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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

  • Angie V. says:

    That’s how I do my shopping and cooking! Works great for me!

  • J says:

    I am exactly like you in that I have no idea if I want to eat a chicken dish on Monday! ha, maybe not. I plan roughly two weeks of meals and most of them can easily be changed to the same basic ingredient but a couple of different choices (rice or noodles, etc.). It works for how my brain functions and we still eat at home, all meals.

    • Amy says:

      Wow, I’ll have to work myself up to 2 weeks at a time!

      • J says:

        My kids are all raised so it is a bit easier for me to shop twice a month.

        • P says:

          We typically plan 2 weeks in advance (family of 6, all kids under 8) and most recently I had the fun task of making the most of what we have in the fridge/pantry and planned (filling in the blanks) a grocery trip for our last SIX weeks before moving across country! Only one hick up thus far (forgot to thaw meat) but overall it was easy… you can pull off two!!!

  • Jeannine says:

    Very good advice. I do this also. I make meals based on what is in my home. It takes time to learn basic cooking skills to do this so it is good to have recipe books on hand to learn how to cook. But, if you have basic cooking skills food on hand can turn in to delicous healthy recipes.

    A basic meal consists of food from each group.
    Starch
    meat
    veggie or fruit
    Dairy

  • I disagree with this approach to meal planning. I look at the sale flyer online before I make my list and meal plan so I already know what meats are on sale. I also buy marked down meat at least a few times a month and freeze it. Most of my meals come from freezer meat not fresh on sale that week meat. I could feed use for about 3-4 weeks on what I have in the freezer.

    I also have to have my menu planned to the day. I generally know what is going on each week so I know what days I will have more time. If I don’t do by day, I forget to take the meat out of the freezer to defrost. lol. But, if I don’t want to make that or the baby had a rough day, no biggie. I usually have something else I can do. That’s what freezer meals and frozen pizza are for. 🙂

    I do only go grocery shopping once a week, usually. I typically go on Mondays expect for weeks like this where Monday is a holiday. I have other errands to do but can’t because the places aren’t open so will go tomorrow morning instead.

    I do say go shopping as early in the morning as you can. Less people, more mark downs still available, all the workers are still happy. My 10mo and I go as soon as she is done her wake up nursing.

    • Crystal says:

      Great input and suggestions… it sounds like we have a fairly similar approach in our menu-planning, although I waffle between assigning days and being flexible with what days we eat the planned meals. It just depends upon the season of life and mood I’m in. 🙂

      I love it how different things work for different people.

      • Ditto Crystal! I like to have things organized, but not so organized that meal planning is strict and dictated. I want to enjoy it and have the freedom to be spontaneous & flexible some days. Hope your day is lovely~

      • I will add: I do my menu in pencil so it is easy to change if I need or want to. 🙂

        Yes, so many different ways to do things. It is amazing how different things for for different people. I could never ever do once or twice a month shopping yet for some families, it works great.

    • That sounds similar to how I do things. Also, completely agree about going to the store EARLY!! It’s so much more relaxing because no one else is there! I typically go Sunday morning around 9, come home, unload everything, then head to church by 11. Works great.

      • I went late on Wednesday nights for a long time (started at 10:00 pm and often shopped until 11:30 or midnight). No lines, no people to fight! The problem is that it spoiled me and now when I have to fight big crowds or wait in a long line I get annoyed. lol

    • Mona says:

      Early morning shopping is definitely a must!! I try to go as soon as I can get ready and if it’s after 10, I dread going (and will usually wait until the next day). 🙂

    • Elias says:

      Julie, I was going to post the same thing! I stock up when meats are on sale so I pretty much buy meat once every other month anyways. I also have leftover days to match up with busy evenings so I have to over plan as well. 🙂

    • Amy says:

      I use what is at home as well but I need to get better at taking stock before I go.

    • Amy says:

      Defrosting meats are a sore spot for me so that’s why it’s hard for me to buy like that. I think that will definitely be my next step!

