Since we’ve started officially homeschooling, I’m finding that doing one big shopping trip per week has become more of a challenge to fit in. I’m trying to have a consistent daily schedule, but working in a once-a-week 2-hour shopping trip around naps and nursing and homeschooling is just not working for us.
So I’m considering breaking up my shopping into 2 or 3 one-store trips throughout the week. Depending upon how good the deals are each week, I’m thinking it might work something like: one night I’ll go out and do a quick trip to Dillons after the little ones are in bed, on Tuesdays I’ll take one of the girls to Aldi with me while my Mother’s Helper is here, and, if the deals are really great at Target or some other store, I’ll take all three little ones with me after afternoon nap time one day each week.
That’s just what I’m tentatively thinking might work right now. I know it flies in the face of my previous stance to only go shopping once a week, but I’m also a person who tries to keep an open mind and never say “never”. Different things work at different times and different seasons of life, right? And since we live where all the stores are so close to us right now, there aren’t really any added fuel costs to split things up.
We’ll see how it goes. I’m known to easily change my mind so if I try this for a few weeks and it’s worse than before, I’ll put my thinking cap on again and see what I come up with!
At any rate, I split up my shopping trip this week into two parts. I took all the children with me to Aldi on Monday and here’s what we bought:
And I did a quick shopping trip at Dillons on Tuesday night after the children were in bed:
I spent a little over $36 at Aldi and $5.44 at Dillons (see details on that trip here) bringing my total for groceries this week to right around $41.50. I had a little leftover money from a previous week that I was under-budget which I used to cover the extra $1.50 so we’re still within our $40/week grocery budget right now. I’ve actually surprised myself that this low budget is still cutting it for our family.
We’re still using meat from our freezer and meals from our After-The-Baby-Freezer-Stash so I know that helps. We’ve almost cleaned our freezer out, though, so I’m gearing up for re-stocking it soon. I’m considering trying Once-A-Month Cooking but I haven’t decided yet whether or not I’m going to take the plunge or if that’s feasible for our budget. I’ll keep you apprised.
We’re headed to Arkansas tomorrow for our annual week-long family vacation at the Bull Shoals Lake with all of my extended family so I won’t have to do too much cooking this coming week. We’re all sharing the cooking load, but I didn’t have to buy anything extra as I’m only bringing food I already had in my stockpile. The benefits of using coupons and buying ahead are practically endless, aren’t they?
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Great finds on produce this week at Aldi (my favorite place)! I bought all fruits and veggies to eat on now and to cut-up this weekend and use when cooking at later dates. I was about $13 UNDER my weekly $40 budget. Go me!
I’m wondering if any of the readers have suggestions on how to buy organic yet still stick to a monthly grocery budget similar to yours. I am in CT and food – especially organic – is so expensive, but I really feel organic is the best thing for my family.
Jane Bentley says
I found once a month cooking to be miserable. Far better to do the “cook-big-freeze-some” and avoid that exhausting day with a disaster kitchen. For just a little extra effort one dinner easily becomes three or four. We’ve also loved Fix, Freeze, Feast. And I always buy hamburger and chicken on sale and pre-cook and freeze in meal size packs. What a great head start for busy days. And to only have to deal with greasy pans once..=).
Mrs. Pear says
I think we are in a similar season – although we only have 2 children ages 4 and 11 months, but I am trying to figure out how to “do it all” too with adding in homeschooling while not giving up on baking and careful shopping and do-it-yourselfing to save money.
It would be disappointing to suddenly start spending money in lots of other places just to accommodate preschool!
Letty Casey says
I’ve recently done the once a month cooking. As organized as you are I bet it is a big help. You may also want to look at at http://onceamonthmom.com/. They do all the work and planning for you. So easy.
When all of mine were little and we were schooling during the days, I only grocery shopped at night. Hope that encourages you 🙂
I find that short trips are the ONLY way to shop with my little kids. I try to keep any store visit down to 1/2 hour or less to keep them from going nuts in the store. If they know it’s only going to be quick they don’t mind going in with me 2 or 3 times a week, and since our stores are walking distance we can combine it with a more fun outing.
