If you read my post about managing a single income budget last week, you may have noticed that I only grocery shop twice a month. Some of you asked to see an example of a meal plan, and some of you asked how I get fruits and veggies since those are what you go through the quickest. So I threw this post together. It of course changes each time I plan because we don’t always eat the same thing every month. But here’s a good idea to get you started…
1.) I look at our pay day. I’m going to be planning for March, So I break it down like this:
Pay day is Thursday, February 26th. So I write down each day until the next pay day which in this case is Thursday, March 12th.
|Dates from payday to payday (I usually go shopping on payday)|
|Add the days of the week; you don’t have to follow this plan but I like seeing the days|
2.) Write down the meals I’m going to make. I usually write “pizza” on Fridays because it’s a tradition to get pizza on Friday 🙂 Since I’m not buying food for that day, it’s almost as if I’m budgeting it in. Make sense? Otherwise, I’ll get ingredients to make fresh pizza or a frozen one!
|Brainstorm your meals|
3.) Make an ingredient list. First, I write how much meat I need and what kind. Then I go down the line and write down everything I need for each meal. Now of course there are staples that I already know in my head I need; waffles, Goldfish, etc. But by writing down the ingredients for everything else, I don’t forget anything and I don’t throw anything else in the cart.
|Tally how much of each kind of meat you will need|
|List your specific ingredients or things you don’t need every trip|
4.) Fruits and veggies: I already know which fruits and veggies I’m buying. Like, I know I always buy one head of lettuce for sandwiches and 1 bag of Hearts of Romaine for salads that week. If I know I’m going to be making more salads or having tacos or something, I’ll write it down and that will remind me I need more than one.
There are times when I need to go to the store between paydays to get more fruits and veggies. But I’ve learned that by cutting them up right when I get home, they last longer and I’m more inclined to eat them too. A giant bag of apples will last us until the next paycheck, but usually things like strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and lettuce are the things we may need to replace.
5.) Sides: I usually stock up on rice, pasta, and frozen veggies. I will look at my meal plan and kind of get an idea of what veggie would go (I don’t want broccoli on taco night), but sometimes I just wing it. I’ll buy 3 green beans, 3 corns, 3 broccolis, etc.. or whatever it is and then choose that night. Or let the kids choose so they think they have a say in what they’re eating 😉 I also buy things like fresh asparagus and zucchini, and make that earlier in the week.
This was a pretty simple meal plan to show you how I do it. But let’s say you decide to go buckwild and try a bunch of recipes from blogs or Pinterest. Your ingredient list may be a little more specific (ie: 2 boxes chicken broth, 3 garlic cloves, etc) and longer. But I usually balance simple meals and crazy long ingredient ones so I don’t overwhelm myself at the grocery store.
I also try and use what I have. So let’s say I use 1/2 a box of chicken broth one night, I will use the rest of it the next day or two. Or if I buy a head of broccoli for stir fry and don’t use all of it, I’ll steam it as the veggie the next day.
Also, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STICK TO THIS SCHEDULE. Let’s say you get home from work that night and want Chicken Marsala, but you had planned something else. You have the ingredients for it, so just swap days!
Which brings me to another point; try and use the meals with the freshest ingredients first. I know that my broccoli is going to go bad after a few days, so I will want to make sure I use that in the line up faster than I would need to make my Chicken Marsala. Listing out the days/dates just gives me a timeline and an idea of what I am going to make. I’m not bound to it.
You can also make meals and freeze them. I don’t do this but if you want to prep meals at the beginning of the week and then freeze them, that would be another way to save. Buy in bulk, cook, and freeze.
By doing this, I spend about $185-$225 each paycheck. Of course it varies if I need diapers or cleaning supplies that trip, and the first paycheck tends to be more. If I need more fruits or veggies on the off weeks, that tends to be around $25-$30, so add that into your budget as well if you’re a big fruits and veggies person.
You could also do the same thing if you wanted to go every week. That way, you wouldn’t need to worry about making an extra trip for fruits and veggies. Maybe buy all your meats on the first trip, and then the rest of the trips would be less as well. I just know my schedule with two toddlers, and getting there every week is just not realistic for me! I’m lucky to get this done 🙂
So that’s how I do it. It may seem ass backwards to you or you may do the same! I would love to hear how others do it because there may be ways I can tweak my own method.
How do you meal plan? How do you shop? How much do you spend on groceries each month?