      • I was soooo bad at remembering to defrost meat, especially when I still worked, until I did the more traditional meal planning. Now I remember (most days). It’s just what works for me. 🙂 But I have a terrible memory. My husband thinks I just like order in my fridge and pantry. No. If the mustard is a shelf down from it’s normal spot, I can’t find it. lol.

    • Mary Ellen says:

      I agree. Usually our store will not have 5 meats on sale that everyone wants to eat. I find it best to buy typical items we eat in bulk from the freezer like boston butt pork, pork tenderloins, sirloin steak, chicken breast, and ground meats. If I miss a sale, Costco comes pretty close to the sale prices.

  • Mrs S says:

    I have been doing this for about a year. I make 5 meals a week and my menu lists five meals that are not assigned to specific days. On Saturday we have a “left over buffet” (which my kids love!) and put out all of the leftovers for everyone to pick from. Sundays we have a pot-luck at church, followed by an evening snack.

    My days are incredibly unpredictable, so the flexibility is priceless!

    • Liz says:

      I don’t assign days either! I didn’t know I was Type A?! It was freeing for me when I came up with the “4 Meals at Time Plan.” Being locked into specific days was keeping me from doing it for all the reasons listed. What if I wasn’t in the mood for chicken, what if we had a bad day, what if I didn’t get to the store in time. When I am on the ball, I plan 4 meals at a time. Sometimes I insert something else because it suits the leftovers or our schedule better. I just need to work on defrosting things on time. I usually buy discounted meat and we have a 1/4 cow in the freezer too. So i can plan based on what’s in the freezer. So I don’t necessarily need to plan by what’s on sale. Works well for me. I would simple go out of my mind if had go by what was assigned for each day. For the simple fact that sometimes you end up with more that stretches longer than planned and then the plan just gets further whacked out. To me that was maddening! The trick is to find what works best for you.

    • Tanya B. says:

      We have left over night on Tuesday most weeks because it’s trash night. For some things it’s eat it now or out it goes!

    • Amy says:

      Yes! I love leftover nights on Sunday nights so I can relax more 🙂

      • Jen says:

        We call it “Serve Yourself Sunday” in our house. 🙂 Everybody (except the baby of course) heats up what they want or has something easy like cereal.

    • I do miss leftovers. My husband takes leftovers in his lunchbox so there never are any. lol. Saves money on lunchmeat, etc. but sometimes I hate the day he discovered he could heat his lunch on the defroster of his work truck. 🙂

  • Jennifer Ott says:

    I do something similar. We don’t eat meat, so that’s a step I don’t take :)! Our lives are so hectic and we do lots of spontaneous hospitality, so I just made lists of each kind of meals/snack/desserts we need for an average week, and go from there! I have 4 kids and a husband who is gone 4 nights a week, so grocery shopping just once is a sanity-saver!

    • Connie says:

      It’s interesting how different things work for different people. It works better for me to plan meals for certain days, as a previous poster stated. If being a mother has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me that you have to be flexible. 🙂 So, I’m okay with switching meals around, if need be. Planning for each day helps me because it allows me to plan around my family’s schedule. If I’m going to be gone all day, it’s nice to fix something in the crockpot so it’ll be ready when I get home. If we are all going to be home all evening, I might want to fix a meal that takes some time to cook or prepare. Some evenings are just crazy and I know I’m going to need to fix something quick and easy. But, it doesn’t work to use my crockpot every day or to fix something time consuming everyday, so planning ahead, based on the day’s schedule, helps me a lot.

      • Connie says:

        Sorry, Jennifer Ott, this was not targeted to you. I meant to reply under the original post, not under yours. Whoops.

  • Ryanne says:

    This is what I do too! My type A personality cannot assign meals to days either. Instead I take 3×5 cards and write every main dish I can think of on them (one dish per card). I then go through my freezer to ‘shop’ and find the meat that I need to use. I pull out the 5 cards for that week that I want to make with the meat I already have. I have extended this to sides and the occasional dessert (we don’t do desserts beyond cut fruit usually). It works great and I can do as much shopping out of my freezer and pantry and then make a shopping list of everything else!

