Monthly Grocery Shopping – Trial Month 1

August was my month of saving money. We have our property tax payment coming up and being a paranoid pregnant woman of 8 months, I kicked into high gear for saving money. My “genius” plan was to grocery shopping only once a month. This means having every meal of the month planned (I know, I’m crazy).

My typical work schedule is from 10 am to 7 pm. When I don’t work from home and I have to travel to the office; I get home around 8 pm sometimes with no dinner ready. Not only was I in a state of ‘hangry’ on these days, but I would usually place an order for food spending $30-$40 on dinner twice a week and once on the weekend for fun. The monthly shopping and planning was a way I hoped to alleviate this hangry experience (and selfishly allow my husband the tools he needed to start dinner before I arrived home). With a plan, he would know exactly what was on the menu (with a link to the recipe) and wouldn’t have the excuse of I didn’t know what your plan was… (my plan is always to just eat food).

Planning Phase

The MOST important part of a monthly grocery stop is the planning phase. Based on my google searches, a family of 3 typically spends between $300 and $700 a month on groceries. My goal was no more than $350 per month and $25 for weekly fresh food. So a menu was made with a budget in mind for every meal. I also know that I get lazy in the week. Have I mentioned I’m 8 months pregnant with a 1.5 year old? Most nights, after a full day of work and mommying, I don’t have the energy to make a 3 course meal.  3 nights a week I would write in something easy like frozen pizza, a crock pot meal, pasta, or Soup and Grilled cheese. This “lazy” side of me helped keep the cost down too.

Thanks to Handmade in Heartland’s blog post, I was able to create an effective calendar.

Here are a few tips I used from her blog:

  1. Choose a Theme for every day of the week.
    • Monday = Chicken
    • Tuesday = Turkey
    • Wednesday = Vegitaraian
    • Thursday = Beef
    • Friday = Pizza
    • Saturday = Something extraordinary
    • Sunday = Soup
  2. Write in all the days you’ll be out of the house
    • I knew we had a few weekends with plans so I wrote in when we would eat out of the house or need to pack a lunch. The peach festival was a must for the Pulled Pork Peach sandwich made by our favorite local food truck. So I wrote that in.
    • August 31st in my birthday – We’re going out!
    • August 26th was my cousin’s Wedding = Free food.
  3. Write your Grocery list as you plan. This way you can ensure you aren’t missing anything.

Tips from Me while planning:

  1. Check your stock of necessities. My monthly grocery shopping meant being prepared for the run out of toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, etc.. Unfortunately, this month I didn’t account for trash bags.
  2. Use an excel sheet.
    • This helped me in more ways than one. My September planning went much faster because I copied and pasted my favorite meals. I could share it electronically with my husband so he was fully in the loop.
  3. Write in snacks. You don’t realize how much you really want your evening bowl of ice cream until your freezer is empty! Try not to eat it all in the first 15 days.

The Shopping

Grocery shopping once a month suddenly became a family affair. We needed 2 carts to account for our groceries. While our 2 hour grocery visit was tiring, it was the most satisfying experience. We primarily went to Walmart because their prices tend to be the best. This month, I’ve ordered my groceries for pick up which I’m excited to experience in 2 days! (PROBLEM: They don’t accept coupons for grocery pick up – lame).

Sundays were chosen for my weekly $25 fresh food pick up. My $25 dollar budget stretched into $30 because we really like eating fresh fruits and Veggies, especially when they’re local. I’ve accounted for that this month.

This month, I’ll also be stopping at our new local Lidl store. Their opening day is August 31st which means they have extra sales!! I’ve compared the prices of Walmart to Lidl and written a list for which items were cheaper. Savings will total $10 for 3 items. Every little bit counts.

Did We Save Anything?

YES! At first, it didn’t feel like it. One large bill vs 4 small bills for groceries plus eating out was intimidating. After crunching the numbers we’ve come out saving over $1,000.00 this month!

Item Number of Times per Week Average Cost Total
Daily Lunch out for Tim/myself 7 $10 $70.00
Dinner 3 $35.00 $105
Coffee/Drinks for 2 6 $5.00 $30.00
$205.00
x5 weeks
$1,025.00
The above chart doesn't account for extra snacks bought at weekly grocery shopping trips and wasted food bought.

Adjustments were made to my monthly budget to allow for items like toilet paper and shampoo. This raised my budget to a monthly stop of $400.00 and weekly allowance of $35.00 for fresh food.

PRO’s and CON’s

I’d like to think there were more PRO’s than CON’s this month. My biggest weakness was gaining the willpower to not eat all of our snacks in the first few weeks. My greatest enjoyments of this month was less worrying and more evening family time. Having a schedule made for our meals really helped me identify when I could have quality time with my husband and son. I also found that my energy levels increased because my meals were more balanced and I was doing a lot less evening rushing.

PRO CON
Worrying about a nightly meal once a month The will power to avoid getting chocolate throughout the month.
One large payment a month Falling into the trap of eating all the snacks in the first 2 weeks
SAVING MONEY Doesn’t leave much room for Sick days or cravings
Allowance for Weekly fresh food Not getting weekly sales at grocery stores
Happier every evening because the stress of planning a meal was aliviated Need for exttra storage
Monthly cleaning of the fridge  last minute friend/family dinner’s weren’t accounted for.
Having leftovers for lunch every day.
A working relationship in the home for cooking
More time with your family!