Crystal, I second and third the bulk cooking idea. It can be overwhelming at first, so I always teach people in my classes to just start by doubling and tripling what you’re already cooking and freezing the extras. After a few weeks you’ll have more than a dozen meals put away and you’ll have the hang of it, and then you can try your hand at once a month cooking if you’d like. I find it really frees me up–if the blog, or church, or a friend, or my family needs me, then I can easily pop a meal in the oven to reheat. No big deal and saves me tons of time–especially since the majority of time spent cooking each night is the prep and cleanup!
As for shopping, shorter trips really do help! I limit myself to two stores per week MAX. If a third store has a deal, well, I’ll just have to miss it this week. I mean, deals repeat regularly so its not that big of a deal if I miss that one sale. And I find that by doing one store on Tuesday night and one on Thursday that I can get in and out SO much faster since its just me without the kids and I have a much shorter list!
Savings Ninja says
I usually shop twice a week – two stores on Thursday on my way home from work, and two other stores Sunday morning. I like breaking it up this way. It is just easier to keep track of what you’re getting where, plus you don’t feel like you spent your WHOLE day in grocery stores.
Another advantage I’ve found is that I have a continuous supply of fresh produce. I only need to get a few days worth on each trip, so it is less likely that I will buy too much and end up with some of it going bad. Also, if you realize you’re low or out of something, the next scheduled grocery run is always right around the corner, so you can usually survive without making a “special” trip for 1 item.
Hey, you’re heading to my neck of the woods! 🙂
what is a Mother’s Helper? I think I need a helper! 🙂
Julie @Kingdom Klipper says
Crystal, Is this your first year at Home schooling? I’m starting the day after Labor Day our 14th year!! It’s hard to believe…the Lord has blessed immensely!
I second the CSA! We joined one this year, and it is wonderful! From July through early December we recieve a produce box every week, and a fruit box (in addition to the produce) every other week. The excitement of what we will receive each week is fun. I also love the challenge of using it all up, and figuring out how to use or preserve the things I wouldn’t normally buy at the store (tomatillo, arugala, swiss chard, etc.). We’ve had some wonderful meals we would never had tried otherwise.
We purchase all organic, so the savings from the CSA has been huge over what I would spend at a grocery store.
When we were hs-ing and I had planned errands, I planned in hs activities that could be done in the car and sometimes even in the grocery store. We listedn to songs of the multiplication tables and books on tape and foreign languages in the car. The kids took turns reading to me or each other. In the store is a good time for them to practice math skills, they can also learn to look for specific kinds of products (food groups, where things were grown/produced, etc) We did a whole Harry Potter unit study and there is a comment in one of the books abt since Muggles (non-magic people) couldn’t do magic they use technology to do work–the kids each had a notebook and wrote down all the technology that could find–which led to our unit on simple machines
Karen Redman says
Just wondering if you have ever tried online grocery shopping? We have it here in Scotland, and it has been a great way for us to stick to a budget and also to save time by having shopping delivered. Personally, I find shopping with a 5 year old and 18 month old a challenge, so I can understand how you must feel! I tend to online shop for the week, but occasionally run out to shop for extra fruit & veg as necessary so it is fresh.
Karen, Scotland, UK
I have six children and homeschool as well and I also have to break up my shopping into several small trips. I just have to be careful not to overspend doing it. Seems like I can tend to pick up more deals that way. But, I’ve been able to stay within budget and I like only being gone for an hour or so at a time rather than several hours. Hey, whatever works!!!
I am a homeschooling mom to 4 (born within 5 years) and you are right…flexibility is a must! I know there are times when it all seems so overwhelming, but they won’t be little for long! Enjoy it all and cut yourself some slack, when needed.
Carol Wright says
Hey Crystal I totally forgot about this with the buying in bulk entry you had a few days ago but i’ll put it here – have you ever considered a CSA for your fruits and veggies? here is my post about CSA’s http://crazycouponlady.livejournal.com/723.html
In my area (middle, TN) i figured out that if i participate in a winter CSA and a spring CSA it would come to roughly 800.00 a year. That seems astronomical BUT that is for half a bushel of organic locally grown veggies every other week. It works out to $15.00 a week for ORGANIC produce.
frugalinfranklin.typepad.com posted about a CSA that she joins here in town – if you are interested i’ll go find her post.
Theresa G says
Great tip on the cataloupe. I was wondering how you were going to eat that all.
Flexibility is key! I have 6 kids, and have altered how I do it many times.
Over the last several years what has worked best for me is to schedule a 2-3 hour errand time on Saturday afternoons. The kids are all down for a nap/rest time (even the older ones) so it doesn’t take away from “family time.” If I have a nursing baby I take her with me, otherwise, I can get so much more accomplished in that time with out all the kids.