    • I do something similar, although I don’t use the cards, and I like the idea! But I agree, my personality can’t handle writing down exactly which meals go on which days. If it’s written down, it *must* happen on that day! 😉

      I don’t really plan a lot for sides – we try to keep meals simple and healthy, so my sides tend to be a bag of frozen veggies, either steamed or sauted, and a bowl of fruit, and I just keep plenty of those on hand. Occasionally, I’ll make a huge batch of brown rice and freeze it in family size portions for meals as well. But I rarely shop from a specific list, I just know what main ingredients we have to work with, and fill in the missing ingredients about once a week. I love it! So much less stressful for me than attaching a specific meal to a specific day. 🙂

  • Cassie says:

    This tip may help immensely as well, even if you menu plan or not. It has saved my sanity and budget over and over again!

    http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/01/10/be-intentional-challenge-9-dinner-by-10-sounds-silly-but-you-will-know-what-it-means-by-reading-this/

    I don’t plan my menu around the store sales though as this is one way that you can get trapped into buying things that aren’t really a deal. We shop about 2-3 times per month at one store at a time and stock-pile the items that are on sale and that we would actually use. I then plan my menu (or meal if I didn’t get to a menu) around the items in my stock-pile. That way, I get the super deals, but not trapped into what they store has that week. I haven’t meal planned off the store ad in years.

    Great tips though Amy – it is always great to hear what others are doing!

  • Rachael M says:

    I have recently started meal planning again and it has really cut down on my trips to the store. I look on the store’s website before I go and make out my menu and grocery list according to what is on sale. I have found that if I do it this way it cuts down on my time spent at the store because I already have a game plan in place. Like you, I also go back and forth on assigning meals to certain days. Because of our schedules I currently assign meals to days, but I do it with a wet erase marker so I can easily swap days if I need to.

  • Kacie says:

    I also assign specific days to meals so that leftovers from dinner can be incorporated into lunches – otherwise I end up doing dinners at night that don’t make for good lunches the next day and then I end up having nothing to serve for lunch! I recently have begun switching my family over to “Real Food” or “Clean Eating” – we aren’t super strict about it but do our best within our limited budget. I’ve started blogging about our meal plans for accountability purposes – you can check it out at http://www.makemymenu.wordpress.com. It’s a new blog, but I hope to get some traction on it over the next few months!

  • Christine Lenz says:

    I used to plan down to the day for a whole month, WAY too much pressure for me. A friend of mine plans the month but doest assign day, she just lists 30 or 31 meals, and crosses off stuff as she makes it. I do this but for two weeks at a time. I can choose in the morning what we will eat, take the meat out and cross it off my list. It has enough flexability that I can work with it.

  • Victoria says:

    I do something similar, I make a list of 7 dinners and 7 lunches based on what we have in the cupboards, but I don’t assign these meals specific days. This helps me have on hand what I need for the week but lets me be as spontaneous as my families appetite. I don’t have a specific shopping day preferring instead to go when the milk runs out. It is sort of a personal contest for us since we don’t drink a lot of milk. I sometimes make that 7 day menu last 9 days just because the milk lasts that long. This saves us money in the long run as we have a weekly grocery budget and the 9 day buying frame means sometimes I will have 2 weeks worth to spend at once and can stock up on sale items.

  • Stephanie says:

    What I’ve done to simplify the process is to create a 2 week menu (not assigning days at the time, but I try to look ahead each week) and we repeat that 2 week menu for several months. Then I only have to add a few extras to the grocery list and be good to go. Plus I get really efficent at making those 12-14 meals and I save money by using up the spices or other special ingredients for the meals. when we are tired of 2 week menu, I write another and we follow it for several months. It has worked really well for us to allow the variety my husband likes, but keep things as simple as possible for me.

  • I have 4 1/2 months of menus written out (4 months of seasonal menus, one per season, plus a 2-week menu of pantry-only items).

    I decide from there, but like you, I don’t asssign days. Plans change too much, and I go off of what I have in the freezer, pantry, and garden, and what I feel like eating.

