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Thursday, November 16, 2017

How to Manage Your Monkey: Groceries

If you are like most people, your grocery expense is one of the really big discretionary items where you tend to get a little lazy and spend more money than you need to.  

Let’s change that.  The first thing you should do is go to the store where you do the most shopping.  Introduce yourself to the store manager and explain that you are trying to save the most you can.

Ask the manager when the produce department marks down their produce.  Do the same with the meat, deli, and bakery sections.  You may wish to meet with the managers over those departments and tell them you are trying to save money and ask them when they mark down the various items.

If you have a local produce or meat market, you may wish to ask the owner/manager the same thing.  Remember to take notes.   

You may also want to repeat these steps at the various grocery stores in your area.  

Make a master list on a spreadsheet like Excel or better yet, Google Sheets.  List the various products you normally buy.  It may take you a little while to compile this list.  If you have old receipts, this will help you.  Make columns for the various stores in your area.  

Then, do a little reconnaissance.  You may find what you believed to be true is not really the case.  You may find one store is much cheaper on the things you buy than anywhere else.

Make your spreadsheet like the above example.  These prices above are made up and have no basis in fact.  They are for example only.  Keep your list updated constantly. When you notice a change in price, other than a sale price, update it in your spreadsheet program.

This is where Google Sheets is great.  You can input the prices using whatever device you choose.  Then, if you have a question while at a store, or want to update a price, you can use a smartphone to view and manipulate Google Sheets.

Check with your stores to see what their coupon policy is.  Will they double or even triple coupon values?  What is the store’s policy on electronic coupons, store loyalty cards, or coupons on your smartphone?

Always shop with a list!  If it is not on your list, don’t buy it.  Make a monthly menu plan and take advantage of once-a-month cooking.

Time is money.  This is so true when it comes to food.  It is certainly fast and easy to pick up a pizza for dinner, but at what cost?  Two pizzas could easily run you $35 from the pizza place.  What if you bought frozen?  You save a little money if you give up the time it takes to pop a frozen pizza in the oven.  Two good frozen pizzas will run you about $20.  You could go with two lower cost pizzas and shell out only about $8.00.

However, you could make your own crust, grate your own cheese, and make your own sauce for only pennies per slice.  This amounts to a big dollar savings but, it takes more of your time.

Want a fast family meal?  Go to one of those all-you-can eat buffets for about $16.99+ tax per person.  You could buy one or two of those frozen family meals for about $12 each.  

However, if one utilizes one-a-month cooking, buys ingredients in bulk, and prepares the meals together, they can create a whole month’s worth of meals for very little comparatively.

Combine once-a-month cooking with slow cooker (Crockpot) cooking and you have a way to feed your family for a whole month for much less.

First, plan your meals.  Look at your calendar.  Plan your meals around your schedule.  

For the nights when you have the least amount of time for cooking, you can make use of ingredients that have been prepared and frozen on the days you did your once-a-month cooking.  

You take the prepared ingredients out of the freezer in time to thaw in the refrigerator.  On the mornings you will have little time for prep and cooking, take the ingredients and place them in the crockpot.

Let it cook slowly while you work.  When you come home, you have a hot meal ready for you and the rest of your hungry family to eat.  What could be better?   

It is healthier and cheaper than something you pop in the microwave AND you know what is in it.

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