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Category: Grocery Deals

How I Meal Plan and Grocery Shop Once a Month

Meal plan and grocery shop just ONCE a month with these simple secrets that are easy to start today!

Guest post from Renee of Tune My Heart Blog

I’ve recently grown to love meal planning and grocery shopping for the whole month at once… and while that might seem overwhelming to some of you, today, I’d like to share a few tips for those of you interested in giving it a try!

How I handle fresh produce:

Everyone’s first question is probably, what about fresh produce? Confession: I “cheat” and make 1-2 extra Aldi stops each month, for fresh produce.

In my big monthly trip, I buy the following:

  • As much fruit for snacking as I think we’ll eat before it goes bad.
  • Frozen green beans. (I stock up when the brand I like is on sale!)
  • Salad stuff & fresh broccoli or some other green veggies. We usually do one veggie with each dinner. So, we eat the salad stuff first, then the fresh green veggie, then the frozen ones. By this time in the month, I’ll run to the store for produce only and repeat. Sometimes in one of these quick trips, I’ll have to get some cheese, eggs, or milk.
  • Any produce needed for my first 2 weeks of meals. In my mid-month produce trip, I buy the rest of the produce for the rest of the meals for the month.

How I make my lists:

I would highly suggest finding a LOCAL blogger who lists all the local grocery ad’s sale prices each week. Here’s how I do it.

As you’re making your grocery store list (for Walmart, or any store that price matches), write the quantity, price, and store next to the price-matching items so that you can easily tell the cashier the prices. Using an all-in-one list once a month makes it easier to plan a menu around the sales, rather than having to flip through all the Sunday ads each week.

How I meal plan with my calendar:

Every month, I sit down with my family calendar (already filled in for the month) and a blank meal planning calendar. MSM has several free meal planning calendars, and the one I use is also free to download.

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As I’m planning meals we want to eat, I check our family’s calendar. Meal planning with my family planner on hand has saved us a lot of wasted food!

In fact, over the past few months, I’ve realized I really only need to cook about 3 times per week. Between other things going on, family dinners one night a week, and leftovers, we just don’t need 6 or 7 meals per week.

Planning meals around our calendar saves time (no more last-minute store runs) and saves money (no more buying for meals you won’t end up making or eating)!

How I plan meals with like ingredients:

I used to buy a large container of chicken broth or can of tomato sauce only to end up needing a small amount of it for a recipe. Then what? I’d forget about it, find it in the fridge weeks later, and throw it away.

By planning ahead, I can usually figure out how to plan several meals with similar ingredients, which is more cost efficient and less wasteful. (You could do this if you plan by the week or for 2 weeks at a time too!)

I really like My Fridge Food for finding recipes from what you have in your pantry or already on your grocery list.

How I deal with the extras each month:

This is the stuff that you don’t really plan for, but you eat. Milk, cheese, nuts, baking ingredients, snack food, toiletries, and paper products to name a few. I just inventory our pantry and think through these things at the beginning of the month.

Here are a few examples from our family:

  • We go through 1 ½ – 2 gallons of milk a week. So I buy 6-8 gallons at the beginning of the month and freeze the ones we won’t use. (Yes, you can freeze a whole gallon of milk and it won’t explode!)
  • We also eat a lot of cheese. I buy 8-10 packages at the beginning of the month.
  • We go through one snack food item a month or less. So, instead of buying snacks each week, I buy a bag of pretzels, or a big container of goldfish at the beginning of the month and we eat it until it’s gone. If you have teenagers, you’ll probably need more than one bag of snack food. 🙂
  • My husband and I both like to snack on Trail Mix as an alternative to junk food.
  • I buy several boxes of whatever cereal is on sale the week I go — we probably go through a box or two per week. Sometimes, I just don’t buy it so we’re forced to eat healthier and cheaper breakfast options like oatmeal, eggs, or parfaits.
  • I also check the toilet paper, baby wipes, diapers, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc.

How I make my grocery list by store section:

Whether your list has 9 categories or 2, organizing your list (approximately) by what’s close to each other in the store lowers the chances that you’ll be running back and forth trying to find what you forgot.

Take it from someone who’s been there, done that, oh so many times!

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How I do freezer cooking:

One time, I attempted 20 freezer meals at once and hated it, but I do like having meals in the freezer for nights I don’t feel like cooking, or if a friend needs a meal last minute. So every month, I put a couple of meals on the menu that are easy to double and freeze.

I always mark those meals “D&F” so I remember to double it and to buy double the ingredients at the beginning of the month.

One final tip…

I never take my kids with me on a once-a-month trip — it just takes too long!

I brought them once. Huge mistake. I’m still recovering. But, if, in a momentary lapse of judgment, you decide to attempt this monthly grocery trip with your children, bring them snacks, and plan for a treat at the end for good cooperating.

