September 6, 2013

Shopping and Prepping

Once I have my menu planned. I make out my shopping list.
My list includes the staples we use, food for my backup meals, food for the meal plan and the extras (toiletries, cleaning items and such). I also check the flyers for the top sales (fronts and back pages).

Remember I am mostly shopping the sales. The list sounds like a lot but much of what I need will already be at home. I just need to fill in the blanks. I might have 8 meals planned with hamburger but unless it's on sale, I won't be buying any. I'll be using what I have already in the freezer from the last sale.

Always check your flyers before heading out. The best price savers are what you see on the front and back page. The rest of the sales will not save you as much and sometimes they really don't save you anything at all. Watch the deals with multiples. They sound good but that's not always the case.

For a sale item, it's not worth it to drive across town for a 10 cent savings in butter, but it's worth it if that store has multiple items on sale that you need. Make sure you are using all the outlets available to you.

The more familiar you are with the stores in your area, the more money you will save. Our local Co-op stores always have the best price on cheese blocks, hands down. We use quite a bit of cheese so I stock up when they go on sale, sometimes saving up to $5.00 for each 900g/2lb block. Likewise I buy most of my baking goods at Costco because they have the best prices on the basics. Occasionally I will use Wal-Marts price match option to save myself a trip to another store.

I watch the flyers on the weeks I won't be shopping. If something is on at a good price And I am already going to be near the store, I'll stop in quick for that item. It has to be worth it. I am risking impulse shopping by doing this. The less I am in the stores, the better. 

I know the prices at Costco so I start there. If it's lunchtime I will take part in their best deal - the hotdog and drink for $1.50. Refill the drink for the walk through the store and off I go. I've checked flyers for meat prices and other sales so I know if I should be grabbing an item in this store or waiting for another. After Costco I go to the other stores I need to stop at. The last stop is Walmart for anything I planned to buy there and price matching.

Once I get it all home, there is prep work to do. Anything I can take care of now to extend the life of the food we've bought, or to make other meals easier is done when I get home (or sometimes the next day).
This includes:

Bulk meat packs are made up into smaller packs and frozen.
Vegetables are cleaned and chopped for snacking. If they are ready to go, we are more likely to eat them
I wrap broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce with tin foil. It stays fresher, longer in the fridge this way.
Peppers and celery are chopped and frozen in portions for use in meals.
Occasionally I'll make veggie purees from vegetables like carrots to go in spaghetti sauce or chili. It's an easy way to add more vegetables into our diet.
Berries are washed in water with a bit of vinegar to extend their life. Some are kept for fresh eating and others are frozen for smoothies and baking. Other fruit is washed and sliced, depending on the fruit. Some is frozen to eat later (like grapes) or to use in smoothies through the month.
Hard boiled eggs are made if they are in the plan
Meatballs are cooked and packaged for the freezer. They are used for sandwiches and in meals like spaghetti with meat sauce. Meatloaf is made, sliced for sandwiches and frozen. Ground beef is fried for quick tacos, nacho toppings or quesadillas.
Rice is cooked (with broth if I have it on hand), portioned and frozen for a quick stir fry base or lunch.
Breads and the like are frozen. Whole loaves for bread. English muffins, bagels and muffins are frozen individually.
Cheese is grated and sliced.
Buttermilk, Cream and Yogurt are portioned in ice cube trays and frozen to be used later in baking, coffee and smoothies.

My meal plan gives me options. We do not always rarely follow it exactly. I might swap two evening meals. Once or twice a month I will use a backup meal. We might be invited out. Occasionally we will order delivery of some kind. The planned meal can be scrapped, made another night, or used in the next meal plan.

So that's it. I've said all I have to say. Whew! Hopefully you learned something new and I didn't completely confuse you.
Today's blog is the final post in my Meal Planning series. You can find the other posts from this series in the links listed below. Thanks for stopping by!

Menus and Meals
The Pantry
Locally Grown and Special Deals
Let's Plan Supper!
Breakfast and Lunch
Snackin and Munchin
Meal Plans: Putting It All Together (free printables)
Shopping and Prepping

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