I do my shopping on the 10th of each month. So now is the time to start planning my trip. October is the beginning of baking season so that's something I need to remember. It's possible this month we'll have a little extra money. If there is enough I want to stock up on baking supplies and do a SF Herb order. Taking this into account I need to budget accordingly. I understand that planning on having extra money feels like a good time to blow the budget. The problem with that thinking is that plans fall through. Sometimes money doesn't stretch as far as we hope so I need to plan my budget around the potential for not having the extra (however, I will know what extra amount we have before I do my shopping).
I have two plans going on - my grocery shopping under my normal budget and my wishlist with a budget of it's own. There are some things I want to stock up during the baking sales - those are the items I plan for the extra money. If we end up not having extra money then I don't get to stock up but it doesn't hurt my monthly planning.
So onto the plan. It's the 6th, giving me 4 days to plan my shopping trip. That might seem like too much time but actually I am starting late this month. I need to take in account that this month has Halloween. With our son in high school, we no longer have to worry about class parties but we do throw a Halloween dinner party for family and some friends as a before trick or treating meal. I need to take into account my menu for that. (same as next month in planning for Thanksgiving - might want to think about that now since I'll need to plan money and freezer space for a turkey).
The first thing I need to do is go over my kitchen inventory. I've been meaning to do this for two days but off the top of my head I know we are out of several items - canned corn (no freezer space so has to be canned), mustard, tortillas, cheese. I know we'll need eggs even though we still have some. I pull up my kitchen inventory. The one on my computer is not as up to date as the printed one I keep in my kitchen but I can remember what we have run out of - somewhat but it also gets me thinking.
Tonight, I'll sit down with my family and ask them what they want in terms of meals and groceries. I will, also, run through my kitchen inventory to make sure it's up to date. The most important counts will be the items we go through the fasted - canned foods, fridge and freezer. I will need an accurate count of meat in the freezer - this will tell me how much we ate over the past month and how much I'll need for the next. If I started the month with eight bags of chicken (3 chicken thighs a bag) and I still have 4 then I can skip buying chicken. If I have 1 then chicken was something we liked but then my son made a comment the other night when I made chicken that he didn't really like the chicken anymore so maybe we had too much this month.
I start thinking about the items that went fast - tortillas are a big thing in our house. I buy packages that have 30 tortillas but they never make it through the month. I bought more english muffins this month but everyone seems content with homemade bread for toast so maybe I'll skip them this month and focus on buying more tortillas. The cheese still didn't make it to the end of the month but we did have a few meals where cheese was our protein so I think I'll stick with buying two 2 pound bricks. If we do have extra money then I will invest in more cheese and maybe something other than cheddar.
When I have the list somewhat narrowed down, then I start looking at ads. Most often, I don't find the items on my list on sale but we're moving out of fresh foods season and into more staple type food season for sales so I might get lucky. Both of the grocery stores in Pullman have online ads (I usually shop at a store in Moscow which does not) so I can check the ads easily. Because I keep notes about the prices at the other store I can compare but I have to realize that some prices at my favorite store will have gone up. I know I stopped in with my mom on a trip and in a week the eggs had gone up 50 cents so I'm going to budget an extra dollar.
Nothing in the Safeway add made me go ohh and ahh but it did remind me that I should probably look into getting a pumpkin. Here's where some thought needs to come into effect. I can get just any ole pumpkin, we carve it and roast the seeds. Doing that I lose a pumpkin because after we carve it - it's no longer food. If I use my food budget to buy the pumpkin then I have taken food away. Most carving pumpkins are not great eating either. They are edible but not as tasty as smaller pumpkins. So I could look into buying better tasting pumpkins, painting them and then roasting them later. That would do double duty but it would all depend on price. When it comes to squashes - bigger is not better. The smaller squashes are sweeter and have better flavor so I have to keep that in mind. We've been trained to believe that pumpkins need to be huge so they can make great jack o'lanterns.
Another thing to think about is that this weekend is fall festival and pumpkins and apples will be available for picking. They may be less expensive than the stores. Dissmore's has honey crisps for 1.59 but WSU has apples for about .75 a pound.
That's a lot of food for thought. How's your grocery planning coming?