    For example, I don’t know exactly what day of the week the peaches will be the most ripe, or when the lettuce will be big enough for me to start harvesting out leaves.

    I also may end up spending more time helping a child with schoolwork, working in the garden, or sewing some days. On those days, I look to my quicker meals instead of what I had planned. I also plan for leftovers, but I can’t always be certain how much leftovers we will have, depending on everyone’s appetites.

    I can go months without shopping if need be (and I have; I’ve gone over a year without shopping at all) and still have flexibility. Having menus written out helps me to plan using what I have, including side dishes (something that really used to stump me after I had chosen a main dish). For example, this month I’ve bought grapefruit, oil, and stain remover, but that’s it. The rest of the month I didn’t need to buy food or toiletries.

    We plan from what we have and I allow flexibility depending on where it’s needed.

    It doesn’t cost me more, because I stock up when things are at their lowest. I can feed my family or 9 for $100 a month and still be flexible.

    If we don’t have something, I don’t go to the store for that one item–I just make something else.

    This week I’ll be making lemon tarts, using lemons from our garden. The dough is made, but the day will depend on my schedule.

  • Stephanie says:

    I love this list. Typically, if I assign a meal to a day, I have no interest in eating what’s on the list on the assigned day. Having a plan is essential, but flexibility makes a plan taste better. 🙂

  • Jen says:

    I gave up traditional menu planning with meals assigned to the days because it just didn’t work for our often unpredicatable schedules. Instead, I simply list on a sheet on the refrigerator all of meals we have the ingredients on hand for. I try to use the meals that use fresh ingredients first, but I have the flexibility to shift the meals around if need be. Now that I have been stockpiling for awhile, I have been able to just shop the best deals each week and still have plenty of variety in our meals.

  • Ann says:

    See, I still will plan the menu based on what I have/what the sales are and assign days because each of my days are different (some I have an hour to cook, some we need to be out of the house early, some days I have NO time to cook and some I need to plan around work) but the days aren’t written in stone. So if I have a plan and something comes up, I may bump that to another night. But the key to me is to have all of the ingredients in the house and a plan. By the end of the week, my menu has a lot of cross-outs but we ate each night and we were happy. 🙂

  • vickie says:

    I like your idea but I do things a little differently as I’ve never made a meal plan or shopped for specific meals. I know it’s sounds weird but that’s just how it’s been here for 34 years. I buy what meats are on sale -I may make them or not that week so I freeze them as soon as I can. I have a wide variety of meat in my freezer.
    We also buy our canned goods ahead when there is a sale.
    I just make sure I know what we want by morning – so I’ll have time to thaw out my meat.

    I know it’s different but I think I got this from my Mother!

    • Lydia says:

      Good to know someone else works like this. I have enough of a stockpile of pantry items (got on sale for rock bottom prices) and meats (same way) that I just decide that morning or the night before what I want to make. I always feel like I maybe should do menu plans etc. and have tried but they just seem like more work for me. But I know this way would drive some other people nuts!

  • Kristi says:

    I think these are great suggestions especially for someone who does not plan meals. I do think, however, that just because you assign a meal to a certain day does not mean it has to happen that day. I assign by the day because some days are busier than others and I like to have crock pot meals then. I also plan 21 meals a week because we rarely eat out. The key is to find which meal planning method works best for your family and stick to it. It’s the way to save lots of money and frustration at mealtime!

  • Jamie says:

    Great tips, Amy!! I need to pick a day to shop and stick with it — I like to shop once a week too, but the day always changes depending on my mood.

  • Hey, great post. I especially liked the idea of stocking up on the regular meals. I’m just getting started using my crock-pot but it’s making life so much easier, especially when I need to feed groups! Thanks for the tips!

  • Jen says:

    Love the tips ! ! I shop about every other day and it kills any budget. I’m working on cutting my food budget down and these tips will be very helpful.

    Going to pick Sunday for shopping day. I tend to find shopping on Saturdays not that great most of the deals gone ..

  • Mona says:

    I usually do two weeks at a time. I don’t assign days either. I look at the sales flyers that come on Saturday and then make my meal plan for the next two weeks or so.

