Thursday, June 30, 2011

household management (3) food and shopping

Menus, groceries, errands, shopping - they're a huge part of running a household, and they can absorb huge amounts of time. Here are some ideas for managing the mayhem.

  • At the start of the week, plan your menu and write a shopping list. I have a collection of lists in plastic folders hanging on my notice board:

    • meal ideas - all our common meal choices sorted according to type, including ones the kids like to cook listed under their names - I use this to write my weekly menu

    • grocery check list - this goes around the kitchen clockwise and lists all the things we might need in each category e.g. freezer, cereal, green groceries - I use this and my menu to write my shopping list
    • chores lists for me and the kids

  • List in hand (and not hungry) do all your weekly shopping at once - market, supermarket, green groceries. During busy times, do your grocery shopping online.

  • Minimise time for errands. Do them on the way to or from something else. I try to do all my errands at once (post office, kids to gym, return library books etc.) instead of going out multiple times for different things.

  • Limit your clothes shopping to twice a year. Go through the cupboards first and make a list of what your family really need. Set a budget. Avoid sales unless you were planning to buy clothes or household goods anyway. If you're an op-shopper, keep a list of what you need in your bag.

  • How do you plan your menu? How do you manage your shopping? Tell us here.

    Next time, I want to talk more about finances. This is an area of struggle, not strength, for me! So if you have any suggestions for effective budgeting, saving or careful spending, share your ideas here.

    You can follow this series here.

    image is by Aunty Cookie from flickr


    RodeoClown said...

    Hi Jean,

    We try and do one BIG shop a month, and then just top up on milk/bread, which helps against impulse purchases (because you aren't in a shop to be impulsive).

    In regards to budgeting, I work for a company called You Need A Budget (I was using the software before I started working here).

    We have a free (online) book on budgeting available here:

    If you'd like a free copy of the software to review, let me know and I can organise one for you.


    Mel said...

    I use online shopping every week for both time management and budget reasons. The reasons I find it helpful for time management are:

    - I can do the grocery shopping while my kids are having their afternoon nap.

    - I don't have the finish the order all in the one chunk of time...I can split it over a number of smaller chunks of time during the day.

    - Ordering the groceries online doesn't take as long as walking around the supermarket picking them up off the shelves.

    The reasons I find it helpful for the budget are:

    - There is a running total cost of the order with online shopping so I can easily see when I have spent my weekly grocery budget amount. And either just finish the shop when I get to that amount or re-think what I've ordered and maybe swap some items in/out depending on what is more needed.

    - When shopping online I'm not having to walk down the aisles and therefore I'm not so easily tempted by end of aisle displays or other impulse buys.

    Yes there is a cost associated with ordering online (at my local supermarket it cost $5 per order to pick up from the service desk of m local store). But I know I save a lot more than this amount in time saved which I can use to do other things which contribute to saving money and it is very, very effective in me sticking to my budget instead of consistently spending more than my weekly budget when shopping in store.

    Fiona McLean said...

    Hi Jean, One thing we do which helps us manage our money is write down everything we spend - including things like 20c for parking! This helps keep us accountable and aware of what we are spending.


    Jean said...

    From my mum...

    I'm in my 60s, but the principle that most people of my generation operate under is not to purchase anything you don't already have the money for (or that isn't coming in a reliable pay packet very soon!). When money was tight this prevented impulse purchases! This doesn't always work with medical emergencies, but it's stood me in good stead down through the years. I also like to have a savings account that is separate from my operating bank account, into which even a small amount can regularly go for emergencies. I've also found that God is no person's debtor. When we are generous with our money or possessions - even if we have little - he is generous in providing what we need. In terms of a budget, for years I harassed my husband, who does our finances, to create a budget. When he finally did – long after childrearing years had passed – it became rather a rod for my back as he now has to verify every credit card purchase before entering it in the budget spreadsheet! Ruth

    Bek H said...

    Hi Jean,
    Thank you SO very much for this series! It's so many things that I've been thinking about and trying to figure out how to organise for our family. I'm very much looking forward to putting more of it into practice after the holidays!

    Bring on the lists!!

    Jean said...

    Hiya Bek!

    So glad you're reading along - I meant to email and give you a head's-up about the series, so it's good you found it.

    Love Jean.

    Jean said...

    Thanks, everyone, for some very helpful suggestions on shopping and budgetting.

    mattnbec said...

