Thursday, January 15, 2009

Menus, Grocery Shopping and that wonderful

feeling of seeing your cupboards and refrigerator packed.

After dropping the kids off at school, I came back home, had a cup of coffee and then grabbed the Grocery List and headed to the Commissary. I like going right as the doors open, it's quiet, it's practically empty and I can do my shopping in a peaceful and calm way. Now rushing, no crowded aisles and "Excuse me, can I get by" and no long queues waiting to pay.

Some of you had asked me before how I make my grocery list....well like I have said many times, being military we get paid on the 1st and the 15th of each month. I don't do weekly shopping trips, they don't work for us and I find that I spend way too much money by going in every week. So the day before payday, I sit down with my cookbooks, my family recipes AND the internet, and I plan a Menu for two weeks.

From that Menu I write up the grocery list and then I walk around the house and look through the bathroom, pantry, kitchen shelves and refrigerator etc....and fill in anything that is missing or needing to buy.

When I write up the grocery list, I also keep it by section....Frozen, Dairy, Meat/Poultry, Canned goods, Paper and Plastic, Cleaning supplies etc. It helps that I can remember pretty much all the aisles of our commissary and what is where, it's like drawing up a map as I write the list, I know where I'm going, and I know what is there and I can write the grocery list as if I'm actually walking the aisles. It helps, it really helps to have it all separated into the write category.

But I was never this organized, I remember my first year of marriage. I already did Menu Planning having learned from my Stepmom as we grew up, it was just the way things were always done at home. But when it came to grocery shopping, I didn't have a set way of doing it, I just jotted down a bunch of things on paper and headed out and I quickly realized that it wasn't working. I kept missing things and forgetting others and it was frustrating. So yeah, knowing what I'm getting and keeping things separated even on paper, saves you time and money.

How do you do your meal planning and grocery shopping? I would love to hear.

When I get home from the store, I just want to run away because this sight is enough to overwhelm me


But I plow through it, because it has to be done. I guess it's one of the house chores that I really dislike LOL I love going shopping but it's the packing away that I don't like LOL

I take this time to get rid of anything in the refrigerator that has expired and to clean the shelves and doors. I do a quick wipe during the week if something gets spilled but grocery day is when I really get in there and clean it up good. It just feels better knowing that I'm putting fresh food into a clean space.

Is that how you do it too?

And here's a question for you? Do you buy according to brand name or price? Are there certain items you refuse to buy cheap or those that you just have to have that certain brand and nothing else?

Because I have learned to shop for what is affordable, I have no problem using store brand items, but I do admit that some products can't be replaced with a cheaper version, in the long run you end up paying more and not getting the results you wish.

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So here's a few of mine, I would love to know what yours are:

Toilet Paper - Cottonelle (I have tried many brands but this one I love, it's soft, it's thick and it lasts a long time)

Laundry Detergent - Here I admit I go for whatever is on sale or cheaper, I just can't bring myself to pay over $10 for a small bottle of any kind. Today I bought the Ultra Downy 120 loads, Ocean Breeze. It smells really good and it was only $7 which is not bad.

Laundry Softener - Snuggle Creme Jojoba Essence (smells SO good and pretty inexpensive too)

Dishwasher Detergent - Usually Cascade but today I picked up Palmolive Eco with Lavender Splash. It wasn't expensive and I love anything lavender, so we'll see how this works.

Everything else is just on a "buy as I see fit" basis. I don't have set brands for anything but if I do buy something and I really like it, I try to stick with that unless the prices rise dramatically, then I'm on the look out for a cheaper brand.

And because I have no problem talking about budgets and such stuff.....this is how much I spent for the next two weeks. Now remember this includes everything, all the food, toiletries and cleaning supplies, snacks etc. $260

I'm sure there are some out there doing much better than me, but for a family of four, I've found out that this works perfectly.

So now that we've talked groceries, menus and brand names, I need to get cleaning on my house, it's not too bad, but there are two areas that need my attention today.

Why is it that the kitchen counters become the catch-all for everything in the house? I have found the weirdest things on my counters, from toys to movies, to games to pens and pencils to a of Nicholas socks???? I mean WHY? LOL

But yeah, I need to file all that correspondence and I need to go through my basket and file and throw out whatever needs to be done.


My breakfast and lunch dishes are piled in the sink, those include leftover tupperware that has been emptied from the refrigerator cleaning.

And then when I'm done with this stuff, it's dinner and homework and baths and books and bedtime routines. I could scream at this point, but what for? It actually makes me smile :)



  1. I do my shopping and lists just like you do. I have everything seperated into "departments" with a place for my menu on the side. I also shop every two weeks after paydays and spend $210 for four people and that too includes toiletries, etc..

