I have been menu planning for a while and when I sat down a few months ago and added up how much we were spending on groceries, I was horrified! It was obscene! Something had to change. I began buying all the meat for the month in bulk at Costco back in January and that was helpful. However, I decided for April that I was going to take the next step and buy all of our groceries in one major trip and then only stop in for things on the perimeter – milk, fruit, eggs, cheese. April was a month of learning because I wasn’t sure what we would go through in a month as far as some staples. However, I did manage to shave 25% off our grocery bill in one month. Now I think of it as a game to see how much more I can save each month.
The key to grocery shopping for the month is to plan your menu for the entire month. The second key is to know what you already have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I do an inventory of the little chest freezer each month prior to planning my lists. Once you have the menu planned and your inventory, you then start to compile your list by going through the recipes for the meals you are planning. I shop at two stores for the month, Costco and a regular grocery store, so I work on two list. I know that most of the meat I need will be at Costco. I also buy some frozen foods and dry goods that are at a good price.
For new recipes that I’m going to try, I print them out and place them in my new recipe binder so that I can make sure I get all the ingredients and also they don’t go in the cookbook binder unless they are a hit. My new recipes are printed and then punched to place in a 1 inch binder.
I then go through my recipe binder to get the ingredients that I need for our favorites that are on the menu. Once I have all the ingredients compiled, I then see how much ground beef, chicken breast, shredded chicken, and ground turkey I’m going to need to fix the meals that month. I also include turkey for making turkey sausage. I compare this to my current inventory and then decide how much I’m going to need to buy at Costco. There are some meats that I don’t buy at Costco because I don’t have the room to store them. I needed a boston butt pork roast this month but not one as large as they sell at Costco.
I then look to see what ingredients I can buy in larger sizes and split. For example, I can buy a slightly larger bag of frozen corn cheaper than two bags, and split it between two recipes. Finally, I add in the staples that we always need such as juice, coffee, deli meat, milk, bread flour, all-purpose flour, yogurt tubes, sugar, jelly, etc. Since I bake all of our bread products, it has been trial and error on how much AP Flour and Bread Flour I’m going to need each month.
If you use coupons, you can gather up the coupons you need to help offset the cost of your trip. If you really want to save more, you can shop the flyers of each grocery store in your area and visit multiple stores. Unfortunately, grocery shopping monthly requires me to have someone assist with pushing the second card and loading the car so I only go to one store besides Costco.
The hardest part of this new system is to be really good when I have to head in to the store for produce, deli meat, eggs, and milk. It’s those “stop in” trips that usually are what blow the budget for most of us. The other hard part – putting it all away and having space for it. I’ve had to get creative with my pantry space and if need be, I have a plastic storage box that I can put things in and place in the large closet we have under our stairs. It is nice though not having to go to the grocery store each and every week. It has freed up more time for me to do other things.
Monthly Grocery Shopping – Step-by-step
1. Plan your monthly menu
2. Take an inventory of your fridge/freezer/pantry
3. Gather up your recipes for each meal and make your list.
4. See what items you can purchase in larger sizes to save money and use in multiple recipes.
5. Add in the staples you need all the time in addition to meals: bread, milk, ketchup, coffee, juice, etc.
6. Shop ads/clip coupons. You can find online coupons at Couponing101
7. Print your list and shop!
*Remember to add in some back up meals that are quick. For example, I purchase a few boxes of spaghetti and a jar of sauce in case I have a day where my RA is acting up or I generally don’t feel well and can’t cook. The family always loves a good plate of spaghetti.