Not that I never take them with me anywhere, but this is our normal setup. This allows me to keep our week much more structured and less busy, especially now that I have four formally homeschooling and 2 littler ones. My husband doesn’t mind either because he is usually either relaxing or working on a project or spending time with the older girls who aren’t napping, so it works out very well for us.
I always schedule either an easy meal (like tacos) or a crockpot meal for Saturdays so that when I get home at 4 or so I don’t have to immediately worry about starting a big meal.
Seasons do change things. As my oldest one is now getting to where she can watch my others for an hour or so, I am finding I can make quick runs to the grocery store in the afternoons during naptime, so my routine may change in the next few years as I have more freedom with teenagers. But I love consistency and routine, and the Saturday errand time has served us well for many years.
Are your purchases of diapers and baby itmes included in your budget or separate?
Thanks! My husband I love reading your blog!! I plan and coupon and cook and he executes the shopping! Thanks for all you do!
Your willingness to be flexible no doubt contributes to your ability to successfully manage your budget. We all have to adapt to the different circumstances of our lives. Just wanted to thank you for sharing your endless knowledge and experience. You get special mention on my blog today.
Kristi West says
I noticed that you bought quite a bit of cantalope. How long will it keep?
Money Saving Mom here: I’ve found that cantaloupe uncut (and refrigerated) usually keeps for close to three weeks. I always buy extra when they are on sale for $0.99 at Aldi because of this. We love cantaloupe!
I have a question about the cantaloupe…
Are you taking them to Arkansas with you? Or are they for the 4 of you? I can’t imagine 4 people eating 5 cantaloupes before at least one of them starts going bad (and we are big cantaloupe lovers.)
If you do decide to try Once a Month Cooking, I highly recommend a cookbook called Fix, Freeze, Feast. It doesn’t rely on processed foods like other OAMC books do. There’s no condensed soup for sauces and it uses real veggies and homemade sauces.
Great job Crystal! 🙂 Have a great trip!
Wow, you guys must love cantaloupe!
I noticed that you don’t usually purchase meat. Do you purchase that separately from a butcher?
Money Saving Mom here: We’ve been eating a lot of stockpiled meat and meals from the freezer the past few months, but we’ve almost gone through those so meat will start to be more of a regular in my grocery pictures in the next few weeks.
I forgot to say I just read Frozen Assests and she has a section on the mini-session. This is where you can cook 3-4 meals using the same main ingredient. By doing this several times you canl have a month’s worth of meals fairly painlessly.
Carol Wright says
Crystal…One thing you might consider rather than once a month cooking would be every other month cooking which is sort of similar to what i do. I hardly ever HAVE to cook because of the way I cook:
I come from a long line of mass quantity cooks. (My grandpa owned a restaurant before he went to wwii. While in the Army as a medic he complained about the food so often he was “punished” by being made to be the cook for their company. He was never more thrilled. My grandparents had 5 children so I grew up seeing LARGE quantities of food prepared and never got over it…) For some reason though i cook for myself (a post op gastric bypass patient) and my 1 year old daughter – for some reason i cook enough for a family of 6.
So here is what i do: I freeze the leftovers before they ARE leftovers. You could do something similar and it might not hurt your budget as bad as you think.
Example: You are cooking Chili for dinner and everyone loves extra chili for left overs and such. Make a double, triple or even quadruple recipe using multiple crockpots or a crockpot and a pot on the stove and then freeze half in meal sized portions so that when you need a “quick” dinner you have chili.
I make my own spaghetti sauce because it tastes a lot better than jar spaghetti sauce – you can do the same thing with the sauce & if you wanted to make a lasagne the same night you had spaghetti or something like that you could always just put it together and then stick it in the freezer.
I also freeze parts of the meal – I made an alfredo sauce for some pasta a few weeks ago and froze half of my alfredo sauce because I make garlic mac & cheese and can easily just stick this premade “Alfredo sauce” into a pan with more cheese and presto chango alakazam I have mac & cheese sauce 😉
I go shopping in little trips throughout the week, however the key is really being prepared and not running out the door without checking the ad and comments completely.
I hate getting to the store and realizing I might have to come back because of a great deal.
