Help! Grocery ideas please

Give me your best methods of cutting the grocery budget. I want to start spending as little as possible but get good, healthy food choices. So far, I have not found couponing to be a reliable way to cut our budget since most coupons are for processed food or for name brands that still end up more pricey than the store brand. Maybe I'm missing something. I know stockpiling things you will use can be profitable but we often don't have the money to stockpile.

As a point of reference, I estimate that we spend about $400 on food each month. I'd love to cut this by at least $100.

  • frogkisser
    I didn't buy a single canned or boxed item at the store yesterday, but bought a bunch of produce, cheese and dairy, which you can't get coupons for (or at least I am unaware of their presence), so I'm in the same dilemma as you are. As far as meat, I try to buy meat when it's marked down for quick sale (it needs to be sold and thrown in my freezer that same day!). You can usually find out what days things get marked down (especially if it's a local grocery, not a huge chain store like Wal-Mart) and try to shop based on that information. Hope you get some more feedback; I could use some advice myself!
    by frogkisser at 02/17/12 10:32AM
  • mmswife
    ^It's so hard to be healthy! I know part of my problem is not planning meals well. I end up cooking too much and wasting tons. So maybe I need to start there. ;) I also need to remember that both my boys would be content with beans and cornbread as their meal. I am never overly thrilled with that so I never do it. But that's cheap and easy!
    by mmswife at 02/17/12 10:50AM
  • onelittlecandle
    Ahh, grocery budgeting, a subject very near and dear to my heart! :) I usually spend between $200 and $250 on groceries for the two of us each month. (I try for closer to the $200 mark though.)

    I make a monthly menu: breakfast, lunch and supper for each day. I usually rotate three breakfasts: eggs (scrambled, fried or omelet), oatmeal (w/blueberries, raisins, etc) and fruitbowls (chopped fruit topped with almond meal or oats and mixed w/yogurt or milk). For Sundays I fix something different and "special" like a breakfast bread (banana, zucchini, etc), muffins or coffee cake.

    For lunches I either do sandwiches (egg salad, pbj, leftover crockpot-cooked meat) or supper leftovers. I always make Jarret's lunches for him to take with him to work (leftovers, sandwich, and snacks: hardboiled egg, nuts, fruit, veggie, tostito chips, cottage cheese, etc.). Sunday lunch I often do in the crockpot for a change and something "special."

    For suppers I often rotate a particular type of meal for each night. Example... Sundays: tilapia and veggies, Mondays: pasta, Tuesdays: breakfast supper (either pancakes or eggs, hashbrowns, sausage and toast), Wednesdays: soup or stew (chicken, beef, potato), Thursdays: beans (soup beans, cornbread and fried potatoes, 15 bean soup, split pea soup, lentil soup -all soups with turkey sausage added- etc), Fridays: nachos, pizza, Saturdays: whatever we're in the mood for and have on hand: deer, pork chops, pork sausage.

    Once I have my menu made, I then make my grocery list.

    Aaand, you'll laugh, but I just noticed our cows mooing and saw that they're out of the fence. Gotta run and call my hubby or father in law!
    by onelittlecandle at 02/17/12 11:44AM
  • this_old_man
    This may seem a little lame but the USDA has a lot of recommendations. For example: this link or this link
    by this_old_man at 02/17/12 1:55PM
  • onelittlecandle
    Ok, cow problem taken care of. :) To finish my thought...I like cooking a roast or chicken in the crockpot and having veggies along with it, then using the leftover meat to make a stew or soup. (Just add plenty of water and lots of veggies and rice.) There's usually enough meat to make a sandwich for Jarret, too, so I can get two or three meals out of one. Plus, if there is stew left over, which there usually is, it goes in the freezer for yet another meal later on. One bag of tilapia gives us several meals. Oats are inexpensive and good for ya, cooked right. I buy my produce at Aldi (if it looks good) or at WalMart. Lettuce or spinich with hard boiled eggs, cheese, sunflower seeds and meat or beans can make a good lunch. Beans with sausage or some other meat is inexpensive and healthy. Rice (something I am trying to get into the habit of making more often) is good on its own, in milk for a pudding, or in chili or soup. I make my own bread and buns, so that saves some money too. Probably just about anything you make from scratch will be cheaper and more healthy than ready-made. The only thing I can think of that I don't make from scratch is tostito chips, croutons and tortillas. I buy honey or rapadura for sweetening instead of granulated or brown sugar, olive oil instead of vegetable oil. So even if you're buying more expensive, good-quality foods, I think you can still come out cheaper than if you buy a lot of pre-made stuff.

