Monday, October 14, 2013

Grocery Shopping 101 {and other REALLY boring things}

Alright, here's the deal.

You've heard me say it before.

Martha Stewart is boring.

Whereas her aesthetic can't be beat, no one, NO ONE really wants to read Omelettes 101 or an article tracing the history of Brooms.

Besides, there's pinterest.

So, if you are prone to boredom when reading about VERY mundane, domestic things.  Turn back now.

This is your warning.

Here comes the mundane.

Truth is, we aren't 19 Kids and Counting.

We're just a simple family of 7, with some specific dietary needs, trying to be healthier, who stays on a budget with coupons, tries to do only 1 large shopping trip a month, hosts various families and groups of people each month, birthday parties, packs our lunch, seldom goes out to dinner, and has absolutely, positively no time during the week to cook anything.  Ever.

Really, it's not that complex.

First, let's all agree that a shopping/cooking plan for any family has to be organic.  No, I don't mean grown without pesticide (although that is a good thing).  I mean your plan has to be real - living and breathing - able to change from time to time too meet your families needs.  The plan serves you, you don't serve the plan.

Repeat that often and you'll have a happier life.

Currently, my plan involves cooking 3 LARGE meals a week, on the weekend, and having those meals in the fridge at my families beck and call.  I do not cook during the week.  At all.  Ever.

It's not that I HATE cooking.  It's more, rather, that I loathe it.

Actually, that's not it at all.

I hate cooking when I feel like I HAVE to cook.  Don't get me wrong.  It's right that I take care of my family -- and that THEY are my highest priority.  But, Billy and I are both able to play the "Get up and do it because you are responsible for it regardless of how you feel " card until we've literally sucked all of the joy out and life feels like there's nothing left but work, work, work.

3 years ago, I wrote this into my journal in reaction to the phrase MY LIFE:

"Always striving.  Always working.  Always responsibility."

At the moment, that was reality pouring from my EXHAUSTED heart.  I needed more joy.  More enjoyment.  More whimsy.  More of what I LOVED to do built into my weeks.  I am glad to say, I (ironically) worked hard at it -- and accomplished that goal.  These days, I protect that part of my life.  You'd be hard pressed to get me over committed.  But, that's kinda deep.  And, this blog is about how I go to the grocery store and cook food.  Zzzzzzzzzzzz


Soooooo, inorder to accomplish my goal (which essentially to feed my large family by cooking no more than 4 days a month -- and grocery shopping only once), I plan (1) LARGE shopping trip at the beginning of the month.  The kind of trip I can't do alone.  I need AT LEAST one other family member with me to push a second buggy.  As you can imagine, my peeps FIGHT over who gets to go with me.  No, they don't.  But it's most often Billy, Victoria or Hosanna (in that order).  My other three should feel no guilt that they aren't mentioned.

Beyond that, I will check the couponing website once a week (Unless I get too busy or just don't want too BECAUSE THE COUPONS SERVE ME, I DON'T SERVE THE COUPONS) and plan to ONLY go to the store if there is some deal I can't pass up, and to replenish our produce.  BTW, we EASILY go through 30 apples, a bunch of bananas, a few pounds of grapes, a watermelon, a bushel of fresh green beans, a container of baby peppers, a head of lettuce, a box of baby spinach, a tomato and at least 3 packages of frozen veggies a week.  Selah.

And, this is a plan I can live with.  At the moment.

This whole (2) day endeavor starts with a quick inventory of my fridge and pantry.  I want to use up what we have.

Then, I sit down with my computer to build my lists.

While at my computer, I have readily available to me my cookbooks, my calendar, my pinterest account, the "We need this next time we buy groceries List" from the side of the fridge and my brain filled with things I've tried, want to try, blah, blah, blah.

And, if that's not enough, I yell out things like, "Ben, what do you want to eat for dinner?"  And, "Really Billy, I need more to go on than mac-n-cheese!"

Now I'm boring myself.

Trudging on...

For October, my meals list ended up looking like this....

1.  Ribs,  BBQ beans, scalloped potatoes*
2.  Spaghetti, garlic bread
3.  Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops, Asparagus
4.  Cheeseburger Soup
5.  Tacos
6.  Chili
7.  Chicken Cor Don Blue, mashed potatoes, green beans
8.  Steaks, red potatoes, salad
9.  Roasted Chicken, Asparagus
10.  Chicken Noodle Soup
11.  Pot Roast, carrots, green beans
12.  shredded pork for sandwiches
13.  soup and sandwiches
14.  Montery Chicken, frozen veggies
15.  Homemade Pizza
16.  Hamburgers

The meal list also included some ideas of meals I could grab at a moments notice that are high protein and easy for me to eat:

Chicken Salad (made with grapes and pecans)
Shredded chicken with avocado, onion, black beans, and tomato
Egg Salad
Protein Bars
Greek Yogurt with Frozen Fruit

* A NOTE here about HEALTHY EATING:  For me, this is truly a process.  I have progressed through a series of "goals" given me by my Gastric Bypass Surgeon, and I have taken them very seriously.  Currently, I need things that pack a high protein punch in a small serving.  At least 10 g of protein in a 2 oz. serving is ideal.  Since I can eat a 1/2 - 3/4 cup serving at a time, this allows me to met my protein goals by the end of the day AS WELL AS include trace amounts of fruit, veggies and whole grains.  That's called VARIETY.

