About 6 months ago I decided that I only wanted to grocery shop once per month. I would take $200 out of my $300 monthly grocery budget to buy all of the staples for the month such as the meats for the meals, frozen foods and other ingredients, as well as that week’s produce. From there, I would take the remaining $100 and divide it over the remaining 3 weeks to buy fresh produce from the farmer’s market, as well as re-up on milk. So far, this process has saved me about 2 tanks of gas, ($120.00), 6 hours (priceless), and about $50 in groceries in one month. Here’s how…
This step is first and foremost. I usually begin the weekend before my grocery run by going through which cookbook that I want to use for all of my meal plans. Planning 28 dinners isn’t as complicated as it sounds. For instance, we have “Taco Tuesday” in our house, so there is 4 meals accounted for right there. We also do Spaghetti with meatballs, salad + garlic bread a few times per month so there’s about 8 meals down right there.
This is a time for me to get creative and fancy so I try to introduce new foods/meals by popping in at least 1 new recipe that I’ve never tried or cooked before. I plan these for Monday nights because I don’t have to go to the barn after work. For every other week night when I do have to feed horses before coming home I plan something simple, something that Michael likes to cook, or a good old fashion crock-pot meal.
While meal planning, I indicate in green highlighter any meals that require fresh produce so that I know to make a quick list Friday night for my farmer’s market trip that weekend.
For breakfast and lunches, I write a ton of suggested meals but nothing formal because we always have eggs, bread, pancake mix, yogurt, tuna, lunch meat and cheese on hand. Any reasonable person can figure it out.
I use a printable calendar to type in the dinners into the days, but we don’t necessarily stick to the schedule. Sometimes we run late and need to make a quick pasta dish. Or, sometimes I forget to defrost the meat the night before and we have to make other plans. It happens. The point is to just have all of the ingredients available so you can make what you want when you decide that you want it.
This is mandatory. There is nothing like having too much of one thing and nothing of what you need when you need it. Taking a good inventory saves so much money by avoiding duplicate purchases. There will be times that we had left overs, or went out to eat and never cooked those two chicken recipes, meaning that two large bags of chicken breasts are still in the freezer. So when I have 6 recipes that call for chicken breasts on the list, I only have to actually purchase enough chicken for 4 recipes now. That’s about $12 saved just in that instance.
Going through the pantry, spice cupboard, freezer and fridge gives me a chance to clean, tidy, and take note. Expiration dates are checked at this time, and anything that needs to be repurchased and replaced is noted on the grand grocery list.
Make a List
I make a list based on what I need to buy listed in order of travel into the grocery store. I am in no way lying to you when I tell you that I can purchase enough food for the month for a family of three in under 25 minutes to include checkout and stay under $200. Shopping in a smaller store such as Aldi really helps with this. Something’s in life are naturally difficult, grocery shopping shouldn’t be one of them.
I carry my grocery list that was checked twice, as well as a copy of the monthly meal plan for reference, and I keep them both on a clip board so that I can easily check off what I’ve gotten. This means that I will stay in budget, and no food will go to waste because I over purchased, or purchased unnecessarily. It also means that when I’m cooking at 6:30pm, I won’t have to send Michael out to the store, or put in a weird substitute for an ingredient that I forgot to buy!
The Wednesday night before the Saturday shopping trip, I take out and throw away any spoiled food since our trash pick up is the next morning.
Instead of having “clean out the fridge” on a separate to do list somewhere, I just build it into my monthly grocery stock up process. Since the thing is near empty by this time, I take out everything and scrub out the fridge the morning of our shopping trip. I take out the drawers too. This may sound like a lot, but it honestly takes about 20 minutes total and this monthly task is just naturally getting done by batching like tasks together.
After the fridge and the freezer have been cleaned out and wiped down, I also scrub the sink with natural soap and hot water because upon return from the store, I will fill it with cold water and a 1/4 cup of vinegar to wash the produce.
