One of my favorite parts of writing this blog is being able to answer your questions about keeping kosher on a budget. So, I am going to start a new little feature here where I share and answer a question from one of my readers. Today’s question comes from “an Orthodox mom in New Jersey”. She writes,
I have been reading your blog recently, and I have found it very helpful. I do however have some questions. Ok, one really. How do you find the time/energy to get through all the circulars and coupons and then map out all the shopping? It seems very overwhelming.
There is no doubt that couponing takes time, and when you are getting started it takes even more time. There are still occasions when I choose to skip an amazing deal, even if it’s free or better than free, because I just don’t have the time or energy. I’ve got three young children and I work part-time and even if I make spaghetti and jarred sauce for dinner, I still have to cook it.
I know you all know what I mean, but I just want to assure you that I’m not some superwoman. Faaaar from it (as the folks who know me in person can attest to!).
While I’m not always good about it, I find that I’m much more productive when I follow a routine. At the end of each month, I take a quick survey of my freezer and pantry. Then I sit down and write out a very basic monthly menu plan, based on that inventory, which includes lunches for the four of us who eat at home and the one of us who eats at school.
Next, I make a tentative grocery list, covering both the shelf-stable items for the whole month and the perishable items for the upcoming week. I may leave fruits and veggies out until I get my CSA order and then fill those in as necessary.
On Wednesday, I get the grocery circulars and cross-check them against my grocery list. Then I spend 30 minutes or so printing, pulling and cutting all my coupons and loosely sorting them into my store coupon file folder. (For more on my low-maintenance solution to coupon clipping, see posts here and here.)
Now I’m ready to shop! I usually do my grocery shopping on Thursdays, so I can be sure to get any special items for Shabbat.
As far as preparing for my CVS, Walgreens and Target run, that is part of a fun little Saturday night ritual. While my husband and I watch a movie (or a few episodes of Mad Men, *swoon*), I make lists and pull coupons for CVS based on the deal match-ups. Sometimes I check out the online ad preview, but mostly I just consult the other bloggers.
If there are any great freebies at CVS or Walgreens, I do my best to go out and get them on Sunday morning. My Target runs are usually mid-week.
Finally, please know that there are many, many weeks when all this goes out the window. The kids are sick, I’ve got crazy work stuff, my baby won’t stop nursing, or I just don’t feel like it. And that’s okay. The most important element of this whole kosher-on-a-budget thing is the menu planning and shopping list. If I miss out on a few free tubes of toothpaste, the world keeps spinning!
Do you have a question for me? Please send them to me at kosheronabudget AT gmail DOT com. I promise to answer you in person, and possibly to include our exchange here on the blog, too.
Disclaimer: I am no guru. I am just sharing what I know and what has worked for me and my husband. If you have ideas or experiences different than mine, please feel free to share in the comments section!