Every Day

Why I No Longer Meal Plan and How I Use My Freezer

In the fifty two years that we have been married, I have tried it all. On and off over the years, I have meal planned. Whenever it gets hectic around here, I go back and try to meal plan. 

But you know what? It doesn’t work for us. It never really worked for us. I always have trouble sticking to the plan. It causes me a lot of stress and that is not good for my mind or my body.

One of the major reasons that it does not work for us is that I stockpile meat and frozen or canned veggies. I also buy a lot of fresh produce.

Why do I stockpile? Because I buy at sale prices that are low for my area. I have purchased food this way since the 1960’s. Even before I owned  a freezer, I stocked on what I could if the deal was fantastic. In our first apartment, we only had a tiny little freezer in a small fridge. So each week when I shopped, I would buy the meat loss leader for the week and one or two for the following weeks. I would do the same for items for my pantry. I would have purchased more but buying a freezer was not a top priority in our budget at that time. Plus I had a very limited grocery budget. 

When we moved into our first home, a freezer still was not in the budget. Eight years and a move to a new home and 2 children later, a freezer became a priority so that I could get the best deals possible and continue to be a stay at home mom.

I remember how excited I was to go shopping for that first freezer. We went to Sears and got a great deal on a 27 cu.ft. chest freezer that was a scratch and dent. That was perfect because it was going in our basement. When we moved to Arizona when Hubby retired, we gave that freezer to a friend. It was so old we did not want to pay to move it nor did we have room for one in our home in Arizona. We had a 2000+ square foot home but the only place to put one was in our garage. In the Arizona heat, that is not a good place for a freezer. The last we talked to our friend that freezer is still working.

While we lived in Arizona, I made due with our freezer in our side by side refrigerator. I would still stockpile meat at rock bottom prices and some pantry items. When you have limited space, you stockpile the most expensive product at the lowest price. And that was meat! 

When we moved here, we
purchased a small 8.8 cu. ft. freezer that we put in our basement. It is
perfect for the two of us and only costs us about $31. a year to
operate.  We also have a French door refrigerator with two bottom
freezer drawers.  

The reason we have always purchased chest freezers is that they are cheaper to operate. We have never had large utility bills annually because of them. When you open a chest freezer, the air doesn’t fall out like in a stand up freezer. 

Chest freezers are a pain to use sometimes because you have to dig to find what you are looking for. But I have mine pretty well organized with reusable grocery bags. So at the most I have to lift one bag out to get to another one.  We have meats separated with them. We have a bag for veggies and one for fruits. The same goes for cheese and nuts. Bread just lays on top because I don’t really stockpile much of that. Only Hubby eats bread and then we sometimes use it for our family breakfasts. 

Buying meat at the lowest prices for our area is our top priority. That is because the biggest savings is on meat. Every week, our sale ads have a loss leader price on one or two meats. The loss leaders for any particular store are usually on the front page. The only exception that I have found is Dash’s. Sometimes their loss leader is buried in the ad. If I am in need or a particular meat and it is the loss leader, I will buy a lot. It all depends on how much I already have stockpiled. 

The above boneless chicken breasts were on sale for $1.68 per lb. I already had some chicken but I estimated that I needed another 7 packages to get us through the winter. What I already had in my freezer cost me $ 1.49 to $ 1.99 a lb. I try to buy at the low end when I see a deal. 

We have been buying organic ground beef at Aldi’s when it goes on sale for $ 4.49 a lb because it tastes so much better than the ground beef in our area. I have quite a few packages of that. But when I saw the $2.99 price on the ground chuck at Dash’s, I bought 8 packages because it is delicious according to our friends.  We always used to buy ground chuck but I had not been able to find it up here. It has great flavor and is usually very tender.  So all of this ground meat should get us through the winter. 

So instead of meal planning, we cook from our stockpile to use up what we have purchased at the best prices. I transfer a piece of meat or fish from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw the night before I am serving it. By not planning our meals, we are making sure that we eat at the best prices and before our meat gets freezer burned. It also let’s me use up all of our leftovers.

The first place I look when making a meal each day is the produce drawers to use up what needs to be used. If the fresh produce gets low, I look for our veggies in the freezer, then the canned in the pantry.  Then I pick out what meat is needed. I constantly rotate my meat and fish and veggies so that we use the oldest first.

Most of the food we buy is at rock bottom prices for my area. Sure sometimes I buy at higher prices if I am in desperate need of something(that I didn’t think to plan ahead on) or for a company meal. But that only happens about 10% – 15% of the time. I am working on getting that percentage down.

If I don’t find a rock bottom price, I just don’t buy it. I am patient and will wait till I see my buy price.

Speaking of my buy prices, I will be doing a post on those tomorrow. I am in the Buffalo area of New York. Buffalo is the second largest city in New York state for those who don’t know. Many of our prices are high if you don’t buy on the loss leaders. Some of our loss leader prices are high compared to others. But know YOUR rock bottom prices in your area and buy the loss leaders when they are at or below those prices.

Do you meal plan or do you cook from your stockpile? Do you have a freezer and what is your best way to use it?

