December 04, 2009

Grocery Challenge Update

Well I thought I should update the blog re the challenge I gave myself on money spent on groceries.  Last week I stuck with the $20 to $25 I allotted by spending about $25.00.  It was easy to do.  This week was far different.  At the beginning of the week we needed some fresh produce for salads.  I do not buy the bagged salad mixes unless they are super cheap and I will be able to use it that day.  Even then I think about it.  The produce does not taste fresh and a part of me feels that the salad mix has some chemical on it as it just doesn't taste as good.  I try to buy the fresh unpackaged romaine, endive, kale and so on.  For salads I prefer the roma tomatoes if I can get them at a good price.  This is obviously more expensive but when stored properly can last for several days.  About 2 months ago one grocery store had the Hefty extend bags on sale for 50 cents and I had coupons so I bought a few boxes for next to nothing.  I store my produce in these bags and yes the bags do extend the life of the produce.  Well the produce for salads for the week cost close to $17.00.  That was on Monday.  Yikes.  I will pay this price as it is an investment in eating healthy.

I had said that unless there was another great stock up sale, I would try to keep my grocery budget down and had announced that to my husband.  After spending $17.00 for produce I knew that the $20 to $25 budget per week probably wasn't going to fly.  I had to re-evaluate it.  I decided that a budget of $40 to $50 per week would be better for this time of year when produce is more expensive.  Even then I thought I was setting the budget a little high as I felt I could do better.  In the past our produce for the week consisted of 1 head of iceberg lettuce and some apples.  I know, this is pathetic.  I made a conscious effort a couple of months ago to change this and have a nice leafy green salad at most dinner times or a fresh fruit salad.  I started reading more and more on nutrition and I knew my family was lacking in getting healthy servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.

Yesterday was grocery day and I had my list in hand.  The list showed that I would be well within budget until I got to the two main grocery stores I shop and they had in-store unadvertised specials on some items I had been waiting on.  Okay.  How many people stand in an aisle at the grocery store for about 5 minutes and try to decide if they should stock up on something.  I stood there and I felt like I was making a major change in my 401K investment plan.  I took out my cell phone, used the calculator application and saw the price and knew that from my records I had not seen prices that low in about 8 months and I was running very low.  The item:  Drum roll please ..... canned petite diced tomatoes.  Yup.  There they were.  The one thing that I had been waiting for.  A friend came along and we were chatting and then he looked at the canned tomatoes and said "What a deal.  I better go and get a cart."  So I ended up stocking up on cans of those tomatoes @ 66 cents a can.  I hit some other great in-store specials and decided that they were very worth purchasing this week - pomegranate juice - all juice and no HF corn syrup.  Whole wheat crackers - read the label on that one and decided that it was a good choice for our family and teamed it up with some coupons.  Also, Progresso low sodium and high fiber soups that were only 88 cents each after a coupon.  My new choice for lunch.  As I was adding these items to my cart, I was starting to feel a little uneasy as I knew I was about to blow the budget.

I talked with 1 store employee as I noticed a lot of in store specials that had not been advertised and since I keep track of prices, I knew these were great deals.  He explained to me that with yesterday being the 3rd and this being the first week of the month they run a lot of in store specials since it is the time most social security checks are received.  I had never thought of this.  He also told me that in the past few months they have really ramped up the unadvertised specials at that time of the month due to the recession.  Now this employee is someone I talk to quite often when I shop and he lives 1 block from me.  He told me that I should remember this as that is when their store (and their competitior I found out) will mark down a lot of items and have in store specials in order to take advantage of the money that could be spent at their stores at that time of the month.  Some of these specials I walked right past such as bread.  I am starting to bake my own.

I went home and looked over what I had spent over the past few months and sure enough, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday most of my great deals were found around the first of the month.  This is why I take my coupon binder to the store with me so when there is an in store special I can match it up with a coupon.

So I at least felt better about the deals I found and the extra money that was spent yesterday.  All in all I spent $100.00 this week (this includes the $17.00 I spent earlier this week).  So -- instead of looking at a weekly budget of $40 to $50 per week I am now looking at my budget as a monthly budget of $160 to $200 per month.  I have spent $100 and now have a balance of $80 to $100 for the month.  One other piece of advice I was given by this employee.  He said that they mark down a lot of produce on Friday and Saturday.

As to fresh salads and fruits, I want to have as many leafy green salads as we can afford but there are also some wonderful winter salads that are economical and I will serve to my family.  Carrot and raisin salad is one option.  So is coleslaw and a fruit salad with canned fruit and some cut up apples in it.

I felt defeated yesterday when I came home and added up what I spent.  When I told my husband the tally amount his response was "I thought you weren't going to spend as much on groceries per week."  I felt defeated for a moment as I know we have had a lot of expenses lately - new lenses for my glasses, some doctor visits and such.  I am moving on with what I have learned from yesterday's shopping experience.  I have everything I need in my pantry.  The last item I needed to stock up on, has been purchased.  I will now be going to purchase my produce on Friday or Saturday when I can get some better deals.

At first I wasn't going to post this entry, but I felt it was important.  I have been trying to save money, trying to make better food choices for my family and trying to be accountable to myself.  It's been really hard as I feel the burden of keeping to a budget in order to have more money in savings.  I had high hopes for this week and felt like I was going to post one of those entries that said "hey I only spent $18.78 this week on groceries and I am doing great."  Maybe that will be next week.

I have learned a lot about myself over the past few months.  I have learned that even though I make goals and try hard, sometimes I have to re-evaluate what those goals are and move on.  One thing I do know, I love being a homemaker.  I feel a sense of responsibility to my family that I never quite felt when I was working full time.  I had two lives - work and home.  Work was constantly spilling over into home life.  Now I have one life - home.


tammyyarbrough said...

Please stop being so hard on yourself, for crying out loud! I find it easier to stick to a monthly budget myself- that way when something is really a great deal you CAN stock up and not beat yourself up for going "over budget". Fresh produce IS expensive, but there again, in the long run, it's a neccesary evil. When summer rolls around, that cost will dramatically drop- look ahead. $18.78 a week would be wonderful to spend on groceries, but let's be realistic. This is a work in progress. Enjoy being YOU!!! That way, everything else will all fall into place. ;>

Martha said...

The entire time I was writing this post this morning I was hoping someone would give me a "smack down" to coin a phrase from Suzy Orman. Thank you. I have been hard on myself. I am my worst enemy at times. I appreciate your comments, Tammy. You have encouraged me on many days.

tammyyarbrough said...

We are always our own worst enemies! Just always know that it's trial and error. Everything is a learning experience. Your pantry looks fabulous, so obviously you must be doing something right. Also, by making friends with the guy in the store to get a "heads up" was brilliant! I never thought about sales during the beginnig of the month due to SS checks, so see, you are spreading YOUR wisdom. I checked out your favorite blogs- some a little "much" for me, but just do your own thing. Enjoy every minute of it! Appreciate the fact that you give a damn! Life is too short to sweat the small stuff!!!

Martha said...

Some of the blogs that I look at daily give me an idea of how other people are living life their way and I don't necessarily buy into everything. I like to see "all sides of the fence" and I may gain some glimpses of things I can add to my own life. The Beginning Farmer's Wife lives about 20 miles from me and I like to follow what she is doing since they live close to us.