    And, if you have plenty of freezer space, you could consider going in with someone and buying a 1/2 or 1/4 of a beef. We did that last year and it came out way, waaay cheaper that way. (and we got the meat in a variety of cuts, including roasts, steaks, and ground.)
    by onelittlecandle at 02/17/12 2:24PM
  • onelittlecandle
    And if you have a yard, you can have a garden. Even as simple as squash/zucchini, tomatoes and green beans is a help. You can chop, blanche and freeze them and use them the rest of the year. I have bought very few frozen veggies since last fall, and used squash, green beans, okra and tomatoes from my garden. I only recently started buying potatoes and onions again (the ones left from our garden were sprouting too much to keep using.) I still have a bunch of sweet potatoes, too. So even just a few things from a garden can make a big difference, and won't be too overwhelming to keep up with.
    by onelittlecandle at 02/17/12 2:31PM
  • be_with_me_lord
    It is a challenge when you have selective eaters. We eat a lot of soup this time of year and make it hearty by using lentils, brown rice or barley. We also do a lot of soft tacos and the filling is whatever we have on hand: beans, rice, salsa, fajita veggies etc. We eat those at least twice a week.
    by be_with_me_lord at 02/17/12 7:35PM
  • mmswife
    Sherri, I really like your idea of meal rotation. I hate menu planning because I try to over think it. But I can definitely see meal categories as helpful!

    We are renting a house with a yard but have very little sunny areas. Not to mention we may be moving at some point later this year. I'd love to do a garden at some point but I have zero knowledge and have yet to have much luck growing things. That and I'll be big and pregnant in July/August when veggies start rolling in. One day.....
    by mmswife at 02/18/12 10:39AM
  • derbydi
    buy in bulk
    spaghetti, chili
    Is it possible for you to buy part of a cow and freeze the meat?
    by derbydi at 02/18/12 5:56PM
  • scrappyhappymama
    Not sure how practical this would be for a smaller family, but we save money by buying some things in bulk at Sams. Not everything is cheaper there though, so it takes some time to figure out what is worth buying there. Some produce for example is MUCH cheaper, like organic spinach and broccoli and celery and carrots. Others, not so much, like bananas. I get a lot of my canned and dry goods at Sams in bulk. It doesn't save a ton of money up front, but by building up my pantry this way I've been able to save on frittering away the grocery budget on a can of this or that for a specific meal at higher prices. We also buy some lunch meats and cheeses at Sam's and some breads. But again, it can be hit and miss what costs less where. I actually made a few spreadsheets and tracked and compared expenses for a month or two and now I have a pretty good feel of what I should buy where.
    by scrappyhappymama at 02/21/12 4:33PM
  • neenee They make the menu AND grocery list according to the sales going on at the store. Saved me lots of moolah and helped with the old booger of making a menu. Awesome service. $15 for 3 months. you'll make your money back in the first month!
    by neenee at 02/25/12 3:49PM
  • worker_at_home
    I've been told that Wal-Mart has a price matching program, but you have to take in the competitor's flyer so that you can offer proof if they ask. Preparation required, but could help considerably, and eliminate the need to shop at several places in order to catch all the sales.
    by worker_at_home at 03/02/12 4:51PM

I'm liking this stay at home wife and mom thing! :)

I'm trying a new system this week. I know it'll work if I stick with it because several of you do something similar. :)

Today was laundry day. I HATE laundry. I am cool with washing and drying. I hate folding and put away. I started this morning and kept it going all day. I ended up washing 5 loads. Dried 3 loads, hung 2. Folded 3 loads and hung up 2 loads of Marshall's dress clothes. Best of all, all folded clothes are put up! I have one more load of towels to dry and fold but that's it.

