Grocery shopping can be one of the most stressful times of the week (month?) for some people. Growing up my mom probably went to the grocery store 3-5 times every week for whatever she needed – food, toiletries, or random household items. My mom with 4 busy kids somehow found the time to make it out that way often. Nobody’s got time for that. Or I don’t, at least.
In my former pre-babies life as a personal chef I taught myself the in’s and out’s of the grocery store, shopping for all that I needed in one trip and really learning the importance of making a list. I’ve been asked a time or two about my grocery list, my grocery budget, and how I make it all work together, so I decided to share how we do food in this house.
–BUDGET: We spend about $250 a week on groceries. That is
typically for 5-7 dinners, 6-7 lunches and all breakfasts and snack items for 2 adults and 2 toddlers. We almost never eat out- and if we do, it is about once a week and usually on the weekend. Honestly- we can go weeks without eating out somewhere, and then some weeks we swing through Chick-fil-A for lunch and sit down at our favorite Mexican place in the same week. That being said, on a monthly basis, it is consistently just about once a week. So, if you are looking at my grocery budget every month with wide eyes, you would see the ‘going out to eat’ line item of our budget to be very, very small. This $250 also includes the random purchases of toothpaste, cosmetics, and toiletries – and I compensate for other food items when I know I need to make those purchases. I do not coupon, nor have I ever done so.. if I do come across a coupon that happens to be of something I buy on the regular – of course I will use it. But, I don’t usually take time to mess with it, and often I end up picking up something I don’t need. I do shop sales! I’ll get into that below.
–BULK SHOPPING: We do have a membership to both Sam’s Club and Costco and make a trip about twice a month. We have kind of ‘cheated’ the system in that we share the membership to both places with Jordan’s parents. We buy the Sam’s membership and the in-laws buy the Costco membership.. and we hand over one of the cards to each other (you get two cards per membership). I’ve learned that these kind of places have great deals on somethings while others are definitely duds. I frequent my stores enough to know what is good and what is something to pass on. I don’t actually want/need 47 gallons of ketchup for $14.97, when I can get what we need at Walmart or Target for 98% less than that price. Things that we go through quickly- like toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, bottled water, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen tilapia, wheat bread.. occasionally we buy fruit and vegetables. Most of those things are a great price in bulk comparatively to buying them in smaller quantities nearly every week. If Jordan happens to go without me, he’s texting me pictures of random items the entire time he’s there – as if to get my thumbs up or down on a good deal he’s found.
–ONE TRIP: Most of the time I go to the store on the weekends when I have a morning I can get to the store early enough to browse the aisles while they are empty, especially when I am bringing my girls. I do prefer Friday or early on Saturday (by 8am or 9am). I know when my grocery stores restock each week- Tuesdays and Fridays, so making a trip around those days promise the best time for me to get the freshest produce and meat as well as increases my chances for finding exactly what I need. By Sunday afternoon the grocery shelves are bare and I’m left to making random changes to my list mid-trip. I only know when my store has big shipments come in because I asked:) If you don’t know when your store restocks, it doesn’t hurt to pose the question.
What you see in my fridge/pantry is for just one week. I like to fill up my fridge/pantry on Friday or Saturday morning and then have it empty 7 days later. I know exactly what is in my fridge and each item has a purpose – whether it be included in a recipe for dinner or lunch that week or just enough for snacks all week long. This keeps it clean and free of clutter.. I will admit that my Type A personality keeps up an organized refrigerator. When you keep an organized refrigerator, ingredients and leftovers aren’t pushed to the back and forgotten about, and eventually go bad because I forget they are in there and sitting behind I have a bazillion other things in front of it.
–WHERE I SHOP: Outside of going to Sam’s or Costco once or twice a month, my weekly shopping trip consists of three main places: Target or Walmart and Market Street (which is a local grocery store in my town). Most of the time I go to Target because I can get things like diapers (we use the Target brand diapers) and shampoo/conditioner (honest co.) for Parker and Jolie in one trip. I also like their store brand, archer farms. There are some things I can only get at Walmart (do they do that on purpose??) so about every other week I’ll plan my shopping around a Walmart trip. Meat, produce and organic milk are purchased 90% of the time from Market Street. I do the bulk of my shopping first and then run in to get milk (it is cheaper to buy the store brand organic milk at Market Street than to buy it at Target or Walmart) and the majority of my produce on my way home.
