One way to save yourself a lot of money every month is to sit down and put together a meal plan and budget before you do any grocery shopping. I thought I’d start sharing my monthly shopping trips, budget, and meal plan to give you an idea of how I do it and things you might like to incorporate into your own routine. I guarantee this will get the savings ball rolling if you stick to it! Some people like to do their shopping on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, which is fine, but I find that the less I’m in a grocery store the better. Also, we live about 25 miles from the closest Wal-Mart and 60 miles from the closest Sam’s Club (like Costco), so I try to save on gas by not making too many trips. Our local grocery store is outlandishly expensive so that’s out of the question in our situation. You can read more about why I started budgeting and meal planning here and my Budgeting 101 post to get some ideas on how to start your own budget (if you haven’t already). So, I’ll break it down into the steps I take each month when I start planning:
1. Make your budget. This is extremely important to do! I budget about $275 for groceries for the month for a family of two adults and one toddler. As you plan out your meals and shop from month to month, you’ll figure out what a good goal number will be for your families needs.
2. Keep a list. I always keep a magnetic notepad on the fridge where we can immediately write down anything we need as we see it is getting low. At the end of the month I do a walk-through in the house to add any other items we may need like toilet paper or paper towels. This helps me so I’m not constantly having to go to the store for stuff that I didn’t write down.
3. Pantry and freezer shopping first. When I sit down and begin putting a meal plan together I always “shop” out of my pantry and freezer first to help me plan out what to cook for the next month.
4. Plan your meals. It will be different for every family, but I plan about 15-18 meals per month for a family of three. It always works out well for us. Often, I freeze half of our large meals to have the next month. Also, my husband gets his lunch paid for most every day so I’m not having to cook extra for him to take food to work. Whenever I plan to cook new meals I always make sure I’m not having buy a lot of unusual ingredients that would otherwise go unused.
5. Make a shopping list. And when you go to the store be sure to stick to your list! Impulse buys are the fastest way to overshoot your budget.
On a side note I used to plan out a calender writing down what meals we would have each day, but I would end up with extra food, and have to push meals back a couple days and I got really sick of reorganizing it so now I just have a list of all my meals. I look at the list the night before or in the morning to figure out what I’ll cook for dinner and then check it off when I’ve made a meal. This helps make sure we’re eating all of our leftovers and it makes things a little more flexible for when we take random, spur of the moment trips to see either of our parents. This ended up being a much easier system for me to follow and stick to. Once I’ve cooked one of the meals I just check it off my list. I don’t know what it is that makes it so satisfying to check things off of a list, but it sure motivates me!
Here are the meals I planned for this month:
- Potato and Ham Bake
- Hot Dogs
- Arroz con Pollo
- Chicken Spaghetti (freezer)
- Gumbo (freezer)
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Frozen Pizza
- General Tso’s Chicken and Shrimp Stir Fry with Spicy Thai Noodles
- Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- Stuffed Peppers (freezer)
- Chicken Breasts with Beer Reduction Sauce
- Grilled Sausage
- Chicken Gyros
- Tortilla Español
Once my meal plan was organized, I added the ingredients I needed to my list and then, true to my obsessive nature, I rewrote the list in the order of the store I’m going to. Totally unnecessary, but it keeps me from constantly going back and forth in the store aaaaaaand it makes me happy.
Here’s what I ended up getting:
- 1 lb ground turkey – $2.78
- Turkey hot dogs (~20) – $3.88
- 3 sausage links – $2.78 ea.
- Breakfast sausage – $3.98
- 1.8 lbs Boneless skinless chicken thighs – $4.92
- 5.69 lbs Boneless skinless chicken breasts – $11.32
- 24 oz medium shrimp – $11.88
- 2 (3lb) bags gala apples – $4.27 ea.
- 3 red bell peppers – $2.94
- Carrots – $0.78
- Cauliflower – $2.78
- Spaghetti Squash – $3.55
- Pineapple – $1.98
- Lemon – $0.25
Frozen Items: $19.78
- Pizza – $2.98
- 54 oz Oriental stir fry veggie mix – $5.98
- 65 oz California mix veggies – $5.98
- 2 (2lb) bags Ore Ida fries – $2.42 ea.
Refrigerator Stuff: $36.26
- 7 (1/2 gal) soy milk – $2.38 ea.
- 1/2 gal buttermilk – $3.32
- 1 qt half and half – $1.58
- 10 oz smoked gouda – $3.98
- lemon juice – $0.88
- lime juice – $0.88
- 32 oz minced garlic – $4.98
- 1 1/2 doz eggs – $3.98
- 48 fl oz vegetable oil – $2.34
- 4 oz jar active dry yeast – $3.92
- 4 (8oz) cans tomato sauce- $0.33 ea.
- 2 boxes Zatarains Jambalaya mix – $1.72 ea.
- 15 oz jar Alfredo sauce- $2.00
- 24 oz can pasta sauce- $0.88
- 3 lbs spaghetti pasta- $3.58
- 1 lb linguine pasta – $1.18
- 2 boxes Jiffy muffin mix – $0.55 ea.
- Taco seasoning mix – $0.52
- 4 lbs peanut butter – $9.43
- Lays chips – $2.98
- Tortilla chips – $2.98
- Saltines – $1.78
- 2 bags starbucks coffee – $7.88 ea.
- mini chocolate chips – $2.28
- 2 boxes (10 packets ea) oatmeal – $1.62 ea.
- cooking sherry – $2.62
Non food Items: $33.25
- 8 ct paper towels – $8.97
- Pasta container – $3.88
- Prenatal vitamins – $8.96
- Body wash – $3.47
- Razors – $7.97
- Crystal Light pink lemonade (6 packets) – $2.00
- Crystal Light margarita (6 packets) – $2.00
- 12 pack beer – $14.28
Grand Total: $237.84*
I came in under budget which is always the goal for me! This leaves me a little wiggle room to get anything I may run out of mid month and to get fresh fruits and vegetables periodically. I do pretty much all of my shopping at Wal-Mart. The one thing I get at Sam’s is generic apple juice. It’s significantly cheaper than any I can find at Wal-Mart and we go through a lot of the stuff.
One thing that was a bit different about this trip for me was the drinks that were purchased. I generally buy liters of Diet Coke for us to drink, but in an effort to save some more money I decided to try ditching the cokes and doing crystal light instead. We both drink a lot of water, but I wanted to have something else for when we felt like something different. I usually don’t buy beer either as my husband brews his own, but he had a batch go bad so I felt bad for him and got some since his stash was running a little low.
I hope this was helpful! I tried to include everything I could think of but comment with any questions because I certainly could have forgotten something. Have a great day!
*This price does not include sales tax. I had purchased other things that went into some of my different budget categories on the same ticket.