Friday, April 15, 2011

Meal Plan Wednesday

Yes, I know it's Friday. Sorry this is late.

It's been a busy week for us, as we had a funeral yesterday for a friend of the family. It was sad, though her death was expected because of a brain tumor. I must say, it was probably one of the most uplifting (almost happy) funerals I've ever been to. The woman who passed away was such a selfless, friendly person and I think her family was relieved that the fight was over. Her grandchildren sang, we sang a song she wrote with a choir that got together Wednesday, and the mood in the room was peaceful and celebratory. It felt like we were all patting her on the back whispering "Good job, Linda" in her ear.

Anyway, despite the busy-ness of the week I was still able to get our grocery shopping done. Here's our meal plan for the next week:



W Tortilla Soup (Got moved b/c of the funeral- we ate at Stephen's parent's house)
T Bean Burritos (Also moved b/c of the funeral- ate at In n Out, which is covered by a separate $20/month eating out budget)
F Pizza
S BBQ Chicken Strips, Potato Salad, Green Beans
M Mac & Cheese, Smoked Sausage, Sauteed Spinach
T Chicken Fajitas

Juice for Ben

Rice cereal
Green Beans

My estimate for the week came out to exactly $40 (woot). However, I realized that I was nearly out of butter, and I use butter frequently. I have no shame about this. There is nothing tastier than a creamy, slightly salty addition to vegetables or baked items. Also, butter is my preferred fat for sauces, soups and gravies. The cheapest butter I found listed on sale was for $3 a pound! Ridiculous! Since when is that a sale?! At Costco I was able to purchase it for $2.32 a pound, but I had to buy 4 pounds. That set me back nearly $10, but it will last over a month if I limit my baking. Another thing that set me back more than I would have liked was a cereal sale at Albertsons. They were selling cereal at $1.75 a box, but you had to buy 4. That should last me 1-2 months.

Total for the week: $54.62

Not great. So, where did I go wrong? I spent the following:

Sprouts (produce) 9.13
Costco (diary, juice) 28.06
Albertsons (cereal) 7.79
Stater Bros (meat, grocery) 9.64

I think it's safe to say that Costco is the bane of my existence. Speaking of Costco, I had the following conversation with the clerk at check out:

"Has anyone offered you the executive membership yet?"
"Yes, I'm not interested."
"Um, you spend a lot of money here!"
"I know. I'm trying to change that."
"You have 2 babies! That's not going to change. Every time you eliminate one expense something else will come up. You should really think about getting the executive membership."
"Yeah, I'm still trying to be better about my spending..."

That whole experience made me want to NEVER get that executive membership. And slap her. I really am trying to do better. I mean, I only bought 4 things at Costco and I'm trying to only purchase necessities, like eggs, milk, cheese, or potatoes. Things that are always less expensive there. I could probably eliminate apple juice, but I'm trying to water it down so we go through it more slowly, and if I got rid of it I'd have one angry toddler. Anyway, I still want to smack that lady for telling me that I can't get any better with my spending habits. It reminded me of those lap band billboards that say, "Diets Fail! Lap Band Works!" I hate those- really, what a downer.

I think my grocery budget will have to come down to an average of $40 a week so that when I need to buy a lot of something, I can. After the month is out, I'll know for sure if I can do this and if it's realistic.

Let me explain why I go to so many stores. Firstly, I have the time to go to them. Secondly, it is less expensive for me to drive around than to ignore the deals and only shop at one store. Sprouts is amazing and has double ad Wednesdays, when their ads overlap between weeks and I can get consistently great prices on fresh produce (bell peppers at .77 each and heads of lettuce for .50, etc). Their produce is quality and some of the best I've seen in the area. However, I will never buy other items from them because they specialize in organic/whole foods. They are expensive. This is the case for the other stores I shop at: good prices and quality for some things, yet terrible prices or quality for others. If there was a store that existed with great prices and good quality for every item I needed I would go there, but there isn't a place like that where I live. It only exists in my imagination.

I do not coupon because I generally try not to buy prepared foods and that's usually what coupons are for. I always try to use them if they are in a grocery ad. I will use them for specific items items I need, like face wash or toilet paper, but I sign up for specific newsletters for online coupons. That's the extent I go.

Lesson learned for the week: It's only a good deal if you would normally buy the item. For example, if soda were on sale next week for .50 a liter (in my dreams) I wouldn't buy it even though it's a fantastic price. Why? I don't usually purchase soda, so I'm still spending extra money for something I wouldn't buy anyway. If I were planning a party in the near future? Then I would purchase it because I would have bought it in the near future. Root beer... yum...