Just wanted to say I love looking at your blog each day and finding good deals. I also have a very hectic schedule with homeschool and little ones naps and find that breaking up the shopping trips works better for me too! The kids seem to like it too, since the shopping trips are not long, they are better behaved and we actually have a good time! And for monthly freezer stocking I mostly just do meats, not as expensive and it really does help. Thanks!
Crystal, every week I’m amazed at the great deals you get! I’ve gotten really good at couponing too, so I really enjoy seeing other people’s shopping trips. I have to ask though – what do you do with 5 cantaloupes?? 🙂
flexibility is key with three littles! you are amazing me with what you are able to do!!!
Alison Armstrong says
could you go every other week? That works best for me and saves me money too I think.
I had a lot of freezer meals (almost 50) before having baby #2. Since then I have just kept up with it. Maybe one week I will get a good deal on something and make 3 of the same meal that uses that item and put it in the freezer. Adding too it means I always have food in the freezer w/o having to do a big once a month cooking day. I don’t have the daycare to do that. It is really a lot of work doing them all at once. Doing a little here and there has been much more manageable. I just counted my stock and already have about 30 meals. I won’t have to do much extra for baby #3 that is coming in a couple months.
I really think you should give Freezer cooking a try. I love it. I do it mostly during the school year. We would eat out all the time if I didn’t. Just do a meal that is easy to freeze like taco meat. I will make enough for 5 or 6 meals.We eat some the night I fix and I freeze the rest. On busy nights the meat goes into a little crock pot and it is ready when we return home from the kids activity’s.
Frugal Fritzie says
I know what you mean! I tried to get my shopping done in one trip, but I seem to do better breaking it up in 2 or 3 short trips throughout the week. I feel less stressed that way rather than trying to squeeze it all in one day all along with all the other stuff I need to do LOL
the animal crackers from Aldi are our favorite! We think they taste so much better than the expensive brand name ones!
I kind of do my shopping similar to what you mentioned. On Sat. eve. I try to take one child to cvs with me-I can think enough with only one child to do my transactions properly.Then Sun afternoon I do my big shopping at Kroger and maybe Walgreens-alone. Then I run out to a few extra places (like the grocery outlet) if time, and energy allow, taking one child with me. I just rotate it to try and make it fair (I have 5 young children). Sometimes if we’re out for an errand I will run into Kroger again just to check for manager’s specials. Last week, by stopping at Kroger twice, I got 5 gallons of Horizons organic milk for half price. Both days I stopped in they would have more marked down. Yes, these seasons change quickly-so in 6 months you might change it again. It’s called being flexible…which for me has been a harder lesson to learn, but a very good one.
I noticed recently your weekly grocery trips do not include toiletries. I am assuming that is separate from your weekly grocery budget? How much do you budget for that? Also, a lot of other couponing sites advocate stockpiling when you find a really good sale on nonperishable food items. From your pictures, it looks to me like you just buy for each week. Do you do this to make sure you stay within your weekly budget? Thanks for your input on this and for all your hard work on this blog! I am working on streamlining the shopping and savings for our family as well!
Money Saving Mom here: Toiletries are included in the budget, I just haven’t needed to buy any because we’re well-stocked up on those thanks to previous good deals that I’ve stocked up on.
And I’m a big advocate of buying ahead. Check out my post on it here:
I definitely do as much as of this as I possibly can while sticking within our budget.
Will your hubby watch the kids for you on Sat for 2 hours? It will be like a “break” for you and you’ll be able to get everything done. I usually take my kids with me too….(my husband is in the military so 7 months out of the year he usually isn’t here). But most of the time, my husband will gladly watch the kids for me. I make it fun and get a latte before I go. And sometimes I take my oldest (2 yrs) and we have a mommy and daughter time. It’s always fun.
Money Saving Mom here: My hubby gladly watches the children for me for a few hours almost every Saturday, but I use that time to have a weekly planning session at a local coffee shop. I’ve found that spending a few hours planning my week (homeschool, projects around the house, menu, etc.) helps me be a lot more efficient throughout the week.
Delilah Stewart says
You can’t put a price tag on your sanity. Breaking things up will be a good idea, three kids slighty cranky and hungry in a grocery store is not worth a savings to me! Keep up the good work!
I think being flexible is the best thing because everything changes as our “seasons of life” change. You are a wise woman.
I’ve also been contemplating once a month cooking. If you take the plunge maybe I’ll join you! 🙂
I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing vacation with your family!