7 tips for grocery shopping like a boss.

Shopping for food can be fun or it can be a burden. It totally depends on how you go about it.

If you go out shopping without much planning or without a list, it will almost definitely be a burden. But if you think of grocery shopping as a way to eat real food and spend a little time doing some advanced planning, you may even look forward to your weekly shopping trips.

Here are 7 tips for going grocery shopping like a boss.

Begin shopping from your favorite chair

1. Start shopping before you even think of entering a grocery store. Look online and see whats fresh, in season and on sale. Look through the grocery store ads that come in the mailbox too, to see if there are any deals you can work in your weekly meal plans.

Plan a weekly menu in advance

2. Make a menu plan for the week based on what's on sale, but be flexible. The menu plan doesn't have to be written in stone.

Make a shopping list

3. Make your shopping list based on what you plan to prepare for the week, being sure to include items needed for breakfasts and lunches you intend on packing.

Check the pantry first

4. Check pantry staples before shopping to make sure you have the basics. You don't want to get halfway through a recipe only to find out you ran out of white pepper. 

Another benefit of checking the pantry before you shop is to avoid duplicate purchases. Have you ever ended up with 3 jars or Dijon mustard?

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use a meal planning service

5. Use a service like e-meals if you don't want to do all this work by hand. They even have menu plans based on what the store has on sale for that week. This type of service is great for families who don't have too many individual dietary restrictions. Most meal plan services come with printable shopping lists that you can take to the store with you. 

shop at off peak times

6. Go shopping during off peak hours.  This may be difficult depending on your work schedule, but shopping at 2 pm during a weekday or Saturday morning as soon as the store opens may be good times.  I know you want to sleep in, but it may be worth it to get your shopping out of the way. You can always go back to sleep when you get back home. :)

shop once a week 

7. Shop with a list. I know I said it in #3, but it needs repeating. Even a quick list typed out on you phone is better than nothing. My goal is to shop once per week. If you find yourself at the grocery store every day after work, you can definitely save lots of time and energy by writing out a list and grabbing all of the things you need one time per week. What do you do to minimize time spent in the grocery store? Tell me right here.

How To Plan An At HomeBirthday Party For a One Year Old

*Some of the links included in this post may be affiliate links.

With the first birthday of my little one fast approaching, the options for where to host his birthday party were not lacking.

There's the party room at the local park that has a carousel and train rides for the kids.  Chuck e cheese or chik-fil-a were options, but I vetoed them because I didn't think he was old enough to enjoy the games they had to offer.  

We have relatives that live in a community where they have room rentals available but they are in the next county over and we wanted to be in a more centralized location.  Renting the party room also meant that we would (I would) have to schlep food all over the beltway and I just wasn't feeling it.  

Having the party at our place was the most logical option for an event that baby boy probably won't even remember. Here are my top tips for throwing a party for a one year old at home. 

Tip #1- Pick a decor theme

I searched pinterest for party decor ideas and a bunch of stuff came up, but I wasn't able to narrow it down.  

I saw a pin about themed party printables, so I typed that search term into etsy.  After browsing several shops, I chose this one.  It came down to the lego theme or the sesame street theme.  In the end, I picked sesame street theme and I'm glad I did because I ended up finding some free extras that were perfect at the last minute.

The free extras came from the Sesame Street website.  I printed out some coloring sheets and clipped them to boards for the kids to draw on.  I also printed out their themed growth chart.  There are other items to choose from that you can include in your party, but I just stuck with these two. 

I got a free poster from shutterfly where I just had to pay for the shipping, so I used that as decor for the party.  I popped the poster into a thrifted frame and accented it with some patterned paper that was included in the printable party pack.  I also used that same patterned paper and laminated it to use as place mats for the kids, but my lamination machine conked out on me after the first one :(  

tip#2- Pick a food theme

This was easy for me because Cinco de Mayo was that week.  Food with Mexican flavors is so easy to execute.  I also like this theme for food because a lot of the stuff, like guacamole and salsa, can be purchased prepared.  In the end, I only had to cook three things.  

If you have a Harris Teeter in your area look for their free smashcake program. The website says the program ended in 2007, but I got my cake in 2016 for free!

tip#3- have a designated party box

I got this tip from this blog where Jackie has a whole cabinet filled with reusable party supplies. I don't need a whole cabinet full of stuff, so I just used a 30 gallon plastic storage box with lid.

All of the banners and things that I cut in advance like water labels, treat bags and food signs went into plastic bags, then got stored in the party box. All the candy for the pinata went in the box as well as the plastic cutlery and paper plates.  

Now that the party is over, my up-cycled bottles, leftover treat bags, and unused cups and plates are stored in the box. I was also able to flatten the paper lanterns I bought so I can use them again. I also stored the felt birthday banner I purchased, so I 'll be using that a couple times a year, for the next few years.

I also got the bottle idea from Jackie, and you will find lots of ideas for the starbucks frap bottles on pinterest.  I got my bottles from someone on freecycle, but you can buy these on ebay.  I have also seen a set of four bottles with reuseable straws at five below.  Dollar tree sells these bottles too, but I don't like that they have a raised pattern on them.  

Since there were only a handful of kids coming to the party, I filled some treat bags with candy in advance and  printed out the treat bag toppers with each child's name.  Once the bags were stapled shut, I put them in the pinata with the rest of the loose candy. When all the pinata candy fell the floor, each child found the bag with their name on it.  

The pinata, and the pre-filled treat bags were stored in the party box until I needed them.

tip#4- Start executing well in advance

All of the decorative things that had to be cut and assembled were done a month in advance.  This included the custom labels for the water bottles, and the paper circles that had to be punched out.  I ended up using the paper circles for the straws as well as the cupcake toppers.  

