Go Big & Go Home!

  After a successful trip to Walmart Monday night, I decided to write a bit about the method to our madness.  Dale and I are firm believers of once a month shopping.  Our motto is this:

 “Walmart: Go big & Go home.” 

 (And do NOT return for a whole month.)

((Unless you forgot the eggs, then by all means, send Dale on the way home from work.))

   We budget $450 a month, for our family of 6, and that has to include diapers, light bulbs, shampoo etc.  This total does not include meat purchases, since we get a side of grass-fed beef once a year instead.  It has worked out great! 

  We just, in the past year, increased our monthly budget from $400 to $450 because of 2 in diapers and our kids eating more.  On average, the government figures $100 per person in your home, per month, so that lets me know, we are still doing good.  I think the $400 range is a good one, and hopefully, I’ll never need to go over that by too far, as our kids grow up. Just think, before I know it, my two littles will be potty trained!  Right, AVERY the STUBBORN, who is almost 2 1/2???????????  That will give us $60-$80 extra, that used to be spent on diapers! Hurray! 🙂

  Monthly Shopping:

 Step 1)  Get out all your favorite cookbooks to pick out recipes. Man, do I LOVE this part!  I tend to plan for 12-14 meals per month.  Often, 10 of those are brand new recipes to try, how exciting!

  I plan for 2 fun breakfasts per month, for quiet Saturdays at home, like Eggs Benedict Casserole with Hollandaise sauce, French toast casserole, Dale makes a mean Denver Omelet, and whole wheat buttermilk pancakes are always a hit! We plan for  2 new appetizers to try on Sunday Night Snack Supper, like Cocktail Reubens, Buffalo Wing Dip, Philly BBQ Ranch Dip, Corn dip, or Stuffed Mushrooms.  Add a dessert or two, maybe some bread recipes, and viola, you are done! 

  I always have a whole drawer full of new recipe print outs to try, in addition to my plethora of cooking magazines.  Plus there are page numbers and titles of “To Try” recipes listed inside each of my recipe books for easy reference during this planning time.  (When I get a new cookbook, I write inside the front cover, the list with page numbers, of all the recipes I want to try.  Then, once we’ve tried them, they either get a star of approval, or an X meaning never again!)  I leave all the pages bookmarked or open and move on to step 2.

  Step two is to type out the menu you have chosen, adding sides and a fruit or dessert if you wish.  I try to pick a variety of recipes: chicken, beef, occasionally pork, several Mexican dishes, casseroles, 1 or maybe 2, meat and potato suppers, and occasionally an Italian meal. (Not Dale’s favorite to my kids dismay!)

  I also try to watch things like, if I am buying a bunch of cilantro and the recipe calls for only half a bunch, I’ll find another recipe to uses the second half of it.  Then, as I type out the menu, I include in parenthesis the fresh items called for in the recipe, like (uses cilantro), so I have a quick reference when the other half needs to be used up.  This also helps me to prioritize which recipes I should make early on in the month. 

  This month may not have been the smartest one to show you for multiple reasons: it’s Christmas, so I will be home less to cook.  Also, instead of Bkfst, Appetizer and Dessert listings as I usually do, I had to list out the get-togethers we are attending and what I am assigned to bring.  And, poor Dale, I am hungry for Italian (and its so easy!) that I put 2 Italian things on the menu.  There is also more Pork than usual because we just bought a half a hog from someone for the ground sausage, so I am using up some of the other cuts this month.   

 Disclaimer done, moving on.  🙂

Step 3) Take all day to go through said recipes, and type missing ingredients out, one by one, on the computer spreadsheet you made for a grocery list.  Ok, ok, it only takes me all day, because I get interrupted no less than 1000 x’s, and can’t do much when I sit to nurse every 3 hours.  But you?  You can totally get it done much faster than that.  Like I used to back in the day.  For some reason, there were fewer interruptions before 3 kids in 3 years occurred!  Oh, and in all fairness, that was also before I lost the last of my organization brain cells, and could form a complete thought.  I sure miss that part of me! 

Now, what was it that we were we talking about? 