For my Stock up trip: Do some research as to where you will want to do your “big” shop. For me it’s Aldi, for others it may be Costco or Sam’s Club. I know that I can’t get all that I get for $200 at a traditional grocery store, there is just no way. Not only is my fridge and freezer stocked in the picture above, but my dry goods and pastas are overflowing in my pantry going down to the basement.
Aldi’s to me is quality and probably what groceries are supposed to be priced when you don’t have the insane overhead that traditional stores do. Some people don’t like to shop with their children, but Dylan has been doing this with me for so long, he holds open freezer doors for me to dig out the shredded cheese, and helps load the conveyor belt at the checkout. Learning responsibility from observation is just an added bonus here.
For my Fill-in shop: When it comes time to for my quick weekly trip to repurchase Milk and produce, my $33 goes very far at a Farmer’s Market. I’m a stickler for local produce and Aldi is too far for a weekly trip for me, and I’ve found that Strawberries at a grocery store will be $4 when they’re $1.99 at my Farmer’s Market. The added bonus is that there is always money left over, even after Dylan and I have wandered around and found exotic fruit to try, I rarely end up spending my full $33.00.
Building a Generous Grocery Budget
My family gets along great on about $300.00 per month. We eat chicken different ways about 3 times per week if not more. We also have different pasta dishes, with or without seafood, beef dishes, plenty of fish and some pork. We don’t eat junk food aside from a few bags of chips and a “snack” cereal. We also don’t bring in processed foods. This cuts out hundreds of dollars and a ton of bad chemicals and sugars from our grocery shop. We also don’t drink soda or much juice over water, milk, or koumbacha. Also, my coffee is organic ever since I found that coffee beans are the heaviest sprayed by pesticides.
Some months I bulk up the shop because I see that we are getting low on certain staple products to include rice and spices. Mostly however, I’m spending about $200 on my big shop and $100 on my milk and produce runs. As you can see above, last month I came in $45 under budget. Now if it’s a few dollars then I will just keep the cash in my wallet. But when it’s $10 or $45 such as pictured, I rotate that money into the next shop. For instance, the big shop for April will be $260 from all of my savings from March. This is a great way to continually increase your grocery budget without actually having to come out of pocket! I challenge myself to come in under budget as often as possible, but I never cut corners because then I’ll end up forgetting something key to a main dish.
This past weekend was April’s big shop and as you can see, we are incredibly stocked up, however by shopping at Aldi, I couldn’t even make it to $250 when I was trying let alone $260! Yes indeed, $216 purchased all of that food. What I did do however, is see that Shoprite was selling Synergy Koumbacha for $2.99 this week. So Dylan and I wander over to get half a case. While there we got a pound of almonds, a bunch of bananas, more lettuce, ($2 full bucks more expensive that Aldi for half the product), strawberries (on sale for $1.99), and organic non-gmo sugar from the stevia and monk fruit plants. I got organic grapefruit juice, and cranberry juice. I also picked up a lovely mini orchid for the dining room table. This came to $46 making my huge grocery haul come in right at 260.00. Had ShopRite not had the koumbacha on sale, I probably wouldn’t have gone and just rotated that $45 into my produce shop next weekend, and continued to roll it into May’s big shop.
In conclusion, it is always my intention to show others that with discipline and come creativity it is possible to live very well on less. For me personally, saving time and saving money are paramount to how I evaluate my common routines. By using this method, I’ve actually cut our budget of $370.00+ per month of processed foods and crappy “ready meals” to $300, sometimes under, of clean and pure foods. We have more to do on the clean eating front, and I would like to eat at 7pm on more days than we do at 8:30pm, but that’s what #improvement and #goals are for!
I am a blogger who is all about efficiency and keeping the overhead low. I love balance, calm, organization, and budgeting. This is NOT to say that my life is like that all of the time! But these systems are tried, true, and they help me so I aim to pass on the information for you to build upon. Blessings!