I cleaned up the kitchen which actually wasn't the disaster it usually is on the weekend. Of course there are still pots from supper that need to be washed but not tonight. I'm thinking they can go in the dishwasher tomorrow. :)

Canaan was in the tub by 9:30. He had lunch at noon and we were both asleep by 1. We napped for about 2 1/2 hours. It was wonderful since we got up before 7!

After our nap we finished up laundry, yes we, Canaan helps now. We got supper going. I took a bath. Then M got home and we ate. Marshall cleaned our fish tank which was pretty disgusting! After loading the dishwasher I started on a breakfast casserole for Marshall to have this week. I also have yogurt started and banana muffins in the oven.

I'm officially worn out! I wish I had been able to get Marshall's clothes ironed for the week but that didn't happen. Thankfully he at least has clothes for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is errand day. One has to be done before 9 am! Yikes! Then the Nissan needs to go for emissions testing. Hoping it passes! After that if I have energy left we'll go to the grocery store. We'll at least need to make a quick trip for potatoes for tomorrow night's supper.

Wednesday Canaan has a play date with my last doula client's 2 year old son. Thursday I hope to finish whipping the house into shape. Canaan has a Valentine's day party Friday. Then my parents will be here at some point on Friday and staying until Tuesday. :) Oh, and Marshall and I are going to a Valentine's Day dinner on Saturday with Broadmoor folks. Busy week! Here's hoping my energy sticks around!

What's your week look like?
  • kiss_the_rain
    Yay, this makes Me happy :-)
    by kiss_the_rain at 02/08/12 2:43AM
  • be_with_me_lord
    Glad you are doing so well. I voted in the caucus last night. That was my biggest news for the week.
    by be_with_me_lord at 02/08/12 3:57PM
  • robynbobm
    by robynbobm at 02/09/12 10:11PM
  • derbydi
    You sound so productive!!! Good for you!
    by derbydi at 02/10/12 9:13PM
  • sallyanne
    by sallyanne at 02/13/12 12:06PM
  • canardmom23
    Fantastic! My weeks look pretty similar to what you described, except my kids end up at lots of appointments too.
    by canardmom23 at 02/14/12 12:01PM

In His time....

I need to get up and get moving. Busy day today! Lots of good stuff going on here!

I haven't talked much about our situation because, well, it's highly embarrassing to me. But we've learned valuable lessons and I can't keep that to myself!

We moved to Nashville because Marshall got a job here. For the longest time I was not open to moving. Ironically, Marshall looked for 4-5 months for work in Louisville to no avail. So finally I resolved that Nashville might be a fun place to live and decided if he got a job here, it'd be God's will and I would be content with moving.

So in an almost whirlwind, he interviewed for a job in March. He got a job offer in April. We found a house to rent then end of April and we moved by the end of May. It didn't take long for the honeymoon to be over. We discovered we had a mouse, flea and ant problem. This was on top of the foundation problems and other very bad "quirks" the house had. I started questioning our decision to pick this house. Things weren't good with Marshall's job. There were various reasons for this. Bottom line is that it didn't work out and he found himself once again not working by November. Yes, 6 weeks before Christmas! Days later we discovered that we had another baby on the way. Talk about stress!

But we pressed on. I was still working and our parents were helping us stay afloat. Still, it was very scary knowing we weren't bringing in enough to take care of ourselves. We had lived on one income before but this was when we were living with my parents. So having our own house and bills added a whole new level of stress. Marshall spent most evenings sending resumes and applying for jobs. I'm guessing people weren't really interested in hiring during the holidays though. So not much came out of all that work.

We spent Christmas in Tullahoma. Upon returning on the 27th, I checked my work e-mail to discover that they no longer had work for me (this is not unusual for the beginning of the year and may be another temporary layoff). I, too, was jobless. Now our family was incomeless with nothing on the horizon. I spent a lot of time begging God to provide for us. He did through various ways. Ways that required us to humble ourselves. Ways that are not ideal. But nonetheless, we had food and shelter.

