Keeping the house, the kids and the hubby without breaking the bank, the earth, the people I love, or myself.

Cutting Your Family's Grocery Bill Part 1

When I first moved to Canada and began grocery shopping, the experience was traumatizing. Grocery prices in Canada are significantly higher than they were in the states. (Apparently a lot of those prices are beginning to align and Americans are having a tough go of it now.) I truly sympathize. This is hard. I was accustomed to spending about $400 a month feeding a family of five in the states. I come to Canada and our food bill was as much as our rent ($1,000). What the heck was I to do? I was already shopping at the budget stores.

It took me a couple years, but I got my grocery bill back down to $400 a month. When things are extremely pinched, I can get it down to $200 a month without sacrificing nutrition or variety even...but there isn't much fun stuff in it.

What is the process?

First, you must take inventory of all you have. You may think you've got nothing, but everything counts. Pasta in the pantry, a few cans in the cupboards, frozen foods. While you're inventorying, toss the old stuff. You must organize your freezer if you plan to cut your family's food costs. Luckily this is easy and relatively painless. It took me about three days to go through everything, inventory everything, and clear out anything that was past its expiration date. I was still taking care of a home and five other people and I also washed all the cupboards and storage containers, otherwise this would have taken me one full day.

The Inventory
The great thing about the inventory is it enables you to organize items by their use. I have certain spices I use quite frequently--almost daily. These get placed front and center of my spice shelf. I have staples that I use quite frequently. These are placed between eye and shoulder height on pantry shelves. Doing this keeps things tidy. You don't want to have to move things out of your way to get to the things you always use. If I organized my spices alphabetically I would continually be knocking others over to get out my most frequently used ones. Less frequently used items go to the far sides of my spice shelf or the highest and lowest of my pantry shelves. (Very infrenquently used items go to the highest shelves as they're at about 6' and require a stool to reach.) We end up with everything where I need it to be. Here is how my inventory looks:

Baking staples:
Almonds -- 2 cups
Baker's Chocolate -- 1/2 bar
Baking Powder -- 1 full can
Baking Soda -- 2 full boxes, 2 open boxes
Bread Crumbs -- 4 cups
Bread Flour -- 3 cups
Brown Sugar -- 1 full bag, 1/2 bag
Cake mixes -- 0
Chocolate chips -- 0
Cocoa Powder -- 1/4 can
Cornmeal -- 0
Corn Starch -- <1/2 box
Custard Powder -- 3/4 can
Evaporated Milk -- 0
Graham Crumbs -- 2 pie shells' worth
Honey -- 1 pint
Icing (canned) -- 0
Icing Sugar (Powdered Sugar) -- 4 cups
Kosher Salt -- 4 cups
Lemon Rind -- 1 cup
Molasses -- 1/4 pint
Olive Oil -- 2 quarts
Oats -- 2 large bags full +
Pancake Mix -- 1 full box
Powdered Milk -- 1/2 cup
Raisins -- 1.5 cups
Salt -- 1 cup
Sea Salt -- 3 cups
Shortening -- 0
Splenda -- 1 large bag, full
Splenda Brown Sugar Blend -- 1/2 cup
Sweetened Condensed Milk -- 0
Tapioca -- 1/8 cup
White Flour -- 2.5 kilograms
White Sugar -- 2 kg
Whole Wheat Flour -- 1 kilogram
Vegetable Oil -- 2 quarts
Yeast -- 1/4 cup +

Do you get the picture, or do you want the whole thing?

I inventory my cooking staples (these are not the same as baking staples), my freezer (deep freezer), and my refrigerated items that last a long time (like salad dressings, condiments, etc.) I do not inventory milk, butter, margarine, etc., because items used so frequently are self-inventorying just by their frequency of use. Show me a mom who doesn't know how much milk she has in her home.

The bottom line with the inventory is that it will prevent you from making unnecessary purchases. Even if you can't see behind the giant cannister of flour, you can look at your pantry inventory and know that you do indeed have oats and raisins for the oatmeal raisin cookies your child needs in class tomorrow. If you first shop at home, you'll save money.

I find the baking staples inventory the most valuable since I do not bake frequently. I keep the inventory posted inside my pantry door and jot notes when I use a lot of something. As you can see I have a lot of zeros in that list. I know I will need to purchase those items before October, November or December when I'll do some holiday baking. (We've been known to bake several hundred cookies in November and December.....that's what we call "some holiday baking.")

Step two of cutting your grocery bill will be in the next installment.

4 comments:

Gill - That British Woman 7:58 PM  

excellent post. You should stock up on the things for the Christmas baking this month while you FOF?

Gill

CannedAm 10:26 PM  

I'm sure going to try! I'm keeping a list of all my 0's when I go. I've also got a little guy having a birthday this month, so I'd like to get some sundae fixings, too. mmmm-mmmm always tastes better when it's free! LOL

Kim 8:56 AM  

I need to clean out and organize my pantry and freezer. It's a huge mess and struggle to find things in there! I've tried making inventory lists but they never seem to work. I think I need to make more of an effort.

CannedAm 6:18 PM  

I'm trying to see if there's a file hosting site I can use to make available the files I have for inventory. I'll let you know if I do -- otherwise I can just email them LOL! (doh) I think they're easier to use the way I have them...and posting them inside the cupboard keeps you up-to-date on the inventory.

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About This Blog

Saving money. Saving graces. Raising children, husbands and, sometimes, cats. Laughing. Living. Thinking. Doing. Life in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

About Me

I am a happily married woman with four children and various cats and kittens (fosters). I love to read and my favourite authors are George RR Martin, Thomas Hardy, Raymond Carver, PD James, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling, and Margaret Atwood. I know there are only three women in that list (and none of them American), so if you'd like to suggest some I'm willing to give them a shot! And yes, I am an American living in Canada. (Hence the nick -- CannedAm.) I like it here. There are things about the states that I miss, but my love is here and this country has things to offer that my own does not. Things that make my quality of life much better than it ever was in Ohio. Guess I'm stuck here. Though there's a nice spot in the Appalachian hills where I'd love to spend my retirement.

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