Or, I Don't Have it All Figured Out!
Erica asked the following questions in the comments below:
I saw somewhere that you shop once a month??!!? I have to know how this works and what your list looks like! Maybe you could do a new frugal post on once a month shopping with a list example. Also, how do you keep fresh things in the house? Do you shop the local farmer's market?
To be honest, Erica, shopping monthly is not working that well at this point. It began because we lived far from town (at first) and then as I had more kids, Billy really didn't want me trying to go alone, even when we were closer. So I'd wait to go when he was able to go with me, which turned out to be roughly once a month. He is not a fan of Wal-Mart! But it was a lifesaver to have him come with me when they were all so small.
The problem of fresh food is exactly where the system broke down. We planned to go in every now and then just for produce, but...I would inevitably run out of eggs or some other staple, and we would always end up picking up this or that and it just adds up, I guess. While we have never been at all extravagant in our grocery shopping, monthly shopping has turned out to not be the most frugal way to go, as best I can tell.
It would probably work better if I had a better plan. My mom always went twice monthly and she had a detailed list and a cash envelope system, which enabled her to shop very frugally. Also, she blocked out the entire day for grocery shopping, so she was able to take her time, compare prices, and write everything down in her little grocery notebook. I'm finding that it really takes much more time to shop frugally than just to run in and grab things off the shelf. this system also enabled her to budget grocery money so that she could save up what was leftover and use it at the whole foods co-op or to order hormone-free cheese or to get berries at the local u-pick or whatever.
Anyway, I am hoping to move toward something similar. Recently I made a month's worth of menus broken down by week, and my new plan is to shop and run errands weekly since the kids are bigger and we are now just minutes from the store. Since it was nearly a month since I had been, I was out of a lot of things and I see that it will take a few weeks of juggling before I get it down to an art, but I think weekly shopping according to a menu plan will be more frugal than monthly shopping--at least the way we have been doing it. I find that when I'm using a menu and shopping each week, I am more aware of our food consumption and we waste less also.
I read somewhere that the average American family throws away half the groceries they buy (whether by leaving food on plates, not eating leftovers, just letting things spoil, whatever). That was so horrifying to me. It made me much more aware of how to cut down on the amount of food that is thrown away. One of the biggest things was to just give the kids tiny portions. They can always ask for more, but often I find that they do not eat that much.
What that has to do with monthly shopping, I am not sure. I should re-title this, A Long Answer to a Short Question! I guess I said all that to say that I really do not have it totally figured out. We've been in constant transition, so I am still finding my way and figuring out the most frugal way to shop for our family.
Thanks for asking!