Friday, February 12, 2010

Food Storage Friday: Three-month supply - extended version

I broke this down into a week-by-week period, but here is the full thing if you are playing catch up. 

The main idea behind finding the right deals is knowing the foods your family eats normally and stocking up on the items while they are on sale.  There are 3 main reasons to shop this way:
  • The normal grocery store runs a 12-week cycle, or every 3 months.  So buy what you need while on sale and use it, then buy again when it comes on sale- never pay full price if you can avoid it!
  • Having enough to last your family this long is also something encouraged in the LDS church which I am a part of, but it is a good idea for anyone because it would come in handy during hard times- certain disasters, period of no work/employment or being too sick to leave the house.  These are scenarios I've experienced personally.
  • This is also a really good way to cut your food budget- we've gone down by half!  Put your money toward other goals and still eat better than ever!

Make a list with your family of your favorite meals.  This includes all meals of the day including  snacks/desserts. You have a few options for how many items to make on your list:
  • 10x10 method- come up with 10 of each type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides, snack/dessert), then as you're stocking up, purchase enough to do those meals 10 times.  We do this mostly for breakfasts and lunches- don't mind repeating them as often.  This would make 100 breakfasts, etc- so you are eating something each of those days- a little more than 3 months worth.  This option doesn't work for all meals because of store limits on sales but works best when you are buying in bulk.
  • Monthly method- if you can keep listing more than 10 (same as above- breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides, snack/dessert), come up with 20 options and do each 5 times or list 25 of each type of meal and do them 4, also a total of 100 days.  We like more variety with our dinners, so we do this way- also include leftover variations to expand your meals.  You can also list specialty meals that you enjoy, but not eat as often so they will be already on your list to spot the sales.  This method works better for regular grocery store shopping because of sale limits.
You don't have to pick only one method for all meals.  We are pretty basic on breakfasts, so 10x10 works fine to have the same things more often, as well as side dishes and snacks.  With lunch and dinner we try to have more variety, listed 25 things, used leftovers of certain dinners with the lunch plans.  Put a * next to the dinner item that would need to be stretched a little further to also accommodate for lunch the next day,  and finally filled in the gaps with other lunch-friendly items that we wouldn't consider for dinner.

Making this list was pretty eye-opening for us.  We had the kids help us with ideas and when it came to what side dishes they wanted with dinners, the only option they gave was GREEN BEANS for every single meal!  And I've tried fresh and frozen with them, but they only like canned.  We knew it was time to expand our palette!

Breakfast- 10x10:
Cold cereal/toast
scrambled eggs/bacon
danish pancakes/crepes

Dinners- Monthly (25 meals, 4 times) or (20 meals, 5 times)
Italian chicken (crock pot) with noodles
BBQ chicken (crock pot) & rice
Sweet & sour meatballs, with rice
Chicken curry & rice
White chicken chili
White chicken chili burrito-style (day 2)
Beef stroganoff (crock pot) and egg noodles

I've made a quick template you can print and use to make your list

The next step is listing all the components to make your meals (include amounts) and tally how often certain items are used.
Chicken (1 lb): IIII
Chopped Beef (1 lb): I
Ground beef (1 lb): II
etc.- keep going for all items on your list and the serving size your family needs per meal.

In the dinners list example above, there are 5 that use chicken- I would count the leftovers/burrito day also because I'd have to make a double batch of chili the first day in order to have some for day 2, then I'd also list tortillas, refried beans and sour cream.  I would need to make sure we have enough chicken to do those meals 4-5 times (depending on if I have 20 or 25 items on my list).  5 meals using ~1 lb. chicken x the number of times to do that meal = how much needed for a 3-month supply.

for the tech savvy: has an excel file to help you with this, and tutorials on their site of how to use it. (include sides with their dinner area)

I introduced the Master Shopping List a while back.  This is your ingredients list and amounts needed multiplied by the number of times you need to use that meal (x10, x5, or x4).  You can also work an inventory into your Master list.  I like to keep a list of the lowest price I've paid and what store (ex. Chex cereal: $2 ea., Times).  These are the things you're going to buy a little at a time out of your food budget while you still have to buy regular meals.  Use the sales ads to plan your meals and see how that helps your budget.  Over the next 12 weeks, do a what you can a little at a time.  Pretty soon, you'll only be buying the items on your list ONLY when they are on sale and living off of what you already have on your pantry.  You'll go to the store once a week, shop the sale items, and use it to supplement what you've already accumulated at home.

Food budget THEN and NOW-
For our family we are now only buying what is ON SALE and what we would eat.  If I were to have waited until this week and bought the ingredients for our curry when we wanted it- it would have come out to $7.75 for the chicken, curry mix and potatoes (not counting rice because that's a longer-term food storage item), and I'd have to hope everything was in stock that week otherwise we're out of luck and might end up eating out somewhere else, which would cost even more.  Instead, I have everything in stock and it cost me $4.30, which is a small savings now, but when I do that 4 times in 3 months, it starts to add up!

Also on your Master shopping list should be non-food items that are used in your household often (toiletries, cleaning supplies).  Do a 2-week trial where you date things as they are opened and notice how much is used in that period of time- keep a running tab in a place where you can't miss it.  Then multiply by 6 (12 weeks= 3 months) to see how much you would need to add in your supply.  Don't forget your pets and medications!

Now you know what items to look out for as they come on sale.  Using coupons on top of a sale will save you even more!  This is why we update the store sales weekly so you can get some ideas from the ads.  Plan your meals each week using the sales of the Fresh items (veggies/fruits/dairy/meat) that you can't keep in stock so you know you aren't spending too much on those items.  These items don't have coupons very often and don't keep as well as the rest of your food supply, but you can at least save something on your meals when you need those items.

Use what you buy then purchase again when it comes back on sale.  Buy a few extra as you have the funds to expand your 3-month into a 4-month supply, and so on.  You'll be spending less on your budget, then you can get a few extra items to lengthen your plan.

I think storage is the biggest issue we have in Hawaii.  This is where we all need to get creative.  It needs to be functional, and yet keep out all the bugs that we have here.  Cleaning out the kitchen and getting rid of duplicates (or triplicates) of items might help open some space, or the upper shelves of closets, or what else could you use?  We finally decided to move all the kids clothes into one closet (one of the perks of having all boys) and hang them up there and then turn another closet into a pantry.  It helps so much when you can SEE what you have and what you might be getting low on. 

Just take ONE step at a time.  Try it for a while, develop it to your family's needs and tastes and let us know what works- my style won't work for everyone and yours might help get someone out of their rut.

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