Cooking for six for $200 a month

06Dec11

As I’m pretty sure I’ve said before, I live with my boyfriend, my parents, my little sister (who is currently 5 1/2 months pregnant) and her fiancee. That’s a lot of people to feed and as the one who does all the cooking cleaning and shopping, I was beginning to get a little stressed. Because of my father having a few weeks of shut down this month, money is tight but it wasn’t as if I was going to be feeding fewer people so I needed to find a solution. And where do we all turn for those? Google of course!

What I have begun doing is making a menu for each months dinners, now, with my family it wasn’t going to work if I said “This is what we’re having for dinner this week” so instead I made a list of recipes, enough for an entire month and I let everyone vote on what they feel like that night, then cross it off my list. Now I know I’ve made that and I no longer have the ingredients. No one gets tired of anything because I only do it once a month.

Most of my recipes come from Campbell’s Recipe Collection, a cook book that I got at a used book store for nine bucks. As silly and non challenging as it is, I love it. For one, because it’s bound like binder, I can write recipes down and store them in the same book, secondly, all the meals are lighting fast and easily altered to fit my family’s varying tastes. Once I found all the recipes I wanted, I went through one by one and entered them in a note book file, and wrote down the ingredients needed excluding amounts and any meat that wasn’t chicken (I buy the frozen skinless chicken breasts, my dad takes care of the beef and pork with a meat box from our local butcher).

Now my list looks like this-
Meatloaf
eggs
ground beef
bread crumbs
ketchup
chicken and broccoli alfredo
pasta
chicken
broccoli
cream of mushroom soup
parmesan cheese
milk
Chicken Parmesan
Chicken
tomato sauce
mozzerella
salad
Chicken and stuffing
chicken
stuffing
cream of mushroom
milk
Seafood Stew
Tomato sauce
clam juice
1 pound seafood
can of clams

And so on. Now I take that list and go over it and make a list from that writing down each ingredient I need, using Astrix to indicate repeats so I know the amount I need, leaving me with this-

chicken breasts *******

salad mix
potatoes ***
onion ****
garlic

mozzerella cheese ***
cheddar cheese *
sliced turkey

milk ***
sour cream ***
butter
eggs**

ketchup
mayo

rice *
dry beans

fettuccini noodles
bowtie noodles *
spagetti noodles
noodles

This is obviously not the full list, but you get the concept. (Just so you know, I’m a little neurotic, so this list is by aisle or section of the store)  Now since I use the same menu month after month, and really just worry about changing the order (we only eat the same thing once a month) this is a pretty solid list, telling me what I need for every month. I just leave this list on my computer,  print it out before shopping and write down any additions to the list.

To help save money I also look at the store’s websites the night before. I do my shopping at two stores, Grocery Outlet which puts their little add paper online in it’s entirety. This has no coupons but you can see what on your list might have very low prices, and I mark those on the list with a highlighter or something so I remember to pick those up while at the store and search for anything else marked down a lot. I do the rest of my shopping at Winco which only accepts their own (very few) coupons but theirs are available online as well so you can print them to use if they apply to your list.

All in all, this system works very well for me and my family, hope it was helpful.

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