I used this circle punch to cut out the circles. If you don't have have one, you'll have to cut them by hand, which can get old fast.  
For the water bottle labels, I used this cutter that I purchased when I was doing some craft projects for our wedding.

I also used the paper cutter to cut the treat bag toppers and the menu place cards that were included in the printable party pack.  

In the weeks leading up to the party, I cut the letters for the banner, cupcake wrappers and more stuff that I'm forgetting.  The point is, don't wait until the last minute to do all your crafting and cutting!

Everyone had fun and so many people complimented me on the theme! Going the extra mile to make this birthday party special was totally worth it.

How to Cook Gourmet on a Budget

If you want to cook gourmet but are on a budget and don't want to be eating rice and beans every day, I have a few tips for you. I have taken Dave Ramseys Financial Peace University and learned a lot from the class but there was one thing that didn't sit well with me.  The rice and beans statement.  If you have taken the class then you very well know that Dave suggests living on rice and Beans while you pay off your debt.  Well, maybe he didn't mean it literally, but I think a lot of people may think that you have to go that route to stay on track.  There are ways you can eat well, even eat gourmet if you are trying to save money.

Shop at Asian stores

I love Asian stores!  There's no real way to find out about these place because they don't really advertise.  Most of the time, you just have to keep your eyes open and know your city.  You can probably google "asian grocery" and your zip code to see where they are in your area.  I usually just swing by one if I see one while I'm driving and have time to check it out.

What can you get from Asian stores?  Lots of stuff, but mainly check out the great prices on produce.  I consistently get great prices on lemons, lime, cabbage, tomatoes, avocados, melons and leafy greens.  Other than that, proceed with caution.  You wont be able to tell what 80% of the other stuff in the store is much less know how to use it.

Shop at your local grocery store when they have good sales

Harris Teeter, Safeway, Giant etc.  ocassionally have that one item on sale that is just too good a deal to pass up.  One local store had whole chickens on sale for .68/lb.  I bought 8 chickens that day since the limit was 4 per person.  Not only did I have enough chicken for the month and beyond but I was able to make a meal for a friend who was recouperating from surgery.

Be careful with coupons

I used to do the coupon thing but it got a little too crazy for me so I stopped.  I wound up buying things that I wouldnt normally buy just because it was free or really cheap.  Then somebody strarted eating uo all my good deals with reckless abandon just beacause thay wer there.  If you do use coupons and stock up on multiples of one item, make sure your family has self control.  It;s not a good deal if you intend on something to last a couple of weeks and its gone  in a couple of days.

Find a Bakery outlet

You can find bread that normally costs 4-5 a loaf for 1.25 a loaf.  And its not expired!  If you get lucky, you may find english muffins, pita bread, 7 grain bread, assorted bagels and donuts and pastries at a fraction of the cost.

Bake your own bread|Cook Gourmet Bread

There are a few websites out there that do the math for you when it comes to making vs buying stuff.  I personally don't make bread from scratch because I'm trying to save money.  I do it because I like it.  It's become my new favorite hobby.  Here is the book that got me started baking my own bread.  If you are doing cost comparisons, most people add in the cost of their time.  If you make  six figures a year, it doesn't make sense to bake from scratch sole for money saving purposes.  Other people compare it to buying a $7 artisan loaf.  Well I'm not gonna buy $7 bread anyway so that comparison doesn't work for me.  Its not realistic.  Bottom line is even if my store had sandwich bread on sale for 50 cents a loaf, I still wouldn't buy it.  Once you've made your own bread, its hard to go back.  PS I draw the line at making tortillas--too labor intensive for me.

Make your own mixes from Scratch

Do you like to eat pancakes, cornbread and hot chocolate?  These are normally things that I buy in mix form or in a box.  You can actually make these things from scratch and you may already have some of the itams in your pantry.  Here is the book I reccomend for making your own mixes.  If you don't need all the pictures, here is a great website I found for making different mixes at home.  Even if you aren't on a budget making your own mixes helps eliminate some preservatives from your diet.

Have a friend take you to costco or another warehouse club

If you don't want to spend 50 or 100 on a yearly membership to your warehouse club, you can ask to tag along with a friend.  Bring your cash so you can reimburse your friend any items you purchase.  You can also get a one day pass at most of the major warehouse clubs for 5.  If you go and realize they don't carry the stuff you need and use on a regular basis, then you wont be out too much money.

Eat a little less meat

According to the government were only supposed to be eating 2oz of meat per day anyway.  I know I don't do that, but it may be a good idea to put less of a focus on the amount of meat you eat, especially when you are trying to save.  Don't try to do this overnight, just gradually reduce your meat portion little by little and maybe participate in meatless Mondays.

Calculate the cost per pound on everything

If shrimp is on sale for $5 when its usually $10 is that a good deal?  Not if you are trying to save money.  The barrier I set for myself at this point is not to pay more than $2 per pound for anything.  That may sound restrictive, but even with that as my limit, I'm still able to buy exotic vegetables, fresh fruit and veggies as well as fish.  

Grow fresh herbs if you can

This is the biggest ripoff in the grocery store!  Some places want $3 for a tiny pack of herbs, and sometimes I buy it but the whole time I know I can spend that amount one time and fresh herbs forever if I grow them myself.  Unfortunately I don't have a green thumb but I do plan on trying to grow herbs again soon. 

Learn to cook at home

This is the one thing that can save you the most money and calories.  If you really can't cook get a childrens cook book and go through that. Learn to cook by recipes but also learn technique.