Doing the majority of the grocery shopping once a month requires some planning. After several rounds of trial & error, I have found a system that works well for the needs of my household. For those of you trying to reduce the number of trips to the grocery store & save some money in turn, I thought I’d share my step by step system for meal planning on a monthly basis.
1.Gather your materials- favorite cookbooks, recipes I have collected, coupons, my tablet (for pinterest, favorite websites & recipes I’ve bookmarked as well as grocery ads), pen & notebook and some good coffee.
2. Take inventory of pantry & freezers (note what you have on hand/want to use)
3. Write down meal ideas- First, I go through last month’s lists & transfer any ideas I didn’t get to but still want to try. Next, I write down anything I have been craving or new ideas that have been brewing. Last, I look thru cookbooks, Pinterest, websites & clipped recipes, keeping in mind what I already have on hand. My goal is 25-30 dinner ideas. I don’t really plan for other meals as they are made out of the staples which I am always sure to have on hand.
4. Go back through the list and cross out ideas that are too similar ( I had 3 different lentil salads written down this month). I also cross out ideas that require too many special/expensive ingredients that can’t be used in other recipes.
5. After going through the list & eliminating things, I like to end up with 20-22 dinner ideas. The remaining meals will be leftovers, dinner out etc.
6. Pick out a couple breakfast/baked good/snack recipes you want to try
7. Once I have recipes, I make my list- First I add anything I need to restock my pantry.
Next, I add regular items I buy each month (favorite produce, Greek yogurt, cheese sticks etc)
Last, I go through the recipes on the list and add whatever I need for them.
8. After completing my list, I divide the items by store & try to put them in order by the way the store is organized. Avoiding backtracking really helps me avoid last minute impulse purchases.
9. Once the list is finalized, I gather my reusable shopping bags, coupons and list by the door.
10. On shopping day, I am always sure to eat before heading to the store.
11. When planning my meals each week, I use the most perishable ingredients first and save items that will last longer for later in the month.
* we do make a trip or two to the produce store down the street, but there is only really produce & a deli there so spending temptations are limited. We will also stop and pick up milk when needed & my step dad gets us farm fresh eggs from the Amish at the auction weekly
This process takes awhile and I usually work on it over several days. We cut our grocery bill to about 1/3 of what it was by eliminating weekly trips to the grocery store, so it really is worth the time it takes to plan.