    I menu plan one to two weeks in advance. I enjoy cooking. I do a few things to help me plan: according to what I feel like eating/cooking, I try to use whatever is seasonal and cheap, ask the rest of the family what they feel like, plan one or two easy meals/week for *those* days, try to have a mix of ingredients and food styles, have a few cheap meals and one dinner that will be more complicated or different (as I said, I like cooking so this is fun for me, especially pouring over the recipe books!). But my main rule is that I plan to have leftovers several nights/week. It keeps costs, dishes and time down. Plus I also have a KISS principle for when my husband is away where I do whatever it takes to keep dishes and prep time low and the kids' enjoyment high (without buying fast food!).

    I shop according to the menu, dividing it into what I can get at my local fruit and veg place, which is cheaper and fresher than anywhere else. I reckon I save at least $15/week by going there rather than a supermarket. The other part of the list is the supermarket.

    A few months back, I decided to have a summer shop and a winter shop for the kids clothes too. Saves time and means I don't continually browse catalogues that come in the mail.

    Budget - we set up a spreadsheet where we write down everything we spend. Days of the week across the top, categories down the side. Categories include the amount budgeted per week. By the end of the week, whether in +ve or -ve, the tally carries over into the next week. Took us a while to work out how much we spend, but it works and keeps us accountable. We review it every so often to check whether amounts need adjusting etc. It includes a small amount of pocket money, extra for holiday activities and savings so we don't get caught out (hopefully) when the fridge dies etc.

    All this is something that has evolved and was needed because otherwise everything went pear-shaped. Better to regulate things rather than keep getting in trouble!

    Jean said...

    Thanks, Bec, helpful as always. xxx

    Anonymous said...

    I found out that my butcher is happy for me to order by phone and then pick up and pay. Well, actually my husband usually picks it up as I order by the month and it is too much for me. Even if you did it fortnightly it could be worth your while.

    I also found a friendly greengrocer who delivers. I ring him (and he now rings me if I don't!). He is generous with amounts and picks out nice quality and tells me when things aren't worth buying. He's a treasure.

    Both of these save me a good deal of time.

    when I had little babies I would have a mental list of what needed to be done each day and I would work on them all bit by bit because, hey, you don't get big bites of time with babies. This worked well for a season.

    And my big favourite- start dinner in the morning. And include kids as much as you can in the preparation. Even two year olds can crack eggs. Badly, yes, but if you wait long enough the shell sinks to the bottom and you can usually avoid most of it!


    Valori said...

    Wow -- I've gone through many transitions in the way I plan and shop for food over the years. With 3 young children and a lower budget, it really did serve me to go to the grocery store every week with a certain amount of money I knew I could spend and with menus specifically thought out in advance. When our household grew -- 2 more youngsters and the older 3 now in their teens PLUS at one time 3 boarders and many high school friends "dropping by" for dinner -- I could barely fit my groceries for 2 days into one cart. For awhile I planned two days at a time and found it took me a shorter amount of time to just run to the neighborhood store than to do a major shop, which would have taken 4 or 5 hours to shop and unload. Then I discovered the online shopping option -- Only $5 for delivery as long as you order at least $50 worth (which took no effort at all) and it was delivered TO MY KITCHEN COUNTER the next day! Definitely helped with the budgeting! However, because I actually really enjoy getting out and going to the grocery store, I am back to going myself.

    A note to Rodeo Clown -- I discovered You Need a Budget while doing a search about a year ago and I LOVE it! I'm not really up to speed on the actual budgeting yet, but it is a wonderful program that is so easy to use. I have a goal to move toward the budgeting method that is encouraged.

    Deb L said...

    A few years back, I began a system that has been a great help with finances. I kept all our regular bills (once paid!) for a year. At the end of that year, I totalled them, divided by 26 (fornights in a year) and every time my husband's pay comes in, there is an automatic transfer of money into a separate account out of which I pay all our bills. Each year I keep our bills, recalculate in January, and adjust the transfer amount for the year. I think when we started, we had a reasonable buffer amount of money to use while the fortnightly transfers built up so that when a big bill came in it didn't clean out the account. Now I know the bills have been accounted for before I start using any of that fornight's salary. I have since started estimating my food & petrol bills and I have a third account for this. The money left in the first account is for all the other bits and pieces and it's easier to steward that money when I don't have to try to work out what bills might arrive or whether I'll have enough petrol money for next week.

    Jean said...

    It's great to read about all the different ways people plan menus, shop and budget. So good to see that it differs according to personality, situation and stage - just shows that there are lots of effective ways to do things! And great to have such an excellent smorgasboard of ideas. Thanks, everyone.