Spending Less and Eating Healthier: Part 2 of 3

Making a List

Does it really take too much time to write out your grocery list?   Hmm, I guess that depends on how far you are from the store when you have to go back to get something you forgot or how much extra you paid for something you didn’t need.

A grocery list can be just a list on the back of an envelope or it can be something you create special for just your family.

We have tips for making your master list plus several different versions to get you started on the SpendSmart.EatSmart planning tab including:

  • Grocery list by store aisle – Word – rearrange the aisles to fit your store, add your weekly musts, use extra space to write in specials
  • Grocery List by category – Excel | PDF
  • Grocery list to circle – Word | PDF
  • Tosca’s master grocery list –  Word – a sample list used by one busy family

eXtension also has some tips you could check out called Better Meals with Better Planning: Plan a List


Declutter and Save Money on Grocery Bills

I am still in my organizing/cleaning frame of mind. I don’t mind when I have multiples of things I use all the time—like canned tomatoes, black beans, yogurt, margarine, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc., but when the pantry is full of partially used items or things I can’t remember how long I have had or why I bought them, it’s time to make a list and clean them out.

First, I make a list of everything I have too many of, partial packages, or specialty items that I have to make an effort to use. Then I make up menus using those items, crossing them off as I go. Sometimes I have to buy a few items to round out a meal or complete a recipe, so I also start a grocery list.

Last week it was my turn to host dinner club.  (Once a month, eight friends and I eat together. When it is your turn, you plan, prepare, and clean up after the meal. Then for 8 months you have great meals for free!)  I decided on a Tex-Mex theme to take advantage of what was in my cupboard. I was able to present a great meal while only buying 1 pound ground beef, 3 avocados, and a bag of carrots.

For the future, I am trying to write the month and year on items when I add them to my pantry. I remember my mom using a magic marker to write dates on the tops of cans and boxes. It was easy to see how long items had been on the shelf.

-pointers by Peggy

Am I spending too much on groceries? Part III

As I looked at my sister’s grocery receipts, I noticed she bought lots of fresh, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables, which is great! There are not many prepackaged meals or convenience items—also a plus. The meat purchased was quite economical with the exception of chicken strips. They are generally not a smart buy in terms of nutrition and cost. 

There were four places I think my sister’s family could consider making some changes:

  1. Reduce the number of boxes of Toaster Strudel™ purchased. Twelve boxes (72 strudels) during the month cost about $25. Toaster Strudels™ are 190 calories, 38% fat including Trans Fat and provide zero vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and only 4% iron. Check out ideas for substitutes that your family could try on our recipe page.

  3. Reduce the amount of Kudos® (5), snack crackers (9), cookies (2), Cheetos® (2), snack pudding and gelatin cups (2), and jars of peanuts (4). Cost for these items was around $85. Encouraging the family to eat fruits and vegetables as a snack would decrease calories and increase nutrition content. Consider making some homemade bakery items for snacks. Packaging these items in snack bags could help with portion control. Popcorn could substitute for crackers as a snack. If you pop your own, it is very economical.

  5. The 13 packages of crescent rolls purchased this month cost around $37. Consider substituting whole wheat, French, or Italian bread for crescent rolls. Slice the bread, spread with margarine, sprinkle with garlic powder, and toast.

  7. Review the amount and brand of cheese purchased. The amount spent for the month was $33. Most of the cheese purchased was a name brand, instead of a store brand. Cheese does provide good amounts of calcium, but it is high in calories, fat, and sodium.

-pointers from Peggy

Am I spending too much at the grocery store?

Last fall my sister asked me how much I thought she should be spending on groceries (it turns out her husband thought she was spending too much).

That’s a really hard one to answer; and, I sure didn’t want to get in the middle of an argument. Spending on food varies because of many factors including values and resources (time, money and skills).

I recommended my sister get on the Internet and Google “Cost of Food at Home.” I told her to check out the USDA Food Plans and see how what she was spending compared. I also agreed to look at her grocery receipts to see if I could suggest ways to save (more on that in a later posting).

If you would like to get an estimate of USDA’s Low-cost Plan, we have an online calculator that will do the math for you. Check out figure your food dollar on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. web page. You will need the age, gender and number of meals eaten away from home for each person.

– pointers by Peggy