    I love breakfast for dinner!

  • Katherine says:

    I assign dinners to specific days, but just come up with a list for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. That way if I don’t feel like making something, we’ll just have oatmeal or cereal for breakfast, and lunches depend on how busy we are and what we feel like. The dinners assigned to specific days gives it enough structure for me. I do 2 weeks at a time, with the occasional extra trip to supplement milk and produce.

  • denise says:

    For awhile my husband and I were good at deciding 5-6 meals per week to shop for not necessarily to eat on specific days but to eat sometime that week. It worked really well for us until we got SUPER busy with a second full time job for him and moving across town 🙁

    We need to get back into that. And I love the idea of using breakfast for dinner as a backup – since we tend to do that anyway!

    I know this sounds silly but even when I know what meat we’re planning to use for dinner I still can’t seem to remember to put it out to thaw the night before or the morning of 🙁 I have a freezer full of meat I got on good sales and I forget to pull it out!!!

    • Amy says:

      I agree, I am SO bad at defrosting meats. I think that’s why I can only do a week at a time!

    • Emily says:

      I’ve always had a hard time remembering too… now I try to make it part of my morning routine: shower, tidy bedroom/bathroom/kitchen, start laundry, thaw meat. (The freezer is near the washing machine) 🙂 I usually pull out what I need for the day, and also anything bigger (like a roast/chicken) for later in the week that might need another day or so. Once it becomes a habit, its not as hard to remember. 🙂

  • Karen says:

    Menu planning was something I used to think I couldn’t do, but now I love it! I do assign meals to days, but it’s not written in stone. I can decide to cook a meal I had planned on another day if I want. Menu planning just means I have all the ingredients I need on hand.

  • As someone who makes waaaaay too many trips to the grocery store for forgotten items, thank you!

  • Olga says:

    That’s exactly how I do my Menu plan! Make a list of meals of a week or so, based on what’s on sale and go from there. I also try to go grocery shopping once a week only. Since I work outside the home, I plan dinners for those days that are simple or can be made ahead of time. I also have come up with one or two extra ideas so I have the ingredients on hand just in case. Works great for me:). Thank for a great post!

  • I agree Crystal meal planning is so very important. I actually find it easier to assign days based on my schedule and which days I might be busy and want something from the crock pot or what not. I do understand what you mean about being flexible. I also begin with coupons and the ads in mind as well as whatever other perishables might be ready to go bad soon.

  • Emily says:

    One thing I have found that helps me a lot is to follow a certain theme for each night (got the idea from the “lifeasmom” blog, a friend of Crystal’s- so I think its ok to mention here 😉 This gives me a basic plan, and some direction when planning the meals, rather than having to just pick meals at random (which always felt very overwhelming). So for example, we usually follow this pattern:

    Mon, Tues, Thur- meat with potato, pasta, or rice
    Wed- leftovers (easy for church nite)
    Fri- something fun (pizza, Mexican, burgers/hotdogs, etc)
    Sat- soup (make a big pot for leftovers)
    Sun- leftovers (soup/other)

  • Julie Turner says:

    I love this! I recently decided to stop assigning meals to certain days and its made it so much easier on me. I just make a long “menu”/list of 7 or so dinner ideas we can have to choose from that week based on what we already have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. From there I go to the ads and see whats on sale that I can fill the menu in with. By Saturday morning, I know exactly what I need and I’m ready to shop with the list. Great advice in this post!

  • Abby says:

    I love this idea. I know the most frugal thing to do is grocery shop monthly, but I just can’t get on board with that.

    Part of how I cut our grocery bill is by buying the great sale items from the grocery store each week. I’m glad I’m not the only one who prefers to shop more often.

  • Jen says:

    I quit traditional menu planning a few years ago, because it just didn’t work with our often changing schedule, and I would always end up with wasted food. Instead, I now simply write a list of all the meals we have ingredients on hand to make and pick something from the list each day, which includes a lot of freezer and pantry foods, with seasonal fresh foods to complete the meals. We try to use up all the meals with fresh ingredients first, but this still allows us to be flexible. Since I had already been stockpiling for awhile when I started meal planning this way, I am able to shop the best sales each week and then use things we already have on hand to make complete meals.

