The Expatriated Consumer

Imagining life without debt. Working to make it reality.

The grocery games…

Posted by Max Finkle on May 7, 2008

Pssst. I have a secret. It’s embarrassing, it’s shameful.

We spent $1000 on groceries last month. Yep. $1000. According to Quicken, all the stops we made throughout the month to stock up, to replenish and to repast added up to a cool Grand. How about the fact that this is the sixth month in a row that’s happened. For a family of four. Isn’t that just grand?

My budget doesn’t seem to think so. Nor my conscience, because when I read the report the top of my head split open and the furious stream of steam that issued forth scalded me and my wife. “We can’t keep spending like this!” I declared. “We’re gonna be in the poor house. Do you realize this is gonna break us?” My tirade continued to the point where my wife finally snipped back, and quite rudely closed my nose in the bedroom door as I attempted to continue the conversation into the next room. It upsets me that every time I try to discuss finances with her she promptly leaves the room.

So imagine my surprise when I came home from work the other night to my wife standing in the door with a handful of papers and a declaration. “I’m starting work on a weekly menu plan. I found some info on the Internet about it. It’ll save us money, and if we dedicate a weekend a month to cooking we can stock up on real food for us to eat during the week when we’re rushing around with soccer practice and stuff.”

I admit, I was quite impressed. I’m usually the one with the cockamamie ideas about how we’re going to spend money more wisely and improve our diets and that sort of thing. Trouble is, after a twelve hour work day, my brain was able only able to produce a meager, “That’s nice dear. What’s for supper?”

To which my wife fumed, “Why is it that whenever I want to talk about money with you ignore me?”

In truth, we’ve been rolling the idea of a meal plan around for some time now, but continually share the excuse that we’re too tired or we don’t have enough time. But like everything else regarding our finances, we’re starting with baby steps. Breaking things down into steps seems to be the best way for us to handle these things, so this is my game plan, subject to change depending on the wife’s input:

1. Inventory. We need to know what we have for food already, and where it is, so we can avoid buying more of it until we use it up. It’s a good excuse to organize as well, as we used to keep the door of our pantry shut to keep the baby out, now it enables us to keep things out of site/out of mind.

2. Actively look for recipes and meals that utilize the ingredients we have in the house. Despite years of waiting, no meal plan has just fallen in my lap. We’ve decided to start actually perusing some of the cookbooks we have, and some of the great Websites on the ‘Net for ideas. There’s a lot great stuff out there. Here’s hoping it’s as great after we’re done cooking it!

3. Take a gander at the weekly sales fliers for the local supermarkets and make a shopping list. Uncannily, that seems to be where many of the best deals of the week can be found, and in the past I’ve saved some pretty significant cash from those things. We’re kinda making out double here, because not only are we saving money by making our food at home, but we can save money on the stuff we decide to buy. My wife and I are at extremes here, as I have a hard time buying anything that is not on sale, and she tends to be oblivious to the fact that groceries actually do go on sale. Truthfully though, I think she’s aware that it happens, but she always comes home with bags full of great stuff that she paid full price for. I can’t help it, it makes my skin crawl. We’ll find some middle ground somehow.

4. Go shopping with a grocery list. And stick to it. That’s always the hard part for me. I go to the store for one or two items, and walk out with two bags full. It’s going to take some time, and lots of effort to get the hang of producing a list that covers what we need each week, oftentimes I find myself remembering that we needed something that didn’t make it to our list, and eventually the cart starts to fill up. The real challenge though, is not to allow those marketers to undermine our resolve to stick to just what we need, and fill the cart with those goodies we’re convince we can’t live without.

4. Pick a day to do the prep work. Cut up all the meats. Dice up the veggies. Precook the rice, start soaking the beans. Having everything cut, portioned and ready to go should save us a lot of hassle on the next step.

5. Schedule the next day to cook. Take all those ingredients we worked so hard on the previous day and take a whack at producing home-made gourmet.

It’s not going to be easy. We both know that, but we’re game. In truth, I’m betting the hardest part is going to be agreeing on meals that we both will enjoy. It was really neat to know that my wife has put so much effort into this idea already, and that she’s willing to work together to make this all happen. For our health and our wallets.

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