Okay, here’s how I meal plan and grocery shop. Let’s start with the meal plan – I’ve tried a lot of different ways to do this, but the way that works for me best is a week at a time. I used to plan out a month but realized I needed more flexibility than that - commitment scares me.
Here’s our meal plan for the last week (Wednesday to Today):
Wednesday: Mac & Cheese (already in pantry)
Thursday: Beans and Rice
Friday: Sesame Chicken
Saturday: Chicken Parmesan, Pasta, Salad, Bread (Friends for dinner, feed 5)
Sunday: Enchiladas, Rice, Salad (Friends for dinner, feed 7)
Tuesday: Creamy Chicken and Pasta
We normally eat leftovers at least one other night a week, but because we were having friends over both weekend nights, the normal routine got thrown off a bit. On that menu, Beans and Rice and the Enchiladas were new recipes (both great, btw). Sesame Chicken, Chicken Parmesan and Creamy Chicken and Pasta are tried and true – I have all of the spices for those already in my cabinet, so shopping for those meals means just buying the food items – chicken breasts, a few canned goods, some produce, etc.
Once I know what I’m making for the week, I take a piece of paper and fold it into sixths, In the top left hand column I write Meals and then I list the meals for the week under that, folding accordingly. For the remaining five columns, I list grocery departments – in the order that they are in my grocery store. Dairy, Grains, Canned Goods, Meats and Produce. Then I list everything I need for the recipes in the appropriate section. This keeps me on track – when I get to the grocery store, I start in dairy and just go down the list. It keeps me from moving off into the Oreo aisle. Because when Emily’s in the Oreo aisle, the budget and the diet fall apart. If something’s not on the list, it doesn’t go in the cart, that’s the rule.
B will occasionally make a small grocery store trip on the weekends if he needs more oatmeal for work, or lunch meat, but the bulk of our shopping is done on Wednesdays. And last Wednesday, I spent under $36 for a week of meals, and then we ran to the grocery store for a few last minute for freshness items – like bread to go with the Chicken Parm on the day of the meal. All told, we spent $45 this week – more than normal, but only because we scheduled two friend dinners in the same weekend.
And that’s how we think we keep to $250 or less a month on groceries. The month is coming to a close at we’ve only spent $160 so far (though we were out of town for 4 days). I loved hearing all of your grocery saving tips yesterday, so if you have more, keep ‘em coming. Any meal plan tips you want to share?