Sunday, February 21, 2010

Grocery Shopping Woes

Grocery Shopping is no longer easy.  Not that it's always been a walk in the park...especially those trips where both kids are with me.  But, now that I'm reading labels not only for peanut allergens, but also for GMO's, rBST, artificial colors, sweeteners, etc., it's become a major, time-consuming effort.  I've gotten pretty good about knowing what products meet our family guidelines.  It's just that I can't purchase them all at one store.  In fact, I now shop at seven different stores.

Our Sunday School class is doing the Crown Financial Study.  My husband and I have started to take a close look at our day to day expenses.  I was pleased to see that eating healthy hasn't increased our food expenditures by a huge amount.  What was shocking was to see that I had made over 21 trips to a grocery store in a one month period.  Quite frankly, I've got better things to do with my time!

Here's what's happening.  I love Trader Joe's.  The prices are very reasonable and their foods meet our healthy eating requirements.  However, because of Abigail's peanut allergy, I can't purchase any of their breads, the majority of their boxed products (cereal, snack bars, etc.), a good many of their baking items, a lot of their frozen items or any of their cookies or other sweet treats.  So, at Trader Joe's, I stock up on what I can, but that leaves a ton of items that I have to purchased elsewhere. They also have the best price on organic produce, but it's a 30 minute drive to the closest store so I only make the trip once a month.  That leaves me looking for everything else we need at the other 6 stores that I shop.

I should explain that the reason we haven't seen a huge increase in our food budget even though we are purchasing organic, natural and peanut free is because I shop at so many different stores.  For instance, I stop into Food Lion to purchase our Jone's Colas.  They're just $2.99 versus $4.99 at Harris Teeter.  Wal-Mart carries a few organic products and have the best prices on those items, but the selection is very limited.  I go to BJ's for diapers and paper products.  While Harris Teeter tends to be the most expensive on basics, they have the best selection and a few products that I can't find anywhere else.  Fresh Market has the best price on certain organic produce items, and Target has rGBH-free dairy items that I purchase when I can't get to Trader Joe's.  And, if a store does a special event with triple or double up to $1.99 coupons, I'm probably shopping there too.  Don't laugh (my husband does), but I've had to create a spreadsheet to keep track of all of this.

So, what to do?  This is going to be a stretch, but I'm going to try to plan a monthly menu.  I've started this weekend working on just a 2 week menu and will work my way up to doing a month at a time.  Considering that there are many evenings that I don't start figuring out what's for dinner until dinnertime, this is a big deal.  Hopefully, the payoff will be big.  My goal is to simplify my afternoons and decrease our food budget by purchasing in bulk.  Mostly though, I want to gain lots of time by eliminating the 3 to 4 trips I make each week to grocery stores.

There are a lot of resources on the internet.  Last night I found someone that put their meal calendars and shopping list templates online for upload.  It's a good starting place.  I also purchased a 5 ingredient crock pot cookbook.  My kind of cooking!  Now, I just need to take my menu and translate it into 6 different shopping lists!  Wish me luck!


Paul said...

made me tired just reading --

U Paul

Tara W. said...

Good luck!! We don't do it anymore obviously since we're moving into an RV (no place to store it!) but it saved me so much work throughout the month - not to mention stress!

Mom with a Mission said...

U. Paul - tired is a constant state for me.

Thanks Tara. I hadn't heard of Azure Standard before reading your post. Not sure they have a drop-off point anywhere near where I live, but I'm calling them tomorrow.

mom with SPECIAL [needs] kids said...

And to think people laugh at me for my weekly menus...maybe I need to try this with you. Don't think I can do 7 stores though, 3 or 4 is enough for me. ;) I know you can make this work, think of how much more calm you will feel at 5:00 each evening!

Julie Redfern said...

I only go to 2 stores but need to add more organic/healthy foods so that means trying to find a whole foods or trader joes somewhere near me. The weekly meal planning works well for me. I saw a news clip where this lady did her meal plans for an ENTIRE year!! Way to ambitious for me! good luck!