When Emily Levenson first proposed revisiting Project: Food Budget, I was instantly on board.
My primary reason for being so eager was that, as I detailed in my opening post this round, so much had changed since the last time I did this project. It was a good way for me to get a handle on these changes — where I was shopping, how I was shopping, how I was cooking.
And it worked.
What I learned:
Giant Eagle is criminally expensive, and also takes too long to shop .
Aldi is the best place to shop, although it doesn’t always offer vegetarian options.
Target is a good back-up for Aldi, but still shouldn’t be my main grocery store (because I buy too many other things).
Buy as much produce at the farmers market as possible. Especially tomatoes.
I need to space Costco visits out for the sake of the budget.
Aside: When is Trader Joe’s coming to the Robinson area?
Menu planning is vital. Okay, I didn’t actually learn that on this go-round; it was something I was coming around to already. Doing the menu planning and sharing it on this round helped solidify the habit. I got the children involved, and they enjoy picking a meal a week. They also like that I write the menu for the week on our white board. My children like routine and like to know what’s going on. (They get that from me. Unless it involves presents, surprises are not our favorite thing.)
The new thing I learned about menu planning is: when you have a plan, it can be as flexible as you need it to be. Once the plan is in place, and you have shopped for the week or beyond, if things need to change, it’s not a struggle. If a soccer practice or school meeting pops up, you can switch meals on the fly. Plus, I often find after I’ve cooked for a week or so, it’s time to have leftovers for dinner. Which is my favorite.
What I would do differently:
I would track what we spend on alcohol purchases — don’t worry, Mom, it’s not an exorbitant amount. But I found myself popping into the state store for a bottle of wine or grabbing a six-pack at Giant Eagle for one reason or another. I’m sure that if I paid more attention, I could find a way to avoid last-minute runs to the state store.
Of course, if Pennsylvania would change its laws about alcohol sales, and I could pick up a bottle of wine at Costco INSTEAD OF MAKING ANOTHER STOP, that would be awesome too.
I wish I had commented more on fellow participants’ sites, and I also wish I had looked at more recipes. One downside to menu planning is that it is easy to get into a rut. I have to work hard to find new recipes and integrate them, and we are busier than ever.
What did you learn?