When I deposited my last check, I began to panic a bit. What were we going to do? Marshall was applying for tons of jobs. Had several interviews. But still nothing. I couldn't get a job. My degree is limiting for one. For two, I haven't used it enough to even be a marketable applicant. Not to mention I was dealing with first trimester pregnancy symptoms. I felt powerless.

Finally, a glimmer of hope! Marshall had the opportunity to work a temporary job. It was only promised to last 4-6 weeks but I was thankful that he'd have the chance to make some money to pay for one month's bills anyway. I also trusted that this temporary job was likely just a place holder to get him by until something better was available.

Marshall began working for them a couple of weeks ago. It's been a really good experience for him. He is really valued and is thriving on the pace and environment of this job. He really hated the fact that it was a temporary job and started finding ways to make it a permanent situation. Of course, I was thrilled he found a place he enjoyed working. That's half the battle. However, I knew it was unlikely that the pay would be enough to cover all of our expenses. So again, stress reared it's ugly head.

Thursday night I was checking out Craig's List which is a nightly ritual for me. I found a new job posting that looked perfect! Marshall could do all that was required and the pay was more in line with what we currently need. I sent it to Marshall and he sent his resume that same night.

On Friday, he got a call from the guy that hired him for the temp job. Ironically, this same guy was in charge of finding a temp for the other job! So he sent Marshall's resume to the company and quickly got a response that the hiring manager was VERY impressed with his resume he said it was the best one he's seen for this position! Apparently, they had been trying to fill the position on their own to no avail. So they resorted to asking the temp agency for help.

Marshall spoke with the guy from the new company last night. Come to find out it was for Vanderbilt University. The job is providing tech support for a division of their health care department. They plan on finding a permanent employee and fairly quickly. So that's really good! After a short conversation, they made plans to meet today. But by all indications from the hiring manager and the temp agency guy, Marshall will be starting work on Monday regardless! I'm still a bit hesitant to believe that. But apparently they need this position filled and Marshall seems to fit that bill. Marshall just told me that he spoke with the agency guy again and was told that the manager was really, really excited about Marshall.

Marshall is pretty sad about leaving his other job. He knew it was temp but was working hard to prove himself in hopes that they would make a place for him. He really likes his boss and the people he works with. So he is naturally nervous about leaving and walking into an unknown work situation. But there are too many potential benefits of working at Vanderbilt.

So here we are experiencing first hand how God knows best. I have no doubts there will be bumps on this new road. There will likely be a time that I question this decision. But I know God is and was making all things beautiful in His time. I just hope I never forget that!

It amazes me (though it shouldn't) that we moved to TN for a job. One that Marshall made more money than he ever had. One that would only require me to work a little to make our budget work. But then we questioned our choices when the work situation went very south. But we kept marching on. Then we were brought to our lowest point. Humbled beyond anything we had experienced. We spent much time begging God for answers. He gave them! Now we are being blessed far beyond what we had hoped. It's still my hope that my job will pick back up or that I can find a child to babysit to tighten the budget gap. But the truth is, with some hard work and discipline, Marshall's money will provide for us! This is what I've always wanted anyway. While I never minded to help out, working took a ton of time away from Canaan and care of our home. This led to a very stressed wife and mom. Not to mention, I spent much of my time having to answer to a man who was not my husband. Getting to be a true stay at home mom the last month has been great! Not to mention that the idea of working and caring for a 3 year old and a newborn is terrifying!

So there are still many unknowns. We still have a lot of work to do to get where we really need to be but God has brought us this far. He will keep taking us where we need to go!

Prayers are still appreciated. Pray that this job will be enjoyable and profitable for Marshall. Pray that this is finally THE answer. Pray that it will in fact turn permanent and provide our family with much needed stability. But most importantly, pray that we are good stewards and make the best of whatever situation we are presented.

Now that all that's out....I need to get busy! Canaan and I need to go to the grocery. We resorted to eating fruit snacks and pb crackers for breakfast! So needless to say we need food!