I’ve grown to really prefer once-a-month shopping. I love not having to fit a grocery store trip in with my kiddos every week. If you’re not sure, ease into the crazy and try two weeks at a time. Good luck!

Renee Cook is a former music teacher turned stay-at-home mom blogger. She loves her family, other people & coffee. She writes on Tune My Heart Blog, about babies, budgeting, grace and everything in between.

top photo credit

Do you want to take better control of your grocery budget? If so, you’ll want to read my newest eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget!

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  2. New systems to help you keep track of what you spend at the store!
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  4. Ways to save up to $50 off your grocery bill THIS WEEK by using the 10 simple strategies outlined in this eBook!

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My $5.44 Dillon’s shopping trip–94% savings!

I snuck out to Dillons (Kroger affiliate) on Tuesday night after the all the little ones were in bed. It was a sort of spur-of-the-moment shopping trip and I didn't have but a few minutes to plan it.

I had gotten a hot tip from a friend earlier that day that the ThinkThin bars were on sale for $1 each and I had a bunch of $0.50/1 coupons from organic coupon booklets which would make them free after they were doubled. I wasn't sure if the bars would still be on sale when the new ad came out on Wednesday so I decided to just run to the store and buy those and see what other deals I might be able to pick up, too.

Here's what I came home with:

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1 Healthy Choice Frozen Meal–on sale for $1.65, used the $2/1 coupon
which was available for a brief time earlier this week,
FREE-plus-overage after coupon

1 Tropicana Orange Juice–$4.99, used free product coupon which was available a few weeks ago for a limited time, FREE after coupon

1 Starbucks Ice Cream–$3.49, used free product coupon from the Facebook promotion–no longer available, FREE after coupon

1 Kellogg's Rice Crispies–$3.69, used free product coupon sent to me recently from Vocalpoint, FREE after coupon

1 Chiquita Apple Bites–$1, used free product coupon here, FREE after coupon

1 Chiquita Pineapple Bites–$1, used free product peelie, FREE after coupon

20 ThinkThin bars–on sale for $1 each, used 20 $0.50/1 coupons from Mambo Sprouts coupon booklet (doubled), FREE after coupons

4 bottles of Sobe Life Water–on sale for $1 each, used 2 B1G1 coupons,
$0.50 each after coupons (my hubby loves these in his lunches so I've
been buying them whenever I can get them on a decent sale)

1 Vanilla Soy Milk 1/2 gallon–on closeout for $2.68, used $2/1 coupon here, $0.68 after coupon

My total before coupons and sales was $65.28. After coupons? I paid $5.44–a savings of 94% according to my receipt.

Now, of course, I'd never pay full price for pretty much any of those items, so the savings is quite inflated, but it's still fun to see!

If you're new at the whole coupon thing and wondering if it really works, I hope my shopping trip above encourages you that signing up for the free coupon offers and printing the high-value coupons really does result in big savings for minimal effort.

It takes time to learn the ropes of couponing, but if you keep at it, it will begin to pay off in big savings dividends over time. Plus, one of the side benefits of using coupons and shopping the sales is that you get to try some new products you might not try otherwise! After all, who can beat free when it comes to groceries?!

I'll share more about our other grocery savings this week when I post Super Savings Saturday.

Super Savings Saturday: Kroger, Aldi, and pears

We spent $39 at the store this week. Here's what we bought:

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You can read more of the details of this trip here.

My sister also stopped by Wal-Mart on Thursday and picked up five pounds of bananas for us at $0.19 per pound (another grocery store offers bananas for $0.19/lb. on Thursdays so she just price-matched at Wal-Mart since it's right on the way to our house).

So our total altogether was $39 for groceries this week–including diapers! You can see our menu for this week here, in case you're interested.

We also saved money by creatively using two grocery sacks of pears which were given to us. Read more about what we did with those here.

Those are a few ways we saved money this week. How'd you do this week? Post about the deals and
bargains you were able to snag this week or other ways you saved money
on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and
leave your link below. **To make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.**

Yesterday’s shopping trip: Aldi and Kroger (Dillons)

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There weren't any screaming deals at Dillons (Kroger-affiliate) this
week, so I just stopped by to see if I could score any markdowns on
produce or milk. Sure enough, I was able get organic bananas marked down to $0.37/lb, Horizon Organic milk for $2 per half gallon, and bagged salads for $1.49 each. I also picked up some wheat germ and yogurt which I'll be using for our Baking Day today.

At Aldi, I purchased two cartons of strawberries, grapefruit, carrots, applesauce, raisins, and four things of frozen juice concentrate.

All in all, I spent $10.23 at Dillons and $14.20 at Aldi. That should last us through the end of this week, so I'm well under our $40 budget this week! Yay!

Stay tuned for more on our Baking Day today.