I am on a rather tight food budget…$50.00 a week for four adults. I stopped purchasing soft drinks in 2007. Eating out, except for birthdays, was cut from the budget in 2008. Eating out for birthdays was cut in 2009. I do not buy prepackaged food and make many items from scratch.
These are the steps I use when making my grocery list:
1) What do I have on hand?
2) What can a make with the items on hand?
3) What is on sale this week?
4) What can I make with the sale items?
5) What activities are going on this week, i.e potluck?
6) What are seven menus for breakfast and dinner?
7) What items are needed for sandwiches and salads for lunch?
8) What items are needed to make the food for this weeks menus?
9) What are the prices of the items on my list that are not on sale?
10) If over budget, what items can wait until next week?
11) Which menu do I want on each day?
12) Which day will be to eat the leftovers?
I use up leftovers in two ways: 1) Eat at lunch the next day or 2) Have a leftover night. I get out the food and make up plates. Then each person can pick a plate and reheat it. I keep basic soup on hand for an alternative menu.
You don’t have to have an elaborate spreadsheet to make a food inventory; just use notebook paper. I also have a price list. I write down the price of the items I bought this week that were not on sale. It is a good guide to tell if sale items are really reduced or if it is the regular price.
When items are drastically reduced I try to buy two of them. I also try not to completely run out of anything because if you have to pick it up at the gas station it will be much more expensive.
I don’t spend time looking for coupons. If I run across one on an item that I regularly use, I will keep it. I prefer to use store brand items. My family also lets me know if there is a generic brand that does not meet our standards. I won’t purchase that brand no matter how drastic the sale.
Some weeks I drop a menu. If I have enough leftovers for a second night I will save the menu for the next week.