-BUILDING A LIST:
My shopping list includes items that we’ve run out of for the week, but adding to it the ingredients I plan to use for meals that week prevents me from forgetting necessary ingredients. I have my generic buy-every-week
items (which I included below) and I build on top of that list for things we may have run out of that week as well as the ingredients for recipes I plan to make for meals that week. I usually save the meal idea in the coordinating date on the calendar in my phone – so I know in the back of my mind what ingredients go with what and I end up not wasting a ton of food. As far as the actual making of my list – I use an iPhone app called Grocery IQ
. I’ve used this list planning app for about 6 years and love it more than any other I’ve ever tried. It remembers my ‘History Items’ (which includes those items I put on my list every week) and stores I have ‘built’ and frequently use and it allows me to organize the list based on the way my store is laid out. This makes it really easy to build my list and prevents me from backtracking in the store because that item was at the bottom of my list (the worst!)
–STICK TO IT:
You’ve probably heard this ‘tip’ a millions times, but really, you must! Once I make my grocery list for week, I rarely veer from what is listed in my app. I occasionally make the mistake of shopping while hungry or being conned into a cereal thats on sale (because, yes, I am human), but otherwise, everything in my shopping cart has a use for it in the upcoming week. Again- saving money and not wasting food.
Unless I’m making a ‘fancy meal’ or cooking for guests (Supper Club), I usually only focus on the essential ingredients in the recipes I choose. When a recipe is a mile long and I only have one or two items in my pantry to make it, I usually put it aside and search for a new recipe to try. I also make a lot of substitutions with whatever ingredients I have around the house (dried for fresh herbs, etc.) and I really try to use fresh items that didn’t get used up the week before. ALSO- those sale ads that come in the mail every week (mine come on Wednesdays) – use them! If ground beef or fish are on sale, plan your meal around that protein rather than one that is full price. Also, shopping in season for produce is going to be your best bet for finding the greatest discount on fruits and vegetables. You can always count that the produce advertised as being ‘on sale’ are in season. We spend about 75% of our groceries on produce which can become out of control expensive if you aren’t careful. Most of where ‘healthy eating’ gets the rap as being so expensive. Truth- Ramen Noodles are like $.60 a cup, so if you bought and ate Ramen for three meals a day it would be cheaper.. but you know.. thats a lot of pasta. and sodium:)
Melon (on sale)
Grapes (on sale)
Ground Turkey (93%
Rotisserie Chicken Deli
Meat (Hillshire Farms)
Turkey Breast Deli Meat
Baby Swiss Cheese Slices (Sargento)
American Cheese Slices
Light String Cheese Sticks (Store
Shredded Cheddar (Store
Organic Skim Milk
Edemame (shelled and/or in
Broccoli/Green Beans (Green Giant
Brussels Sprouts (Green Giant Steamers)
Quinoa (archer farms)
9-grain waffles (Kashi)
Grains + Pasta + Cereal
Look for the grains that contain ‘whole’ as the first ingredient. Ensuring it is a whole grain product. Skip those that say ‘enriched’ in the ingredient
listing. Look for English Muffins that have at least 5 g protein, and 4 g
English Muffins (Thomas
Whole Brown Rice (Uncle Ben’s Steamable Pouches)
Wheat+ White Corn
Oatmeal (Special K Hot
Fruit (mandarin oranges and sliced peaches canned in 100% juice)
Beans (black and pinto)
*Lite Ranch dressing
*Choose dressings with 8
grams or less of fat, look for those with 300 mg or less of sodium per 2
tablespoons. Choosing dressing with
canola or olive oil as the main ingredient to make the dressing for the heart
healthy fats, and dressings that high fructose corn syrup is not the main
ingredient (among the first 3-5 ingredients in the list).
Dried Fruit (cherries,
blueberries, raisins, cranberries)
*Natural Peanut Butter
*Full-fat peanut butters trump reduced-fat flavor, and they supply
heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and 7 grams of protein per serving. (Read
the food label and choose butters without trans fats.) Seek ones that contain
no more than 3 grams of saturated fat, 150 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of
sugars. Skip any spreads made with partially hydrogenated oils or palm
oils. Reduced-fat spreads offer little
calorie savings, and you’re ditching good-for-you fats. Crunchy or creamy it
really doesn’t matter
2-Liter Soda (most of the time this route is cheaper than buying canned soda and limits us to how much soda we actually drink- the hubby and I love the carbonation.)
Drink Mix (Crystal
Light + store brand)
Pear Juice (Gerber Brand- keeps constipation at bay for Parker and Jolie)
I wish I would have snapped a picture of my grocery cart this last week.. but the list above is about the gist of it for us in addition to these enormous gulf shrimp (on sale) and a couple of small steaks we decided on grilling up with a side of broccoli and mashed potatoes. I hope you found it helpful- I would love to hear your tips and tricks for shopping!