Every Day

Sometimes You Just Have To Ask

A couple of days ago I purchased two turkeys at the supermarkets. I spent about $58. on the turkeys and other items for my winter stockpile. Things like cream soups, stove top dressing, eggs, spaghetti sauce, crescent rolls, English muffins, shredded cheeses, provolone cheese slices, Dole Mandarin oranges, taco seasoning, wet wipes, and ranch dressing were all on sale and after coupons they were dirt cheap.  There are a few other items I need over the next few weeks for Thanksgiving and for my winter stockpile. When I get those I will be pretty well prepped which should get us through to spring and beyond. Things like cranberry sauce, fresh potatoes and onions, frozen veggies, soda for Hubby, etc.

I use the cream soups in crock pot dishes and the stove top for a quick side with chicken breasts. I had already purchased stuffing mix in bulk at B.J.’s to go with turkeys that I buy this season. The sauce is used for a base in homemade sauce. I buy it when it is cheaper to do so than tomato sauce. Crescent rolls are to use with all of the little smokies I purchased a week or so ago. We love them as a wrapper on the smokies and then baked. They are a nice snack during the holidays. The English muffins and eggs are for family breakfasts. The wet wipes were $ .25 each after coupons so I use them to clean especially our sinks in the bathrooms. The rest was to fill in the stockpile. 

After buying a turkey at one store, I started seeing  pictures of coupons everywhere online for a free turkey when you spend $50. and a bunch of $5.00 off coupons for other items.  People were checking in on whether they got those coupons in the mail or not. Most people were complaining that they did not. Most of the people who got them stated that they had not shopped at this particular store in a number of weeks.  So let me see if I have this right. If you don’t shop with us, we reward you!

I know that it is just a marketing campaign to draw shoppers in over the holidays. But I was a bit frosted since I spend the majority of my grocery money at this supermarket and plenty of it annually. 

So I sent an e-mail off to their corporate headquarters and was very nice about it but stated my case. I let them know that I felt very slighted because I am a good customer who spends a lot of money in their market. Since the coupons said Christmas Bonus on them, I asked where my bonus was for being a good customer. I happened to mention to them that they sent me coupons 2 weeks ago for cat and dog food and I don’t own a cat or a dog. I might have even mentioned that perhaps I could spend the next 6 months shopping at another supermarket and then maybe they would send me some coupons. 

Well a manager got back to me yesterday and informed me that they are mailing the coupons that I complained about to me. She did state that the coupons were sent out randomly though. I doubt that. Why would you tick off your customers by sending them out randomly? Are you hoping people  won’t tell other people about them? In this day and age with the internet, everyone is going to find out about it. I suspect that they really were sent out to people who hadn’t shopped there in a while. Well, whatever the reason, I am looking forward to the coupons. I will wait for them to do my next stockpile trip and then get a third turkey. It never hurts to ask when you feel something isn’t right.  

Every Day

Cutting The Grocery Bill

The most expensive grocery item that I buy is meat. Hence when I want to cut back on this bill, I look for great sales. One of those “WOW” sales was in my Sunday flyer this week. It also said that the quantity was limited and the sale started on Wednesday.

Since sales like this don’t last long in my markets, I made sure that I was at the store when it opened at 9AM. Many times I have missed out because the sale item is gone the first hour. There were about 12 people waiting in a line outside the store for it to open.  I hightailed it to where I knew the chickens would be. 

These were roasting chickens that were on sale at Aldi’s for $ .79 a lb. I got 6 of them for roasting in the autumn months. They should last us until turkeys go on sale in November.

I had 20 lbs. of chicken that I purchased early spring but it is now all gone. So I was waiting for a good price to stock up. I love the smell of chickens roasting in the oven. Since my oven is a convection oven they don’t take as long to roast as a regular gas oven.  So that saves me about 25% of the energy.

Plus there are only two of us and I can get 5 meals out of each of them especially if I make chicken rice soup.  We usually have a roast chicken dinner for the first meal. Then some kind of chicken casserole that will last us two days. Then if I make soup, we have that two nights and sometimes we have leftovers for lunch. That is why they call them “rubber chickens” because they stretch.   

I will be mentoring two people who have asked me to starting in September not individually but by blogging. Today’s advice is just a little sample. That way everyone can benefit from my advice. And since I don’t put ads up the advice is free of charge. Use what you can and pass over what you can’t.

One of the things I want to do is teach these people how to shop on the cheap by cooking from scratch. The main component of this is buying when things are at rock bottom prices. If you track when prices are at their lowest during the year, you will know what time of year to buy any item. Turkeys will hopefully be under a $1.00 per lb. this Thanksgiving season. These past two weeks I have seen my lowest prices on pork chops at $ 1.49 so I purchased 10 lbs.

This chicken has never been this low at $ .79 a lb. in my area. So if you need chicken and have an Aldi’s, stock up. You can do what I do by roasting it and making a # of meals. Or you can cut the roaster up into parts – breasts, legs, thighs, wings, and use the back meat and little bits left on the bone for soup. This is a whole lot cheaper than spending $1.99 a lb. for chicken breasts when they are on sale. 

BTW, my Top’s and my Dollar General already have their Halloween decorations and candy out and we are only half way through August. I find it kind of ridiculous! This and Christmas decorating get earlier every year. I am planning on staying out of the stores as much as possible. So I will just ignore all of it.

Tonight we are going to try the jarred Tikka Masala, with chicken and peppers, that I purchased to see if we even like it. It we do, I will make it from scratch and put it in our menu rotation. I will let you know what we think.

Till I post again, have a wonderful end of August!