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.
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!
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.
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