Where as a baby bell pepper, stuffed with mozzarella cheese isn't "healthy" for everyone, for me, at this time, it is.

Another thing, when my husband specifically asks for something, like "scalloped potatoes", it is also healthy (albeit in a different way) for me to oblige his desire (especially since he only occasionally requests things like this).

Our conversation went like this...

Me, "What do you want to eat"?

B, "I'd really like to have scalloped potatoes."

Me, "You mean those nasty dried out potatoes in the little box we ate as children?"

B, laughing, "Yea, that's what I mean."

I couldn't bring myself to buy the nasty little box.  So I searched pinterest and made them homemade in the crock pot.  Everyone was happy.

Once my meals list, and subsequent shopping list are generated, I clean out my pantry, 2 refrigerators and 3 freezers.  After all, I have to have a place to put all the stuff.  If you are going to ONCE A MONTH SHOP for a large family, you're gonna need 2 refrigerators.

This is a great way to identify duplicates and move those dusty cans from the back to the front.  To REALLY save money, you have to EAT the stuff you BUY!

Traditionally, at this point in the 2 day process, I threaten my family that if they mess up my cleaned out fridge or pantry -- I'll refuse to actually buy the groceries.  They like food.  So, this works on them.

Next (I don't know about you, but this feels like step #547 to me), I sit down with my coupons.  I have a love/hate relationship with coupons. I do it to be a good steward of our money.  I like getting free stuff.  And, there has to be someone for all you people who willingly give too much of your money to the grocery store chains to make fun of.  So, I volunteer.

I don't clip them ahead of time.  I keep about 3 months worth in a drawer.  And, well, all this is for another blog.

The just of it is, I don't JUST use coupons.  I go to a website that matches coupons with current sales in my store.  For instance, when Dawn Dishwashing Liquid is on sale at King Soopers for $1.00 a bottle, my website tells me that in the Smart Source section of the Sunday Paper on 10/6 there was a coupon for .50 off Dawn Products.  Since my store doubles all coupons up to $1.00, I will get that item FREE.  Since I happen to have (5) of those coupons, I will get (5) free.  5 is my stores limit.  EXTREME COUPONING is fake.  At least in Colorado.

Along with produce, this is what I grabbed this week...

(5) Cliff Bars FREE
(5) Think Thin Protein Bars FREE
(5) Brawny Paper Towel Single Rolls FREE
(5) Dawn Dishwashing Liquid FREE
(5) V8 Veggie Juice FREE - will be a donation to our church food pantry

(5) Men's Deoderant for .29 (each)

All that for $1.45.

For those who question if you can really save money doing this, I will just say that first you have to know how much money you normally spend.  Then, you have to have a couponing plan...and PRACTICE.  Couponing is a skill, and most people don't "get it" right away.

A NOTE ABOUT PREPPING:  Couponing and couponing "stock piles" are not the same thing as PREPPING.  Prepping for an emergency is an ADVANCE SKILL.  Trust me.  They are different.

Now, I'm off topic.

Once I have my lists (meal plan, grocery list, and couponing list), I head to the store.  I go to King Soopers (East Coasters this is the closest thing to a Publix we have) and Sam's.

Once the groceries are put away, I drink a protein shake for dinner and soak in the hot tub.  AND I have earned that, yes?

If you are interested in how I prepped this weeks meals, then I'll humor you.  All boring people can click here.

In the meantime, I'll reiterate that just the planning, shopping and unloading takes me TWO FULL DAYS.

But once it's over, I enjoy 28 straight days of NOT thinking about it!  Those 28 days are what make the work WORTH IT!

Many blessings


  1. My babies just started eating table food and drinking milk, and I can already feel our grocery bill doubling. And my time in the kitchen. And my stress level. So thank you for writing such a detailed and encouraging post for boring people such as myself.

    On another note, what is the website you use to match coupons to sales in your area?

  2. Hahahahaha

    I love reading your blog too!

    I use

    It costs me $10 every 8 weeks to use it. There are MANY FREE sights. However, it seems to take sooooooo long to find things on them. The $2 a week is worth the trouble and time to me.

    On The Grocery Game, you subscribe to a "store" in your area. It makes your life easier when you can just focus on 1 store. But, I believe they will do a free month trial with up to 3 stores so you can compare.

    Good luck!

  3. We shop and plan very similarly, except I nix the coupons. (Too overwhelming for me). I use sale adds, menus, cooking three large healthy meals a week, and shopping once a month too. I have certain stores for different items. I do not shop at one store for everything. It is an event known as "shopping day" and there is a lot of planning that goes into it. I agree it is worth it. We also have 2 refrigerators and three freezers! :-)