Happy shopping and happy weekend!


  1. Hi Alicia! I think it is so cool that you are doing this. Good for you! We did the same thing when we were paying off our painful, painful student loans. My goal was $30 a week for groceries, but things were a lot cheaper 10 years ago. We were able to get the loans paid off in 2 years by being super frugal and that has been such a huge blessing ever since. So keep up the great work!
    The things I found most helpful when I was doing it were eliminating all prepared foods (healthier too) and breakfast cereals. I also went around to all the different grocery stores and made a "price book" so I knew the regular prices for all the items I usually buy and which items are cheaper at costco, etc. I also included what the usual sales prices were for each item and my "goal price" and I would only buy those items if they went on sale below my goal price. That works especially well for stocking up on pantry items that don't go bad. Also, if you have a value plus grocery store by you, their produce sales are insane. You have to fight with latino grandmothers to get the unbruised apples and avocadoes, but it can save a lot of money. :)
    Oh, and you should definitely read "The The Complete Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyczyn. I think that's the right spelling of her name, but could be wrong. It's older advice from the pre-internet days, but I learned great ways to save money from that book. (Borrow it from the library to save even more!)There are also some really good non-consumer blogs out there that I enjoy reading sometimes and have good ideas.
    Also, I just want to let you know that it's painful the first few months, but after that extreme frugal living gets kind of fun. I was also amazed at how environmentally friendly it is. I enjoyed it so much that I still do most of the things I started doing during our extremely frugal days even though our financial picture is a bit rosier now. But I have quit washing out my ziploc bags for re-use... what a luxury. And the third baby kind of killed my ability to visit half a dozen stores every week, so I haven't done that in a while. :)
    Anyway, if you ever want to talk about all this stuff, let me know. Obviously, it's something I LOVE! Keep up the awesome, awesome work! You are doing great!

  2. Thanks for the advice, Megan! I really like the idea of washing out ziploc bags... they're pretty expensive! Most of the time I try to use tupperware. What do you do for an inexpensive breakfast?

  3. Oatmeal (not instant in expensive little pakages), pancakes, muffins, toast (a current goal is to go to only homemade bread, making this even cheaper). Unless you are getting great cereal deals, eggs are probably cheaper too. I recently heard that you can make a whole wheat cereal by putting wheat berries and boiling water in a thermos and leaving it overnight, then adding fruit and a little sugar and milk in the morning. Haven't tried it yet, but it sounds yummy and like a great way to rotate food storage wheat.

  4. Oh, and don't wash out and re-use ziplocs that have had meat in them, especially raw meat. You just can't get them clean enough to be sure all the bacteria are gone. But if they've just had bread or veggies or something go for it! Charles Yee taught me to put the washed ziplocs in the freezer for a few minutes and then shake the ice droplets out of them instead of drying. I've also seen people stick chopsticks in the dish drainer and drape the ziplocs over them to dry. And there are lots of patterns online for making little cloth baggies for kids snacks that can just be tossed in the washer.

  5. Super cool. Thanks for posting. I'm definitely going to try to make some strides next week...but I'll try not to be too crazy..I'm also working on "better mom," "weight loss (sans LapBand)," and "better scripture reading." Yeah, I'm pretty sub-par these days! :)

    Sidenote: Megan, you're a little crazy.

  6. Ha! What was your first clue? Here's another tip Alicia: if you don't want people to know just how crazy you are, just pretend you're realy into the environment and talk about landfills a lot. Works like a charm. Your goals sound just like mine, Kate. :) Deep sigh for the weight loss.

  7. Hey Alicia!

    I noticed that your blog has a thing that tells you where people are who are looking at your blog. I figured you'd be curious about who in San Diego, CA is reading your stuff. Well, it's me! I know it's been a while since we've actually seen each other (and by a while, I mean a WHILE). However, your blog came up in my news feed a bit ago, so I checked it out. Since then, I come over every once in a while to see what's new. You are raising such a beautiful family and seem to have a very blessed life. It's fun to read about :)

    Becky Schwartz

  8. Hi Alicia! Wow, $40/week...I really need to try that. Your story about the Costco lady made me laugh. When we were there a while ago, a guy tried to get us to upgrade our membership, and he would only speak directly to my husband, even though he was saying things like "my wife takes care of our grocery budget. You should ask her." He wouldn't even SPEAK to me. Too weird.