    I usually will buy whatever is on sale. I'm not super picky with brands except for a few certain items. I always buy costco toilet paper because the rolls are large and last forever and it's just great. I love Light house blue cheese dressing and Playtex Tampons. My oldest only likes Always Maxipads..I now buy Trader Joes Yogurt and ketchup mainly because of their ingredients...not price (C: .I'm sure there are a few more things, but those are the main ones I buy all the time.

  2. I did a day like that yesterday in Australia now. I get two weeks shopping for 6 people, but yours does look like a similar amount to mine as I get some things delivered as well.

    A lovely post.

  3. I don't menu plan that far out, I usually make a list of "needs", "really really wants", "wants" and "backstock". It's really important to me to make sure that I'm always building up our backstock (pantry, preparedness stock, whatever you wanna call it) at the same time that I'm buying things that will be used in the short term (1 -4 weeks). Then I make my menu plan from there. The only difference is when I find a recipe I want to try, then I'll put the ingredients I don't already have on the list as a "really really want" item.

    You know, this comment is becoming a post in itself...I think I'll use this as blog fodder! Thanks for the inspiration!!!

    (who cleared an entire shelf of the markdown rack at the commissary yesterday buying up half price sliced canned apples for the pantry - they should have paid ME! LOL)

    PS Detergent: if you're not averse to powdered laundry detergent, I highly recommend Arm & Hammer's baking soda based laundry detergent. I LOVE it. They say it's 46 loads in the smaller box, 120 loads in the big box, and I pay like $5 for a box. They are really easy to stock up on too since they are in a box - and it is unscented, which is a HUGE thing for me. I grew up with my mom using Tide and I hate scented detergents. If you wanted you could add a little lavender essential oil to the A&H product for scent. :-)

  4. Sandra,Celestine does the shopping for us,I used to help her before my siezures made it impossible to drive.Hugs my friend.

  5. I do things similarly but different. :) I only shop weekly. I plan out my menus using my cookbooks, and internet, of course trying to keep food similar enough to share ingredients but different enough to not have the same meal twice in a week. My list is in my cell phone (or PDA) on my task list. I always have my cell on me, so it's not hard to pop it open as I realize I am out of an item and add it to my task list. As I buy things at the store I mark the "task" (item) as complete and it disappears from my list. The next week anything I added can be added back without retyping it since it saves it under completed tasks! I do this because I know when Friday evening rolls around and I sit down to work out my menu and shopping list I will not be able to remember all the household stuff I need. So I add it as I think of it throughout the week.

    I shop mostly by price but the items I MUST have name brand are cooking oils (my hubby makes a killer cabbage salad that has an oil base and you can taste the bitterness of cheap oil), Toilet Paper (MUST be Charmin Ultra Soft), Paper Towels (VIVA), Bread (cheaper is not better), Laundry Detergent for my skin sensitive child (the rest of us use cheap stuff, but I have to buy Dreft for my youngest), and Toothpaste (I love Mentadent).

    Not being Military, I don't have a commisary, so I am forced to shop at regular grocery stores where I find prices to be a bit more expensive. I keep an eye out for good deals on big ticket items we use a lot (meats, dairy, and case lots), and then I take the ads to Walmart (they price match) and buy everything there. My weekly shopping trip is usually about 110 and that includes diapers, soaps, and other household needs. Oh, and I rarely ever price match- just when I see an exceptional deal (for the most part, Walmart prices are better than sale prices at other stores).

    Thanks for this post. I like the idea of cleaning the fridge with each shopping trip. It makes perfect sense! Thanks for the tip!

  6. I never do menus or shopping lists.. we stay so stocked up that all we ever have to buy is fresh milk or eggs and I keep an eye on the pantry and when I see enough of the cases of veggies getting low then I head to the store and replace them... putting the new ones to the back and keep on using the oldest ones.
    Meat isn't an issue because we have two freezers stocked full of meat that was either bought on sale or manager specials.
    I'm only picky about name brands when it comes to catsup or mayo.. it has to be Hines and miracle whip.. anything else this family won't eat it.

  7. I used to (up to two weeks ago) shop weekly because my hubby and my paychecks were on opposite weeks. Now, since I am only working prn I am having to meal plan and buy every two weeks. I think I'll like it but it is taking some getting used to. I don't shop without a menu plan because I spend WAY too much if I don't.

    I mostly by generic items and not brand names unless there is a sale with coupons (gotta love those triple coupons at Kroger!). Non-sale items we purchase at Walmart.

    Can you use coupons at the commissary?

