!! Plus I now have the ingredients needed for a few recipes that I haven’t posted yet. Leave a comment if I named a meal on my list that you’d like to see the recipe for and I’ll do my best to get it posted for you.

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My pantry gremlin, enjoying some fully stocked shelves.

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