Oh yes!  Grocery lists. 

  Again with a disclaimer, don’t judge, it’s not pretty, I only own Microsoft Works, and this, is as good as it gets.  Its ugly, its crooked, I have to write in short hand cause the blanks are small, but I gotta tell you, it beats the heck out of hand writing it!  I usually organize it by sections as I go, and then drag and drop all the canned goods together within the Shelf category etc.  * means I have a coupon for it.  This gives Dale the hint to check which brand is on the coupons clipped to the list, rather than just whatever he feels like buying.  

Once I print this out, we cut it in half, and head to the store to divide and conquer Walmart. 

Here it is.  Don’t judge me.  Funny, I am feeling vulnerable just now, like you are peeking into my underwear drawer or something.  

Step 4)  2 hours, 2 full & overflowing carts later, we are headed home.  And, after 1 hour of putting away, we are done for the whole month! Is that the Hallelujah chorus I am hearing?!  Why yes, yes it is!  🙂

  Now, this part takes some dedication…..the budget is spent.  Finished.  As in, NO MORE!  So, unless someone calls and needs me to make something I have NONE of the ingredients for, or unless I forget something reallyreallyreally important, we don’t go back.  At all.  Must.  Stay.  Away.   Besides, you’d be surprised how much you can do with just the things you have in your cupboard and freezer in a pinch!

  The questions I am most often asked at this point is, how do you get your stuff to last 4 weeks?  And where the heck do you put it all?  

  Well, first of all, it’s not a perfect method, but we make it work the best we are able.

1) I have 2 fridges, the second one keeps things much longer, since it is rarely opened.  I also have 2 deep freezes, 1 for meat and bread, 1 for cheese, ice cream, butter etc.  Plus, I now have  a pantry, which is a welcomed change to storing things in the garage, kitchen, laundry room and my bedroom closet.

2) We eat the stuff like mushrooms (I just learned they freeze beautifully, so that’ll change), bagged salad and spinach, bananas, broccoli, and sometimes peppers, in the first 2 weeks before we start to lose ’em.  Things we buy that last the whole month, or very close to that, are: celery, heads of leaf lettuce, carrot sticks, potatoes, onions, apples, oranges & sometimes grapes. 

3) Towards the very end of the month, we tend to do more frozen veggies, which I steam on the stove, to maintain the most nutrients possible.  (we all buy such sprayed, altered, nutrient-poor food, that I don’t know that there are much nutrients left to save, but I feel the need to make an effort at least!)  

  We get raw milk from a farm, so when that runs out, we either go get more, or I use Vanilla Rice Dream milk.  The kids eat it just fine on their cereal, and it has a long shelf life, so I always have a little stash of it to help us make it through the last week or so.  Breads, I buy at the Sara Lee Bakery once every other month, and freeze them.  They thaw great!

  Grocery day is exciting and awful all at the same time.  I dread the process, but the end result is soo worth it!  We only have to get a babysitter once, we only have to make ourselves go brave the crowds once (and germs, ew!), and when we are done, I have a super-full pantry of yummy ingredients, to last me the next 30 days.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE making new recipes, so I am always geared up and ready to cook the next day.  

   My poor hunny, does not get excited about any part of this excursion!  He used to be a really great sport about going grocery shopping with me, but after I was put on 6 1/2 months of bed rest with Paxton, and he went alone all those months, he is not quite so willing now. Imagine that?! 

   I am seriously considering going to the store every 2 weeks for a one cart shopping trip, so I can give the poor guy a break. I am nervous though, I mean, we’ve done once a month shopping nearly all of our 8 years of marriage.  It’ll take a bit of adjusting on my part, to figure out how to do things 2 weeks at a time.  I had gotten good at looking at the list and knowing if I had gone over my budget or not.  I also will have to figure on average, how many meals we consume per week, since it changes all the time based on the social calendar!  Shopping every 2 weeks will be an adjustment, but if it means that much to him, I guess I can give it a whirl. 

In the meantime, I love Once-A- Month-Go-Big-&-Go-Home Grocery shopping, and you just might also! 

