Friday, April 27, 2012

How I Manage - Groceries

So, I guess I'll start this series with groceries, since we all eat, regardless of family size.  This post will show how my shopping habits have evolved since marriage...

First, I started using coupons at the age of 13 or 14.  My parents were divorced, I lived with my mom, and we had no money.  So every extra dime helped.  At about age 22, I got into refunding (nearly extinct, now), and began couponing "hard-core."  I told you I'm a list person, right?  Well...

When I married, I took great pride in the fact that I could shop once a month, spend $100, and we could eat all month, except for milk and bread.  Then, once I had my second child, I couldn't find the time or energy to do that monthly shopping, but still wanted to get the most for my money. 

This is when I created my "price list." Some folks call it a price book, but for me, it was a list.  A spreadsheet, to be precise, because I have always loved using the technology I have available.  Anyway, I sat down with my receipts, each time I shopped for groceries, and filled in the spreadsheet.  I had a column for the items, a column for the stores, a column for the size of item, and a column for notes.  I filled in price and size, while I still had the package.  Then I could see, at a glance, when standing in a store, whether or not this was truly my best price option.  At that time, we had Sam's Club, Aldi, Food Lion, Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter. 

As time went on, we got a couple of new options for stores, but my goal was still the same - feed as many people as possible with as little money as possible.  So I spent many hours clipping and filing coupons, scouring grocery ads, and actually shopping.  Our meals were based upon the sales at the grocery stores each week (meals will be another post), and I shopped weekly.  If there was a double-coupon event, I was faithful to be there.  I also believe in stockpiling.  No, I don't NEED 7 packages of toilet paper this week.  However, I DO plan to continue using toilet paper, therefore I will eventually use all of it, and it may not be 75 cents when I need it.  That's also another post - couponing...

Once we had 7 children, we were still living in our single-wide, and I was happy that I had a budget of $52/week for groceries (a budget is another on of those lists! A blog post will be forthcoming on the necessity of that).  A lot of things happened in our lives about 7 years ago.  We built a house.  And we welcomed the 8th pregnancy.  And I started doing research on diet and health.  I was a Pepsi addict - I always said that if I could get a Pepsi IV, I would.  And we ate what everyone else was eating - packaged foods, that were very often free with my coupons.  We ate canned vegetables, except for potatoes, and groceries were a tiny part of our budget.  After researching, those things were about to change.  I'll do a separate blog post about that...

With the change, came a change in shopping habits.  Our budget is still small, compared to some, and enormous, compared to others.  I spend between $400 and $600 a month on groceries.  Many times, the higher end is by choice (we had steak!), not by necessity.  If we have extra money for food, I splurge and buy a tenderloin to cut into chops or steaks.  Or I buy a bag of white cheddar natural cheese puffs for the children. We are home all day, every day, so we need breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts, seven days a week. So, we're averaging $150 for more than 200 meals each week...not so bad when you actually run the numbers.

I do still use coupons, and have had several people ask me to teach them - I have taken them to the grocery stores with me, and walked them through it.  Some "get" it, and others don't.  I don't use coupons like I used to, because we don't eat like we used to.  I still get some of the free or super cheap things, because it is fun, and I can give them away to friends who still eat them, or to the food pantry.

Mostly, I make a menu for the month, create a grocery list, and go shopping for the things we don't already have (another blog post).  And I make most everything we eat, from scratch (yet another blog post).

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions - I'd be happy to help.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How I manage - Series

I've been toying with the idea of writing a series of posts, dealing with questions people often ask me, regarding how I manage different areas of my life.  I am super, super busy.  I've always heard that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it, and apparently, others have also heard this.  You see, I never have a shortage of "requests" from folks to do things.  But I DO get them done. I came to the realization just this past weekend, that I am a servant at heart.  I love to do for people, and to make people happy.  You're going to think I am insane, and maybe I am, but I remember when I was dating my husband.  I would think to myself, I cannot wait until I can cook for him, and do his laundry. HA!  I really did think that way.  It's just how I'm made, apparently. 

I am a list person.  To-do lists, chore lists, written schedules, grocery lists, price lists, budgets, books to read lists, all sorts of lists.  I am great at helping others organize their lives - I just don't feel like mine is all that organized much of the time.  Especially when I have a nursling (do the math - I've been nursing a baby for nearly 18 years), as much of my time is sitting with those who need me at that time.  But it does give me time to work on lists.  Oh, and what did I do before I had my iPhone?  I can nurse AND work on my list of the day!  What a blessing that thing has been (special thanks to my oldest for convincing me years ago that I "needed" one)!

I seem to have some sort of knack for finding things (information or physical items) on the internet.  Others look and look, become frustrated, and then call me.  So I put that on my list of things to do.  My husband seems to have an endless list of things he would like for me to do, find online, or call about, for him.  Of course, I need to be sure and complete his requests above everyone's, so those go at the top of my "list."

I have my own travel agency, planning Dream Vacations for people.  That takes a good bit of time and attention.  I enjoy it, tremendously, when I get a picture from a family of their vacation, and everyone is blissfully happy.  I love hearing how I made it the best vacation they've ever had.  I just love seeing people happy!

When we built this house, my husband told the children that I wasn't going to clean it alone.  So, I have chore charts.  These often need to be reevaluated, updated, or just plain changed, to suit the situation.  I plan meals by the month, to help me keep my sanity, by KNOWING what I am making for dinner.  It also helps me with my grocery shopping, which I do once a month, other than produce, milk and little "stragglers" I need once a week or so.  Speaking of grocery shopping, I'm a couponer.  Hard-core.  Which takes a lot of time and effort.  It also means that at any time, my life could be interrupted by a double coupon, Super Doubles, or triple coupon event.  But, it saves on my grocery bill. 

My dad has a wonderful diner, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to help him get it up and running nearly 5 years ago.  I love cooking, and enjoy being in the restaurant, but need to be home at this time in my life.  I do, however, still do his bookkeeping, track expenses, compare prices, shop locally for him, and bake the pound cakes. 

Now that I have two grown children, they sometimes have things that they need me to find or send to them.  The list goes on and on. 

I've had folks tell me I should write a book.  I've been privileged to speak for ladies' meetings at different churches.  My life is too boring for a book, and I never seem to have enough time in a ladies' meeting.  This is my way of sharing these little bits of insight.  Use what you can, and disregard the rest :)  So, I'll start working on the series, and you let me know if there's a particular area about which you are curious.