  • Dianna says:

    I used to assign meals to certain days, but now I meal plan according to what is on sale in the flyers (or I check online) and just create 7 meals for the week. Two may be leftovers or whatever, but I end up with 7 days worth. This lets me cook what I want or what’s convenient for me. Kinda gives you the pleasure of circumventing the plan without busting the budget!
    I have recently gotten over repeating meals and being too simple. I post our menu on my blog and am finally over feeling like my menu should have certain things on it. If we have canned soup one night, we just have canned soup. It’s whatever works for your family.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I plan and grocery shop in a very similar way. I do write a 6-meal menu plan, but don’t assign days, and I only shop once a week. One difference is that I make a very detailed shopping list at home. I made a printable grocery list with categories for each aisle of the two stores I frequent, so when I go through my ads I write down the sale items in the aisle in which I will find them. I write my menu plan on my list for easy reference, and before I leave home I mentally go through the list of ingredients for each meal so I can check on what I already have before I go to the store. I also pull out all the coupons I’m going to use and put them in order. It’s a little more time at home but I have found this saves me a lot of time at the store!

    I personally get tired of having the same things all the time, so in addition to listing all the meals we like (which turned out to be enough for almost 3 weeks!), I started keeping track of the meals we had actually eaten (on a monthly calendar with my menu plan). I can easily look at it and see what we had just last week or what we haven’t had for 2 or 3 weeks. That might seem silly but I can’t always remember what we had to eat 2 or 3 weeks ago and it has really helped me not get so bored with cooking and eating the same things all the time (which just made me want to go out!)

  • lyss says:

    I don’t assign meals to days, either. I just make sure I have a week or two worth of meal ideas before I shop!
    Anyone want to do a post on tips for shopping every 2 weeks? I’ve been doing that lately, but seem to run out of things by the middle of the 2nd week. I guess I just need to stock up more. I hate shopping…I don’t see how anyone would want to go daily to the grocery! But I guess everyone’s different. I also don’t have the opportunity since I don’t have a car, but I’m perfectly fine with that! : )

  • shannon says:

    Thank you for this. Food/menus are the one area I can’t seem to get a good handle on.
    I make a menu and then items are not on sale and part of my list is incomplete – then I feel chaotic.
    I don’t make a menu and try to wing it and forget all kinds of things.
    This sounds like a perfect solution! Got a guide line in place but it is not rigid.

  • Jennie says:

    I try to shop only every 2 weeks, and just pick up milk, etc, on my “off weeks”. I spend less money and less time at the store.

    • Amy says:

      I have found that I have a heavier week of shopping every other week. While I do buy meals every week, often one week stretches into the second if I get a deal like Buy 2, Get 3 free or something.

  • amy says:

    I used to meal plan with just picking meals for the week. I really liked that a lot because we could have what I felt like on whatever night. I didn’t feel the pressure to cook a specific thing on a specific night.

    Our lives have gotten busier so I have to assign nights more frequently because the meal had to vary by the complexity of the meal and what else is happening that day. Starting from a list was a good step for me to being dedicated to meal planning.

    We try a two week rotating schedule now of meals and vary it by season.

  • Heather J. says:

    This was one of my New Years resolutions I have yet to implement. Thanks for the tips.. Now to just do it!

  • Nikki says:

    I do the same thing as you….except I go through the local grocery store ad that comes in the mail every Wednesday and circle the on-sale items that I will use. Then, I plan the menu (I don’t assign days either, I just plan 6 dinner meals, making sure I have a protein and at least 2 fruits/vegees for each day). That lets me make a grocery list. I’ve found that if I don’t have a list, I spend much more money AND end up having to go back to the store later in the week for something I’ve forgotten. Plus, if I have my kids along, and I usually do, they invariably want something. My standard response is “Sorry, that’s not on the list.” We ONLY buy what’s on the list. Works for me!