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO Remember that sometimes your cooking is going to be SO good that there won’t be any leftovers. Have quick items ready for packing lunches. PB&J was our go-to.
  • DO keep the stables in your pantry stocked. To me this included brown sugar, chocolate chips, sugar, flour, butter, eggs, oils, etc.. Having these things on hand helped me not go out when I wanted to buy a snack.
  • DON’T make yourself stressed out. If the process is too stressful for you, try bi-weekly. Having a plan has really helped me alleviate stress I didn’t know I was holding. Give yourself a break!
  • DO allow a few flex days a month -this will give you the ability to create a quick meal in the face of emergency. Sometimes on Thursday’s I would be so tired from the week that we would do pizza night a day early. So I swapped meal days.
  • DO keep a running list of items that need to be restocked. Things like kitchen sponges or laundry detergent.
  • DO invest in a garage freezer
  • DON’T overwhelm yourself with lots of elaborate meals
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Homemade Pasta

My user is “Curltastic & Hungry” for a reason; I have wild curly locks and I really like food. I’m probably categorized as a picky eater, but I’ve learned over the years that picky isn’t always bad. As my father would say, “I picked your Mother didn’t I? I think I’m doing well!” For now, I’m fine with ignoring sushi and spicy foods.

Growing up my FAVORITE meal was homemade pasta made by my Italian grandmother. Some of our best days were the days where we would go over to Mommom’s house and make pounds and pounds of pasta. Evening would be marked with a celebration of family as we enjoyed the fruits of our labor. As the years have gone we all get older, busier, and medical issues got in the way.

Making pasta is probably one of the most time consuming and labor intensive meals I make. This is why it’s so special. We don’t make it for anyone. It’s a meal made with love and shared with the ones we love most. This past weekend, Tim had Jack in Central PA where they helped build a greenhouse and spent time with his parents. Baby free, I made plans with Mommom to make pasta!

Thank you Mommom for your time and love!

It’s important to remember three things when making pasta.

  1. It’s VERY messy. So lay a sheet on your kitchen floor, and keep the windows closed/fans off so flour doesn’t spread everywhere.
  2. KEEP YOUR DOUGH COVERED AT ALL TIMES. There is nothing worse than a pasta ball dried out from the air. You’ll waste so much time just picking off the crusty outside.
  3. Start with a large clean area and lay out all of your tools before you begin.

 

Tools you’ll need:

Ingredients:

Yields one lb of dough

  • 3 cups of Flour (Plus a lot of extra for kneading)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Water as needed

 

Making Pasta!

Step 1:Add together ingredients in food processor. Crack your eggs into a separate bowl to avoid egg shell mishaps. Turn on full speed until dough like constancy begins to form. If the dough is not forming slowly add small amounts of water while pulsing the mixer. Dough should be moist, not sticky. If sticky consistency, separate the large chunk of dough into 3 and add flour, then pulse in the mixer.

Step 2: Once the dough is moist, remove from the food processor and place on a floured wooden cutting board. Kneed dough with flour removing signs of a sticky consistency. Form dough into a round ball and place on tray. IMMEDIATELY cover with a dry kitchen towel to keep moisture in. Repeat process until you’ve completed the amount of dough you desire to make (I usually do this 3 times).

Step 3: Connect your dough roller. Not the roller with the grooves for cutting.

Step 4: Cut off a piece of dough about 1/2 inch thick and feed through the rolling attachment.

REMEMBER to cover the remaining dough!!

The first time through will produce a jagged piece, but fold over into 3’s and feed through sending the edges through first each time (See video below). If the dough is too long to feed through this way, cut in half.Flour dough before each run though the dough roller.

 

Step 5: Once the dough has a smooth constancy, flour it a final time and place on floured counter-top. Cover the dough with a dishtowel to keep from drying out. Repeat until one a pound is completed. If you make more than one pound you risk your rolled out dough drying and breaking as your feed through the pasta cutter. 

Step 6: Cutting your dough.

There are many ways you can cut your rolled out dough pieces. Long wide strips are best for casseroles. If you decide to make raviolis you’ll want to cut squares out from the dough. For thick pasta I like cutting into 1/4 inch strips.

If you decide to use the cutting attachment, remember to flour the dough before you run it through the cutting tool. Always, always run your finder under the roller or cutter to ensure no pieces of dough are remaining. This will cause your rollers to get clogged. After cutting your pasta coat in flour and set aside onto clean tray. No flour is too much! Use your wax paper to separate individual layers of pasta. Do not over stack or your pasta will be crushed and get stuck together.

 

Step 7: Storage

Place cut pasta in the freezer for 1-3 hours and then separate into freezer bags and return to the freezer. Pasta can be cooked immediately – see cooking pasta section below.

Cooking Your Pasta

In a large pot bring water with 1 table spoon of extra virgin olive oil to a boil. Place pasta into the boiling water CONSTANTLY stirring to avoid the pasta clumping together. Cook pasta until Al dente (typically takes me 10 minutes for spaghetti noodles). Strain and immediately rinse with water to remove all leftover flour.

Add sauce and serve! Enjoy!