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5 Steps to Grocery Shopping Once a Week


Guest post from Amy of Permission to Peruse

A year ago, I was running to the grocery store nearly every day. I panicked about dinner every afternoon. I’d run to the grocery store last minute, if I could even think of something to make. Many nights, we’d head for take-out.

Now, I’m grocery shopping once a week, making homemade meals nearly every night, and saving hundreds of dollars.

Here are 5 steps that worked for me:

1. Quit Assigning Meals to Days

On most traditional menu-planning posts, I see meals attached to days.  My Type A, literal self couldn’t handle the pressure of cooking exactly that meal on that day.

What if I didn’t have time? 

What if we didn’t “feel” like eating that meal that day? 

Would the menu-planning police come after me when I switched the days around? 

One thing my best friend told me last spring completely changed my view of menu planning. It’s so simple, it seems silly now. I plan out meals for the week but don’t assign days to them.

A light bulb went off!

Now, I choose an average of 5 meals for the week. I cook whatever strikes my fancy each day from that list. If I get down to the last meal and really don’t want it, I can resort to the breakfast-for-dinner trick and save the meal.

By not assigning days, I opened my Type A self to menu planning and that is the first and absolute key to shopping once a week.

2. Learn Your Regulars

The second step was to list our regular meals and learn the ingredients. I have a list of regular Crockpot meals on my blog with at most three ingredients.

Don’t feel like you’re failing if you’re having just a few of the same meals over and over. Many of us remember having the same meal every week growing up. It creates tradition, not boredom.

Once you have a database in your head of recipes, you’re one step closer to shopping once a week.

3. Quit Writing a Menu

Next, I quit writing a menu. I know, it goes against all menu planning rules, but it was key. You’ll see in the next step how I plan my meals.

4. Plan Meals Around Sales

At the store, I find what meats are on sale. I run through the meals I know and decide which I can make. I keep doing that until I get to 5 meals.

Once I have main courses, I spend the rest of the shopping choosing sides around sale items.

5. Choose One Shopping Day

The final step is to choose one shopping day — and stick with it. Saturday mornings work for me.

By carving out one day, I set family plans around shopping and know how long items need to last until the next week.

To you write-ahead day-assigning menu planners, absolutely keep doing what works! But if menu planning and shopping once a week have eluded you, perhaps these steps might help.

How do you handle menu planning and grocery shopping?

Amy is a work at home mom of two girls. She writes about faith, family, food and fashion at Permission to Peruse.

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102 Comments

  • Mary Ellen says:

    My cooking strategy: To try and cook twice at the same time. At Costco, my ground turkey comes in large 1.5 lb. packages. I could spend the time splitting it, but why bother? Instead, I double my pans on the stove and save tons of time. If I’m using 1 lb of meat to make tacos, then I throw the rest of the meat in a bowl to make meatballs or sausage patties and cook those at the same time. If I’m making chicken enchiladas, I cook that chicken and shred it while cooking the rest of the chicken breasts to use for salad toppings, soups or chicken salad.

    I grocery shop once per week based on what is in the freezer and what is in the sales flyer. Then, I list the recipes I want to try or already like and plan around those for the week. Once I got a set of good cookbooks that had excellent recipes in them, most of the planning was a breeze.
    My “go to” list includes: America’s Test Kitchen “Cook’s Illustrated” Cookbook, Good Eats 1-3, and websites like allrecipes.com, food.com and I use my blog as a reference to what I’ve made before at whisktogether.wordpress.com.

    • Amy says:

      Mary Ellen, that is a GREAT tip. I just made lasagna this past weekend and I know I could have easily made another pan and frozen it for next time. Gah! I’ll definitely use this next time. Thanks!

  • Alethea says:

    Wow, you do everything the OPPOSITE of me. My methods work great. We’re on a strict budget, we eat super healthy & I only shop every OTHER week with 1 more trip in the middle for extra produce.
    Glad that all works for you!

    • Amy says:

      Alethea, I would love to be able to shop every other week. Would love to hear what the opposite sounds like! Maybe I can get some tips!

  • happy momma says:

    How funny! I loved it. I must be a type A personality too. I will have to read up about it for sure, but It sounds alot like me. I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. Some people swear that planning out meals has saved their lives. I am glad to know that I am not the only one that disagrees. Meal planning actually makes me crazy. It does not work for me. I write at life less hurried. Often I write about things that work for me. In the beginning I would often find myslef saying “this works for me, find what works for you.” I just wrote a post about goal setting and the infernal “to do list” for me meal planning and having it all planned out is like having yet another stinking “to do list” that only stresses me out. Here is a link for anyone interested. http://www.lifelesshurried.com/2013/01/beyond-january-new-years-resolutions_21.html

    For me I coupon and stock up. I have a pretty well stocked pantry. I buy what is on sale plus I love to pick up close-outs etc. When it comes to dinner time I start poking about looking at what I have on hand and then I usually get inspired. Sometimes I get so inspired I can’t choose just one meal. This is when I write it all down. Then when I am less inspired I can look at the list and say “Oh I remember that sounded good the other night I think I will make it tonight” I think a well stocked pantry is key to the whole thing.

    • Amy says:

      Well, Type A normally means you’re structured and a planner. Maybe perfectionism is my issue—I can’t handle it if I don’t follow my plan and check off my box! I’m sure there’s some word for it 🙂

  • Tina says:

    I like planning a week of meals, but we don’t necessarily eat what is on that day. We will fix whatever that day that is on the menu for the week. This helps me know choices the night before to plan and keep up with what is in the pantry or freezer for shopping. Also, helps with getting the kids to pick from choices without asking “what do you want for dinner tonight?” and everyone says the famous …. I don’t know…

  • Tiffany says:

    Thanks for the tips – just have a few questions to make this work:

    1) Biggest problem: I buy fresh fruit every 4-5 days (because that’s how long they last on average), how do you shop once a week and eat healthy in regards to fresh fruits and veggies? I can’t imagine shopping every 2 weeks, I don’t think we’d eat in a healthy way at all..

    2) Medium problem: If I’m at Target getting an Rx or household item, then I remember from my list what pantry foods (or milk, butter etc) is cheaper there. But then I’m back to shopping every 2-4 days. For instance graham crackers and Triscuits at Target are about half the price of my fresh foods store. How do you handle that?

    3) Or similarly, let’s say I want to go to Aldi once a month for boxed cereals, flour, canned beans, etc how do you handle that? Or does that go against weekly shopping?

    Thanks!

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