Since there were a number of questions on this week's $40 shopping trip and menu post, I decided to answer them in a separate post for those interested.
Do you know of anyone who blogs
about sales at Aldis? Aldis moved my city recently, but the closest one
is about 15 minutes from my house (I have 3 other grocery stores within 5 minutes of my house.) So I don't plan to go to Aldis often, but
would like to know when they have specials. Any tips or ideas for
Aldi doesn't really run many sales but their staple prices are often much lower than grocery store prices. I'd recommend you make a trip or two to Aldi in the next few weeks to familiarize yourself with the store and compare prices.
You might find that a trip there once a month to stock up on staple items will help you to lower your grocery budget. Or you may find that you can usually beat their prices with store sales and coupons. Either way, it will be good to know.
For more advice on shopping at Aldi, check out this article.
I have a question about your meal
plan, shopping lists and recipes – how long does it take you to do this
every week? I'm in desperate need of guidance in this area – we spend
$300 – $500 dollars A WEEK on groceries and other household supplies,
yet we never have anything to put together balanced meals! I'm looking
for a place to start so any advice you could offer would be greatly
First off, remember that I didn't start menu planning and feeding my family on $40 a week last week or even last year. I've been at this for years and the practice really does make a difference.
As for how long it takes me, well, that really depends upon how good the sales are. On dismal sale weeks, I usually try to use what we already have on hand and then hit Aldi for the rest. So the whole menu-planning and grocery-list-writing process might take me 20 minutes or so.
On good sale weeks, I take more time to scour the ad, match-up coupons, find printable coupons, and then make our menu and grocery list. All told, it might take me 45 minutes to an hour. I rarely ever spend longer than that.
My advice for you would be to start our slowly. If planning a week's worth of meals seems daunting, try to just plan a week's worth of simple dinners. Go through your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer and make sure you have everything on hand to make all the recipes you've chose. Plan side dishes, too. And then force yourself to stick with it! Sometimes the determination to see it through is half the battle.
Also, your family needs to be on board with you. If Mom's determined to shop once per week and stick with a menu but everyone else complains and whines and refuses to go along, chances are you likely won't be able to make it work.
Have a family meeting, let your family members give input on meals and snacks, and work out a plan. And then work the plan! Don't expect changes to happen overnight, but be encouraged as you start heading in a more organized and cost effective direction. You can do it!
Do you add up your price (net of
coupons) on your calculator each time you add an item to your cart? I
know I would forget something and never quite get my total right! How
do you stay so perfectly within budget?
Yes. My biggest help is that I only bring $40 cash to the store. No credit card (we don't have those–thanks, Dave!), no debit cards, no nothing else besides the cash. Believe me, when you know you only have your allotted amount to spend, you usually are pretty determined to stick within the budget!
I usually try to leave a few dollars extra wiggle room and have mentally picked out a few items in my cart that I can always take off my order if I end up being overbudget. That has happened a few times and I want to be prepared.
Ok…spill your recipe for peanut butter smoothies. I bet my kids would love them!
Here you are:
Yummy Banana Peanut Butter Smoothies
3/4 to 1 cup sliced frozen bananas (like this)
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
Blend in the blender until smooth. The above makes about 13-15 oz. I can drink all of that for breakfast but I'm also pregnant and nursing.
Word to the wise: Do not give these smoothies to young children who like to make messes. Otherwise, in the process of eating it, they will spill it all over themselves and your kitchen and you'll have sticky banana goo to clean up. Ask me how I know.
What is crockpot ragout? Could you share a description or recipe? I love using the crockpot.
Here's the recipe. This is my first week to try it so I can't say whether it'll become a regular at our house or not.
do you have a recipe site? i have
wanted 2 of your dishes now…enchilada casserole and another taco dish
you made. please share!
No, I don't have a recipe site and I'm afraid I'd not be a very good candidate for a recipe blogger. You see, I'm not one to use recipes very often. After years of tinkering in the kitchen, I've found I prefer to use recipes as a guideline or launching pad rather than a strict standard to be followed.
For instance, the enchilada casserole will be based upon a recipe but then highly modified based upon the mood I'm in, our taste preferences, and the ingredients we have. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but my hubby loves most everything I cook and I do, too. Plus, the creativity in the kitchen helps us to use what we have on hand and spend less at the store. So I guess you could say it's a good problem that I don't like to follow recipes very carefully.
Would you consider doing a post
about your ENTIRE budget? I would love to see a real world example of a
real family's entire budget.
Here's a link to a post on my old blog which has both our bare-bones $1000/month law school budget and our current budget. We've modified it a bit since that post was written, but it's very similar. Feel free to ask if you have any questions. I can't promise I have great answers, but I'll try to answer as best as I can!