  • Susan says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t bother with defrosting meat? At least not very often. If I was making hamburgers or grilling steaks I suppose I would, but for most dishes I just go straight from the freezer to the oven (or stove or microwave).

    My slow-cooker cooks frozen meats beautifully. Ground beef or chicken breasts can be defrosted quickly in the microwave and then grilled or cooked on the stove. I don’t even defrost them completely, just enough to be able to separate or cut up, depending on what I’m making.

    • Amy says:

      Susan, I did recently find that I could slow cook my frozen chicken in the oven when I didn’t get to my crock pot in time. I LOVE it! I just don’t think a lot of people know they can do it–my mom had to tell me!

    • This is one of my favorite things about my crockpot. It’s very rare for me to put my meat in defrosted. You do have to change up some of the recipes that call for pre-cooking though just a bit.

  • April says:

    Thank you!!! This is the blog post I have been waiting for! I have been trying to work on grocery shopping once a week and haven’t ever seemed to got it until this blog post. Plus, I was really having problem meal planning. I like having 5 meals in mind for that week and than deciding what to eat from that list instead of assigning a meal to a day.

  • Jennifer K says:

    I food shop once a week, since the place I shop to is 20 minutes away. I usually go on Thursday or Friday. If it’ s a really great deal I’ ‘ll have my husband grab more of it, on his way home from work. As for drugstore places like CVS, I go a few times a week if it’ s a great sale week.

  • Amber says:

    My type A personality demands that I have meals planned and assigned to each day, three meals a day. 🙂 However, I am flexible to change the plan if something comes up and the menu doesn’t work. It is written in pencil. As I tell my kids (who want to stick exactly to the menu when they like it but hope it changes when they don’t…), I control the menu, not the other way around. I only shop every 3-4 weeks (I live 45 minutes from a store) and cook from the freezer/pantry and add to those during sales. I also plan my menu monthly to encourage variety. I usually do Mexican food one day a week, homemade pizza on Fridays, soup another day, etc. It’s a great system for me; I know I’d go crazy without a meal assigned to each day…I’d save the most time-intensive meals for the end of the week for sure, then feel stuck with them or consistently drop them!

    • Amy says:

      I think the travel time plays into this a lot. Our store is not more than 3 minutes away so it makes it easy for us to run out if we choose to.

      Also, I totally get (and LOVE) your Type A-ness can lends itself to planning everything.

  • I agree, having a plan but being flexible is key. I do make an entire plan and then go to the store, but if it turns out that ground beef is on a better clearance than the sale they were having on pork chops, I can be flexible enough to change one day of my menu and just make sure I put the pork chops back. And I used to assign meals to days and swap them later, but now I just make a long list of meals and choose whatever sounds good or matches the weather for that day.

  • Julia says:

    We moved to a small town in Canada that is 15 minutes away from the nearest grocery store, so I am learning how to shop once a week. Thanks for the helpful tips!

    I try to make a menu for the week. However, if I am out of an ingredient or forget to thaw meat in time, I have to get creative with what I have. Beans and rice is a good standby for us. I am learning how to stock my pantry so that I always have some options in reserve!

    • Amy says:

      Travel time definitely makes a difference in how often to shop. Thankfully, we have several stores within just minutes from us here in the suburbs of Charlotte. I *wish* my kids loved beans and rice and that definitely would be a standby for us!

  • I am like you in in that I don’t plan my exact meals, but instead base them on what’s in my freezer or stockpile from grocery sales. I defintely not one that runs to the store to get something for a recipe. Instead I get creative and use what I have. Some of my favorite meals have come from being limited to what’s in stock.

  • Stephanie says:

    You are going to laugh- we sat down and made a master grocery shopping list broken down by category for the probably top 100 things we buy. We print it out and leave it on the fridge. In every category we left space for “other”, the random items you only get sometimes (for us that would be stuff like coconut milk and dried cranberries) but things like milk and flour are just there to be checked off as needed. This has saved us so much time and aggravation while making the grocery list and we forget less. In the past month or so we have only made a midweek shopping trip on purpose to go to the other store for the items we need that are cheaper there.

  • 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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