“Yes, Tiny Dancer?”
“It was the best day ever.”
“Yeah, you’re right. It was a pretty great day.”
“I want to know how you do your grocery shopping and cooking on a small budget…Could you give a more detailed account of what you buy and what you do with it when you get home?”
Why yes, yes I can.
If I had to guess, I’d say that I spend about $400 a month (without coupons) on our groceries. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in coupons, but couponing isn’t quite as easily done in my neck of the woods, and I don’t have room for a “stockpile”. I do use coupons whenever I find one for something on my already made list. But $400 is my best guess without these coupons. And we rarely (next to never) eat out, so this covers basically all of our food expenses.
I love to cook, which can be an expensive hobby. And when we have a little extra in our budget, I often do spend it on specialty foods; but, most of the time, I find a good source of creativity and variety from my standing list.
(click to enlarge image)E-mail me and I’ll forward you a copy that you can customize* and print for yourself!When making a standing list, write down twenty meals that you make often (or that you wish you remembered to make more often!). Don’t forget to include your favorite specialty dinners in this list. Actually, you should probably make a broad list of your favorite cuisines….
And then add a few of your favorites in each category. After your recipe list is complete, write down all of the ingredients in each recipe until you have one big grocery list! Organize your finished list into categories (i.e. canned goods, frozen food, meat, dairy…etc.) and place them according to the layout of your favorite store.
My standing list in no way encompasses everything we like to eat or everything I’d like to buy. It does, however, include everything that I cook with on a daily basis. If I have everything on this list, there is never a need to say, “Umm, honey, how about picking up a frozen pizza?”
Not that there is anything wrong with that…every once in a while.
So, instead of making a list when I go shopping (every two or three weeks), I simply print out my standing list and cross out the things that I already have.
It makes grocery shopping breezy.
Now for what I do with it when I come home…
First, my feet are usually killing me and I’m so tired I could cry (we cram a lot into our “in town” days).
We lug the groceries up the stairs, lay five sleeping children in their beds, and collapse on the couch while the ice cream (which isn’t on my list) melts on the floor. But the groceries aren’t going to put themselves away, so I get right to work.
When I’m standing in the middle of a produce department, everything looks amazing. However, I tend to let a good portion of my veggies hang out in the forgotten realm that is my crisper drawer…unless I use them right away. In the first few days after shopping, I cook/freeze about 80% of my perishable groceries.
Meat wise, we eat mostly ground beef and chicken. I buy in large quantities to make and freeze burgers, meat loaf, enchiladas, pot pie, soups, meatballs, etc. A stocked freezer is the best way I’ve found to avoid unnecessary, spur-the-moment food purchases.
If you want to cook on a dime, just make a plan and stick to it. Fewer trips to the store = less impulse purchases. A stocked freezer means more time with the family and less time spent cooking during the meltdown hours. Whether your intent is to save time, money, or both, a little forethought goes a long way.
“Do you find that it is hard to spend individual time with your older children?”
This is a great question! And as a twin mommy (a mommy who never had an only child) it is a question that I ask all the time. To share your thoughts, please participate in the BlogFrog discussion. I’ll share my thoughts here.
I read somewhere that the average child receives eleven seconds of eye contact from his parents each day. This initially horrifying statistic became much less shocking to me when I stopped judging and started to think about it. After all, you could cuddle a child for hours without giving them more than eleven seconds of eye-to-eye attention. You could even carry on an entire conversation, while cooking dinner, and never once look your child in the eye.
Bay Bit toddled by, a few seconds into my thought process, and I grabbed her and smooshed her nose to mine. Staring her in the eyes, I began to count…one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.
I wiped a tear from my eyes.
I could see how it could happen, parenting without connecting. And I put my foot down. If I had a dozen children, if my house was never clean, I would connect with my children…everyday.
I’m not going to say that I always accomplish this in the way that I’d like. Life likes to throw curve balls in the form of exploding diapers, burned dinners and, well, vomit. But I do park it next to each of my children at least once a day…just to talk about life. And I still smoosh noses and stare into their deep, vibrant souls…every day.
Mothers of many, how do you raise a full house without spreading the love too thinly? I can’t wait to hear from you!
“Mama, there’s a Lego in the baby’s mouth!” Tiny Dancer warned.
“No there isn’t, Honey. He’s eating a french fry.”
“Mama!! I see it!! He’s eating a Lego!” she insisted.
“Baby, he’s been sucking on that french fry for ten minutes. He couldn’t possibly be eating a Lego.”
“AH! Mama! I’m afraid he’s going to swallow the Lego!” And she threw up her hands in horror.
“Sweetie, look,” I said, opening the piranha’s mouth with two terrified fingers. “Oh my goodness! How did he get a Lego!?”
I fished out the tiny yellow arm and handed it to Tiny Dancer. “Honey, please go find the armless Lego man that this belongs to.”
“Yuck!” she shrieked, tossing the piece across the room providing opportunities for Baby Bear to, once again, hunt and forage.
“Oh, if Mama can handle to slobber, you can handle to slobber!” I scolded.
But, clearly, she isn’t ready for all the trials.
Nice job on the Lego spotting though, Sweetie. You’re making this round of babyhood a breeze.
Tonight, just before putting the kids to bed, I walked into the bathroom to find a puddle. It wasn’t pee, which should have been a relief; but it was large, and deep, and in the general vicinity of the toilet. “What is this?!” I shrieked, pulling a drenched (and, I might add, completely full) roll of toilet paper out of the bathroom trash.
“I’m sorry! I dropped it!” Bay Bit replied, matching my fevered pitch.
“OK, OK,” I said as I sopped water from the floor. “And you were playing in the sink too? Good grief,” I mumbled as I wiped down the counter.
As soon as I had finished cleaning, I made the mistake of looking up at the bathroom mirror. Was it really only seven o’clock? And, more importantly, had I really had a shower this morning?
Well, technically, I didn’t have a shower. I did stick my head under the faucet and scrub my hair until it squeaked.
I reached for a tin of lip balm on the counter, and I opened it with one hand as I performed a manual face-lift with the other. As I swiped my finger through the tin I noticed that it had been, and recently I might add, submerged in water. I paused. “Bay Bit?” I said, craning my head out of the bathroom door. “Did you put this lip balm in the toilet?”
“No, the sink!” she replied.
“Thank goodness,” I sighed. And she watched me as I made the final move from the tin to my lips. As soon as I had thoroughly applied the gloss and rubbed the excess into my hands, she hung her head in shame. “What?!?” I hollered in shock. “Did you put this in the toilet or the sink?”
And though it took her a second to answer, I think we all know what she said.