Happy Shopping! 

~T

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10 thoughts on “Go Big & Go Home!

  1. Thank you! Groceries is the area we go over budget the most… both frequency and $. It’s amazing to me that you feed 4 kids and a hungry husband w/ 1 grocery trip a month. I’m gonna maybe have to try it…

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  3. I can’t say I go once a month, but I go once a week. I love that you buy beef, pork and milk from farms! We have our own milking cow and raise chickens, beef and pork for meat. Also, Marius goes fishing 4 hours away from our home once a year to fill our freezer with fish to last the year! I can a bunch of different vegetables in the summer and freeze fruits for use in the freezer. I couldn’t imagine not being able to just grab whatever meat you want out of the freezer. Once a month is so brave, I don’t know how I’d do that, I go once a week and it works very well for me. We don’t have Walmart or any chain stores like that where I live, just smaller ones. It makes grocery costs higher, but not outrageous. My grocery budget to include everything is $50 a week for 3 of us. I couldn’t imagine buying diapers for two kids and still staying within your budget! We use cloth diapers and keep a few disposables on hand.. But alas, I sit down to meal plan and grocery shop once a week, not once a month!

    I love the way you grocery shop and meal plan, leaves me something to aspire to!

    • Fun! Dale loves to fish and hunt too! What kind of fish does Marius bring home? We have some crappie in the freezer currently. We like stripper too. Those are the 2 he brings home most. Your grocery budget is super low, good for you! Most people can’t get below $100 a week! You have great resources with your own meat and dairy though. Do you make your own butter and cheese?

      • Marius brings home Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout from a lake a few minutes away. when we goes to Ucuelet, which is a ferry ride and a 4 hour ride away from our house, he fishes on the ocean and brings home Halibut and Spring Salmon. He goes there once a year for a fishing derby that is a memorial derby for a man who died of brain cancer in our church, and a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society. We live on the ocean, but not in great fishing grounds. He sometimes goes fishing for Cod where we live. ALSO, on a low tide he gets oysters and clams off the beach or mussels off the beach. I don’t actually like seafood, and will eat fish, but not shellfish, but everyone else who knows us and is a reciever of these things are very grateful!

        Marius hunts deer, rabbit and various birds where we live. We kinda eat a lot of venison in the fall. We eat tons throughout the year, but nothing beats the fall for amount. Between me and him, we can bring home a lot of deer, and who can resist fresh tenderloins and backstraps?!

        I have never heard of crappie or stripper!

        We sometimes make butter, but I just buy local butter at the grocery store, because we just drink most of the milk. We don’t like skim milk either, and we would have to drink it if we wanted butter. My Mom makes cheese (Cheddar, gouda, edam) and it is delicious! Not enough to fully supply us, just for a treat every now and again. We use to much cheese and cheese takes so long to make!

        In relation to how many people in my family to how many in yours, we both spend the same amount per person. My budget doesn’t include diapers either! Diapers are so stinkin’ expensive here. It’s about $15 for 50! I’m told we have higher grocery costs than most places in Canada, and the States have cheaper than Canada.

      • My mouth is watering for all those amazing fish you named! Its no wonder you’ve never heard of Crappie (craw-pee) and Stripper. Those are fresh water fish, not salt water, and trust me, you don’t want to eat ours if that is the quality you are used to! lol 🙂 But hey, its free, Dale is good at breading them and cooking them and the kids LOVE it, so it works!

  4. We’ve been known to eat tongue, heart, not so great trout and other meats because…well, the price is right and we didn’t want to waste it! Whenever I’m telling someone about the meat we eat and if it’s something not always appealing and they’re giving me a funny face. I just shrug my shoulders and say “Well, the price was right!!” I will cook the fish, but I don’t usually cook the shellfish, that is Marius’ domain. He is very good at it too, judging by how fast people eat it up. We can only eat shellfish from October-April, otherwise it can be poisonous because of the warm weather. Marius has been collecting, shelling and freezing oysters “So when I really feel like it in the summer, I can fry some up to eat”. I guess your’e a little far from the ocean in Kansas…

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