August 6, 2012 by Melissa
People freak out when I tell them that I do the bulk of our family shopping in one visit, once a month. Are you freaking out right now? It’s really not that bad, I swear. I used to make weekly (at least) trips to Target to get items for our meals, any diapers or household stuff that was needed etc. but with a really tight budget, I needed to have my month layed out before hand so when things pop up (birthday party, admission to a local attraction, new shoes, etc) I know where I can skim to cover it.
When I tell people that I do this, I get a lot of interest and follow up questions so I thought I’d share what I do and how I do it. I use:
-some time and space to spread out (at first it may take a few hours but I have it down to 1/2 hour at most)
-a binder for recipes cut out from magazines or printed off the web
-my recipe box (made by yours truly)
-my coupon filer (got mine at the dollar store)
-a calendar (to see how many meals we’ll be eating at home, if we’re entertaining anyone, if Chris will be traveling for work, etc)
Once I’ve figured out how many meals we’ll be needing, I start making notes on what I’d like to make. I use my recipe binder and box for this. I’m always making notes on things I’d like to try and this is when I check for seasonality of ingredients. There are several recipes that we do every month: tacos, pizza, soup, spaghetti and meatballs, etc. I also make a notation as to how many meals that particular recipe will account for. I make some casseroles or pasta dishes knowing full well that it’ll be 2 or 3 meals for us.
Once I get all the meals figured out, I start planning by week. I do this so I can best use all of my groceries and also so I have a list of the produce that I’ll be needing each week. I still do weekly runs to the store or farmers market for that stuff but it’s a quick and usually painless errand. For example, I make a bow ties with peas and ham dish quite often. We always have lots of ham left over so I then plan on making a spinach/ham/chedder frittata, and a potato/ham soup within a few days of making the pasta. I hate throwing food away and this prevents a lot of that. It’s also nice to know ahead of time what we’ll be having throughout the week so I can defrost, or plan on what prep work I need to accomplish during nap time.
Then I go through each recipe and write down what we need. I have a master shopping list and one for each week. I also take this time to go through our pantry and make note of what we’re low on, anything extra I’d like to make (cookies, muffins, ice cream), or any fruits and veggies in season to have on hand for snacks. I then go through and figure out what the cost will be (my best estimate) and what I have coupons for so I know how thrifty I need to be. We eat a lot of pasta dishes, homemade soups, breakfast for dinner, and homemade pizza in this house because they’re cost effective meals. We don’t eat a lot of meat or prepackaged foods. We simply can’t afford it. If you can afford it, this whole process will be easier as it will be one less factor to think about.
Here’s what I came up with for this month:
-pizza with cheese and veggies (3)
-farro salad with tomatoes and bacon (2)
-sloppy joes with sweet potato fries
-soup and homemade bread (2)
-herbed ricotta pasta with corn and zucchini (2)
-bow ties with peas and ham (2)
-ham and spinach frittata
-pancakes, bacon (2)
-chicken pot pie (2)
-spaghetti with meatballs (2)
-spinach and kielbasa soup (2-3)
-roast chicken with mashed potatoes
-baked barley risotto with butternut squash
This is around 25 meals. We’re traveling a bit this month, we’ll be hitting the state fair, and Chris has a few trips for work. Usually we have more like 30-35 meals to account for.
Stay with me here. I know it seems like a lot of work but once you do it a few times, you’ll get the hang of it and it really is amazing how much money you can save on food and time at the store.