  8. When all my boys were home, I was in school & we lived on a budget...that is how we made it. So I too made out a menu & then went shopping. I have certain things, like you, that I buy by brand & others are "as I see it". I went to the store weekly, that was how Danny got paid. Danny also kept our freezer full with all sorts of game. We did our own meat processing so we could freeze things just in the right amounts for meals. Now it is just the two of us & money is not tight so I am not as faithful to my old ways. BUT I HATE SHOPPING OF ANY KIND!! I wish I could order my groceries & have them delivered!

  9. Oh I see you are reading the Yada Yada books....I love them!

  10. I miss having a commissary here. And we only have 2 choices - Walmart and HEB. Neither are great for saving money since one has rotten produce and the other has a little higher prices- and they aren't close to each other so going to both is not a time saver at all.

    We do a weekly menu plan. That is mostly because the majority of the basket is fresh veggies and fruit. I'm not supposed to have wheat and some dairy which knocks out over half the stuff in the store.

    We have a few brands that we don't like to compromise on - but even that is getting smaller.

    Our budget looks like it runs about the same for the 4 of use. I normally do $125 a week...but I did up that this time as we ran out of money before we ran out of list this last trip.

  11. yay for not using plastic grocery bags! that makes me so happy to see...


  12. Hi Sandra!!!

    This is my first time posting but I love your blog. I use alot of your recipes and they have turned out great. A friend of mine from book club made up a computerized list of common grocery items they buy and left some spots to fill in as well. I have been using that and adapting it to our common items. It seems to help but we just started this with the new year. Thank you for all of your wonderful tips and creating such an informative and helpful blog. I am pregnant with my third and I am always looking for ways to imporove the home life:)

  13. As far as how I menu plan.. I have a calendar on the side of my fridge and for every day of the week, I put in a meal.

    I grocery shop every wednesday or thursday, because I go off of what is sale. Since I shop every week, I use half of that week's budget to buy whats on sale and the other half to buy what we need.

    Since I shop like that, I have different things on hand to pretty much make whatever is on my calendar. Does any of that make sense? It works for me, but I'm not so great at explaining what I do, LOL.

    Before I shop, I'll look at my calendar and decide what the next 7 meals are so I can get write it all down and pick it up at the store. I also have a magnetic notepad on the fridge that is my running list of things we are getting low on. Anyways, enough of that! I am babbling :)

    I try to stay between $175-220 a month for our family (that's for everything).

    I usually buy whatever is cheapest. We buy only Charmin TP, Tide or Gain, and Kleenex with lotion. I think those are the only things we have to buy name brand for.

    I think I answered all of your questions. Good grief, did I go on and on or what!?! :)

  14. I'm the same way...I don't mind the shopping but I really don't like the putting away. and because we have a raised ranch, that usually involves bringing stuff up the stairs.! About the only thing I'm picky about brand-name wise is toilet paper-like you it's cottonelle or northern. Otherwise I pretty much shop by unit pricing.

  15. I pretty much do my list the way you do. I keep a running list of things I am out of, but when I sit down to make out my perm list I put things in isle order. I then go through my list and pull out any coupons I have for items. I have a few things I like name brands for, but I do buy lots of store brands. Most of the time if I can't beat the store brand with coupons then the store brand goes in my cart.

    The only thing I do different is that I clean out my frig the day before while I am making my list. I also get overwhelmed when it comes times to put the groceries away and can't imagine cleaning out the frig also.

    I do my main shopping at the first of the month and then just pop in when I need milk or bread.

    Sorry about going on and on!

  16. I do things a lot like you. I do a menu plan and shopping for 2 weeks. I spend about $180 for the 3 of us. That doesn't count my little runs back for what I forgot!

  17. Love Everything that you have to offer. We have a similar plan as well. Only a few must have brands. Most of our groceries come from Aldi. And as a side note. I appreciate seeing that your house is real. Dishes in the sink and STUFF on the counter. And you are not afraid to have those pics on your site for all the world to see. Thanks for having a blog that is worth looking forward to everyday. God's Blessings on your Family, MamaLuci, Iowa, USA

  18. Hi Sandra

    I really enjoy this post I am not sure why but I always like to see how people do on there grocery shopping days and how it ties into there menus. I get lots of ideas. I think i am opposite of you I enjoy putting away the groceries and find myself organizing and reorganizing my pantry all the time

  19. You are my organizing idol! I have yet to get my act together with meal planning, but I absolutely need is getting tighter and my grocery bill is the one area that can make a big difference, so thank you, thank you, thank you for the tips!

  20. You do the best blog posts!! When I get my groceries, some places ask if I'd like help out with my groceries. I always ask if they can come home and put the stuff away for me!! One thing I've added to the routine when I get home, is washing all the produce. I use a NORWEX product called "Fresh Wash" and it helps all the produce stay fresh for way longer. I can keep leaf lettuce and green grapes for more than a week now. It adds to the job of putting away groceries but is a real food-saver and makes it way easier to create those salads and fresh fruit items.

