Apr 12, 2008

Updating the Food Budget

The more frugal blogs I read, the more I know and understand that I can cut down my food budget dramatically. Today I read the blog of a mother who has a family of 8 and spends between $65 and $75 a week on food, paper goods, diapers and personal items! You can view her blog here: A Life at Home. This is a great blog because she lists her weekly menu's (breakfast, lunch and dinners) along with recipes. Well worth a visit.

The key to the success of many of these bloggers seems to be learning to use the Walgreens and CVS drugstore rewards and rebates programs. I've used the Walgreens' rebate program off and on for about two years, but haven't been as diligent as I should be. I recently signed up to receive the CVS rewards card, which came in the mail this week. The second key to success is matching coupons with these rebate and rewards programs, which enables you to get items for free or close to free. Free is good :)

However, I see a bit of buying items just to get items for free. Some of these blogs (no, I'm not going to name names) show photos of what they've bought and I'm thinking, "Just how many Aveeno handcreams can one person use??" If you're "stocking up" just to show you can do it, to me that's not only wasteful but contributing to the clutter of your home. You have to store all that "stuff" somewhere!

I don't want to invest several hours a day in all this, nor do I want to buy items I wouldn't normally use just because I can get them for free. What I want to do is come up with a plan to use coupons, rebates and sale flyers to lower my grocery bill (which includes paper goods and personal care items) to $60 a week.

I'm thinking that more homemade foods is going to be the key to my success. Homemade soups and breads, homemade meatballs and meatloaves, homemade pizza*. Some prepared foods, however, cost less to buy than to make from scratch -- spaghetti sauce (I buy a large can of Hunt's Traditional Spaghetti sauce for .99) comes to mind, as does cheese sauce and alfredo sauce (Ragu sauces are $1.69 a jar, and these last for at least two meals when added to noodles or in a casserole). So there are times when prepared foods have their budgetary place and I guess the lesson is to learn when they are or are not the frugal way to go.

Just a note about meatballs. I posted a meatball recipe in an earlier post (a few months ago), and to me, meatballs are one of the most diverse items you can have on hand in your freezer! I pre-cook them (in the oven), put 8 to 12 in a freezer bag for meal-sized portions. (I also use the same mixture to make meatloaf, so if I buy 5 lbs of ground beef, I usually make two meatloaves, then get another 15 or so meals from meatballs.) Here's what I do with meatballs:

-- Slice in half and use as topping for homemade pizza
-- Spaghetti and meatballs (obviously)
-- Meatball subs (meatballs, spag sauce, rolls)
-- Faux Swedish meatballs (cream of mushroom soup, milk, sour cream for a sauce)
-- Meatballs in gravy (can of beef gravy, serve over rice or noodles)
-- Meatball soup - (drop meatballs into homemade beef or vegetable soup)
-- Meatballs and noodles -- cook noodles in beef broth, do not drain, add meatballs and leftover veggies, heat again until meatballs are warmed
-- Meatball rollups (husband's favorite) - Tortilla, meatballs, a dab of spagh sauce, some grated parm. cheese - nuke for 30 seconds or so)

If you purchase ground beef on sale (as low as $1.29 a pound here), and get 21 meals from it (two meatloaves give us four meals plus two lunches), that's about .30 per meal for meat (for two people). That's just about as frugal as it gets!


texasmcvays said...

I do not normally do this but I have a 5 or 6 or so part series on Grocery shopping on my blog. It will show you how to save money. I am also against buying items I will not use just because they are free. Unless, I can gift them or give them to someone pretty quickly. I have enough of my own clutter.
Mama McVay

Carolyn said...

Thanks for this post. I have been thinking the same thing myself! I tried CVS once and was very excited to start "rolling over" my ECBs. But everything that people are posting about getting for free are things I don't need. Like I said, I'm just starting to try the whole CVS thing, but so far I'm not too impressed. I've also come to the conclusion that simply cooking more from scratch is the way to go for me.