Jan 27, 2010

Spending Less at the Grocery Store (Merrick)

One of my goals this year is to spend less at the grocery store. I’m sure all of you want to spend less, whether you’re consciously thinking about it or not.

While there are many ways to spend less at the grocery store, here is one that I’m putting into practice this year and want to tell you about. This year I am only going to the grocery store once every two weeks.

Here is the way I do it: I plan out all of my meals. Every. Single. One. I am not the kind of wife who can spontaneously look in her pantry and fridge, see a few vegetables, meats, pastas, or whatever, and then whip up something fabulous before 6:30pm rolls around. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t do it. I’m always shocked when my mom emails me to say she tried a new recipe because she had all the ingredients just “laying around.” How is that possible? I must have the meal planned out beforehand and all the ingredients purchased.

If my meals are planned, each item purchased has a purpose and then gets used. If I am just aimlessly buying food, hoping it will all come together to make meals for the next week, guaranteed half of my food will go bad and get thrown away. I have wasted so much money, especially on produce, by buying vegetables or fruit, but only needing half of it for my recipe. By planning out two weeks of meals, I find that I’m able to use the entire bunch of spinach by using it in three different dishes. If I only plan for it in one meal, the rest of the bunch sits unused in the fridge and goes rotten. Wasted money.

I keep this all organized with these two notepads:

On the “What To Eat” one, I write all my meals for two weeks (including lunches). On the “All Out Of” one, I check all the ingredients I need for these meals and then take this list with me to the grocery store. I bring a pen and mark off the items as I go to avoid forgetting anything and also to avoid buying items I don’t need. If you take your time in planning beforehand, you won’t get home and realize you forgot to buy five things you needed, meaning you’d have to go back to the store later in the week and spend MORE money.

Although it takes some planning on my part, I am never stuck with nothing to make for dinner, I never wander through the grocery store isles picking up random things, and I'm already finding that my grocery bill has significantly decreased.


TheMoncurs said...

My problem is that I do meticulous meal planning and don't buy anything not on my list and STILL end up spending ridiculous amounts at the grocery store. I don't get it. I've made a goal over the next few weeks to figure out what I'm doing wrong (it's not like we're eating steak every night either).

I've started using this menu planner/grocery list from Design Sponge. I just print a new one each week and I love it!


Miriam said...

The first 15 or so years of our marriage I used to go grocery shopping once a month. My fresh things only lasted maybe 2 weeks, then everything came out of cans or the freezer - it is very do-able. I think we all, me included, are a bit spoiled in our eating desires. I've been going once a week since then but have been thinking about the 2 week idea, so this is good motivation, thanks!

Melanie said...

Spending less on food is also one of my new year's goals. I've always been one to plan out meals, where I can improve is using up those ingredients - like sesame oil or coriander or sundried tomatoes - that cost several dollars but are only used for one meal (using for more than one meal a week means eating a bunch of stuff that tastes the same). Because I really love to cook, it's easy for me to want to buy a bunch of new ingredients to try new recipes. This year I'm limiting myself on recipes that require a lot of new and/or expensive ingredients and trying to learn to cook more with things like dried beans and lentils.

Courtney said...

I've just bumped myself down to 2 weeks (had been doing weekly shopping) and I am hoping it will do a little bit of good. I do plan things out pretty well and I think that is the true key to spending less at the grocery store.

my grocery saving tip: watch for sales in the meat department and then stock your freezer up. I only ever buy meat on really good sales now but I always have some on hand when I need/want it.

Ang said...

I'm currently shopping once a week and planning each meal. I'd love to switch to 2x a month however, we eat so much fresh produce (my two year old alone eats at least an apple and a banana EVERYDAY.) I'm not sure it will last two weeks. Do you have a problem with produce going bad?

Chelsea said...

I LOVE that company's little notepads. Where do you buy yours? I know that they carry them at Francesca's in Vegas and some of them at the BYU bookstore. Do you just order them online?

Saskia said...

I've gotten myself from a shop-every-day habit to a shop once-a-week (although usually that turns into two when I have unexpected company). I buy my produce at the local market because it's fresher, cheaper, and lasts longer. I find, though, that fruit and veggies simply don't last two weeks in my fridge before going slightly bad, and since I love fresh veggies (I don't do canned or frozen. Except spinach. I'll do frozen spinach because I'm just cooking for me and a big bag is hard to use up all by myself). I've seen that I do spend much less, and I like not having to go to the store every day. It also keeps me from buying junk food, as I feel guilty for buying large quantities and am realistic to know it won't last me a week but get eaten in a day or two..

I also do the pen in hand check off thing in the store, even though it does make me feel like a huge nerd. Those pads sound very useful!

Brit said...

Ang - your apples probably will stay good for the whole two weeks but bananas typically won't. My solution: freeze your bananas. I normally just peel mine, then put them either in one zip lock bag (for smoothies or bread) or cling wrap them individually for a tasty snack! They only need to be in the freezer for 6 hours before they all turn into little popsicles!

Unknown said...

This is a great concept.
One I've been living by religiously since the beginning of the month.
I make a menu, make a list, resolve to make only ONE trip to the grocery store each week and VOILA! I'm spending less.
It's a beautiful thing.

Bart said...

We've really been happy with going only once per week. It cramps my style in the fresh banana arena a little bit, but I can do apples those days.

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