    I agree - having some meals/started items in the freezer is a great idea. It's such a relief some nights to have those options. And it's a huge help to have frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer, saved from summer. I'm going to do more of that next year. We also have our own beef and I bought chickens (more like small 7 - 8 lb. turkeys!) from the local Hutterite colony. I buy eggs from the neighbors. You are going to love having your own place in the country someday!!

    Brands - I've changed my mind about lots now that things are getting so expensive! But I still prefer:

    Green Giant frozen vegetables - I only buy them on sale, usually 2 pkgs for $5.00

    Laundry detergent - I make my own now and it's a huge saving!

    Instant coffee - DH only will drink Taster's Choice - I won't drink it but I'm a tea drinker instead

    Ketchup - Heinz, on sale

    Salad dressings - I make my own most times - way tastier, less fat and cheaper

    Dishwasher detergent - I only use a liquid since we have really hard water

    Paper towels - Bounty Select Your Size since each one is half the size of regular towels - much better size for me

    It's just DH and me now, thank goodness! I'm glad I don't have to buy for 4 kids anymore! It was crazy, especially with 3 girls and they were farm kids with good appetites and needed lots of energy to help with chores and play sports.

    Groceries are really more expensive in Canada, especially in the last year.

    And I am jealous of the green trees out your window! It's been between 0 and 10 degrees F and we have a good 18" of snow too!!

    Sorry about such a long reply but I like this topic :))

  21. I'm like you, and go grocery shopping on after the 1st and 15th. I need to start going through recipes so that I can make sure I have all on hand. I always keep $20 - $30 from the grocery budget each trip because I know I'll be making another milk and sandwich meat run before the next big trip.

    I hate the putting away too. I'm exhausted from the shopping and then everything still has to be put away. Sigh. Your energetic wiping out at this time too!

  22. I do it just like you. If I were to go with no plan I come out lost. It's not good. I have to do a menu for all 3 meals and snacks. It's easier. Being a family of 5 if I don't have to think about it that's GREAT for me. I spend a bit more than you do by about 50 - 100 dollars. I buy just about all my stuff either sale or store brand. The things I have to have name brand are laundry stuff, coffee, tooth past and toilet paper.

  23. When my kids were home, I began doing a cooking plan called "Once A Month Cooking". I have also seen it as "Freezer Cooking". Basically, you prepare most of the meals in a menu plan all on one day, then package and freeze. Sorta like making your own frozen dinners, but MUCH tasiter and healthier. Now that it is just little 'ol me, with a 19yo in and out, meals are hard to plan for. I have found that I can still use my OAMC menus and meal plans to my advantage. I prepare the dish, but freeze it in smaller containers with one or two servings instead of "Family size". Since I don't get home from work until about 8pm, it is nice to just pop the dish into the oven, prepare an easy side, and relax knowing I have a homecooked meal without the time involved.

    I do my shopping every other week, usually following the local ads, and picking up the non-sale items at the Wal-Mart. I grew up in an Air Force family, and I really do miss the commissary and BX.
    As for brand name items, I only use Cascade Complete dishwasher soap because I have really hard water. I only use Arid Extra Dry deoderant as it works well for me, only Heinz catsup, Miracle Whip (usually, if cash is tight, this one can go generic), and Mr.Clean. Everything else is best price.
    I love the fact your home is actually "lived in" and not magazine perfect. And, one final thing... you have the cutest kitchen curtains!

  24. Very few things we have to have name brand. Dish soap is one of them though. We use Dawn- always have and probably always will.

    As for groceries we buy what ever meat is on sale. Thankfully Winn-Dixie has a lot of buy one get one free specials on a lot of meats we couldn't afford other wise. I try to buy as much as I can at Aldi and what they don't carry gets purchased at Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie or Food World. Just depends on what is on sale where. I would love to be able to plan an on sale only menu but that hasn't happened yet. :-(

    Anyway enough rambling. I love your curtains Sandra and am glad to see I'm not the only one with dirty dishes in the sink.

  25. I do things much the same way as you, but menu plan monthly and shop weekly - I simply don't have room to store more. At current exchange rates I spend about $140-$150 a week for five of us. I shop by special offers as much as possible, and tweak the menu plan if necessary. Meat is the most expensive item and I buy that monthly and put it in the freezer. Mostly I am not bothered about brand names and will buy whatever is the best deal. I make my own laundry detergent - it costs pennies and works as well as shop-bought non-biological detergents (I can't use biological because three members of the family have sensitive skin).


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