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!
  • homeschoolmomma23
    God bless you!
    by homeschoolmomma23 at 02/03/12 10:01AM
  • derbydi
    It's wonderful to look back and to SEE God's providence for us! We have been there many times, too. I bet we all have. Glad you hung in there and kept trusting. Will say a prayer for you and your precious family. :-)
    by derbydi at 02/03/12 10:22AM
  • curlie
    Great news! HUGS
    by curlie at 02/03/12 10:42AM
  • onelittlecandle
    Good news! Things are looking up! God provides. :)
    by onelittlecandle at 02/03/12 11:33AM
  • be_with_me_lord
    I will pray for your family. I didn't know Marshall had found a job so that is very good news!
    by be_with_me_lord at 02/03/12 8:58PM
  • robynbobm
    It sounds like things are looking up! :)
    by robynbobm at 02/05/12 8:16PM


Well, we found the heartbeat! We also got to see our sweet baby. Just one baby. I am not a fan of lot of ultrasounds but it really did help my peace of mind. I had already felt Canaan by this point. Which I knew was super early. But I haven't felt anything from this baby. So it was nice to know there is a baby in there.

I am now 13 weeks. Some sources say I'm in the second trimester, others say I have one more week. Either way I am starting to feel lots better. My energy is still low but I'm generally a low energy person anyway.

Canaan is working on learning the potty. Two steps forward, one step back. I'm hopeful he will be fully trained before baby gets here.

I think I'm ready to crash. Hope you all have a good week!
  • truckerswife
    Boys can be difficult but once they get it, they get it. good luck. I only had 2 in diapers once for two weeks, which I think is pretty good. Glad u were able to hear/see baby. (is it just baby or is it a food?) lol wasn't C some kind of food for a long time?
    by truckerswife at 01/29/12 9:46PM
  • derbydi
    :-) That is so reassuring. Happened to me with Baby #3. Glad you're starting to feel better!
    by derbydi at 01/30/12 6:02AM
  • mmswife
    They think my placenta is on the top so that may explain why I haven't felt anything yet. A few other moms I've talked to have had similar experience.
    by mmswife at 01/30/12 8:07AM
  • mmswife
    ^Uh I should know the technical terms but I don't. Haha.
    by mmswife at 01/30/12 6:43PM
  • truckerswife
    is it anterior placenta?
    by truckerswife at 01/30/12 9:51PM
  • mmswife
    ^I don't think so. It's not in front so much as it is on top. But I could be completely mistaken. I'm just thankful it's nice and high. :)
    by mmswife at 01/30/12 11:25PM
  • robynbobm
    by robynbobm at 02/01/12 3:21PM

01/18/12 12:12PM

Time for a new post. Life has been trying and stressful around here but things are looking up and many lessons are being learned. I'm feeling some better. I at least have a little time each day with some energy to get some stuff done. I'm still waiting for it today though. ;-)

I have a midwife appoint on Monday. We're hoping to hear a heartbeat! I feel sure things are good but hearing that will be extra confirmation that a new Mickells is growing in there.

Canaan is keeping life interesting. He says nearly everything now. He's working on putting sentences together. He's constantly amazing us with his problem solving skills. I think we may have a little engineer on our hands.

We're so blessed!
  • crysi
    I miss u guys, when r u coming for a visit? I hope u get to hear a heartbeat, that sure makes things so much better.
    by crysi at 01/18/12 1:13PM
  • mmswife
    ^Who knows! We need to make a trip to Arkansas before we go anywhere else! Just waiting on the funds to do that.
    by mmswife at 01/18/12 3:26PM
  • be_with_me_lord
    It will be wonderful to hear the heartbeat. Hope you find some more energy :-)
    by be_with_me_lord at 01/18/12 11:04PM
  • sarahpet
    Canaan is so cute! --Praying that all goes wonderfully with the baby on the way!
    by sarahpet at 01/19/12 9:37PM
  • derbydi
    Hope you were able to pick up the heartbeat! I always loved that visit!
    by derbydi at 01/21/12 6:42PM
  • truckerswife
    ok thanks :)
    by truckerswife at 01/29/12 7:32AM