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  • Writer's pictureZachP

#31. Let's Go Grocery Shopping Together

I wanted to write this post since early December. With all the headlines talking about inflation and high grocery prices, I was surprised at how much money we could save just by shopping smarter. As inflation soared, we actually began saving money on our grocery bill.

I have written about using unit pricing instead of retail price while grocery shopping, but unit pricing is just one piece of the puzzle. I want to share the current system we use for food spending in three easy-to-follow steps, just in case it might help someone else. Here is our current system:

First step - On Saturday (and even sooner than that sometimes), we start planning our meals for the week ahead. We have a couple inexpensive dishes that we plug in sometimes (I may share these dishes in a future post if people seem interested), but we try to spice things up as much as we can with our dinners. Our favorite website to find recipes is currently Tasty.

Once I find some dishes, I then write everything out on one page of a Microsoft Word document to keep it super simple. Here are the meals I picked for this week:

Sunday – Vegetable soup (8 cups broth, potatoes, frozen veggies, macaroni added last)

Monday – Leftover vegetable soup

Tuesday – The Best Ever Slow Cooker Pot Roast (Tasty recipe)

Wednesday – Leftover Pot Roast w/ homemade mashed potatoes

Thursday – Chicken and broccoli stir fry lo mein (soy sauce and brown sugar)

Friday – Chicken Quesadillas

Saturday – Eat out ($40 limit)

On its face, it looks like we are not skimping on food spending at all. We are having legit, homemade meals that are on the healthier side.

However, when we choose one meal, we are already thinking about the next meal. We like to utilize buying in bulk as much as we can. As you can see, on Sunday we had homemade vegetable soup. We always buy potatoes in bulk, so we knew we needed at least one or two more dishes that utilize the potatoes. We then repeat that process until we get to the end of the week.

One other trick we use is trying to use ingredients we already have in our kitchen. Using just this week as an example, we already had spaghetti noodles, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil. So, I knew if we just had a protein and a vegetable to add to that, we would be able to make an easy stir fry.

Second step - After you complete the above process, actually type (or handwrite) your grocery list. Go through each dish and write out all the ingredients. I actually organize the grocery list based on my walking path at Kroger (please do not make fun).

Once you have the ingredients written out, write out your other weekly staple items. Ours include simple breakfast foods (such as bagel and cream cheese) and snacks for our two year old.

Third step - Now it is time to go to the grocery store. This can be the most challenging part for some. I use to be terrible at going off-script and buying featured items at the end of the aisles or near the checkout lines.

Once you get to the grocery store, it is time to stick to your gameplan. The only exception to buying things that are not on your list is if you see amazing deals on items that you can use for future meals. Bulk buying is your friend.

So, how much did I spend on Sunday when I went grocery shopping? Buying the ingredients for the above meals and adding our weekly staple items to the grocery list as well, for a family of 3, I spent $55.62 to feed us for six days.

What We Have Learned

Once we utilized this system for a couple weeks, we noticed two major things. One, that we were using inflation as an excuse to spend more. Two, we are far less likely to get take out or go out to eat during the week if we have already planned and paid for the homemade meal at home.

There are apps out there that allow you to pick out your weekly meals and then generate the shopping list for you. These apps are fine, but it takes away an intimate step in this process. Spending the extra time writing out your list forces you to appreciate the process even more. This will translate to you being more likely to stick to your list and planned meals.

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NOTE: For lunches, we make an extra plate at dinner. The extra plate is saved in a container and eaten for lunch the next day.

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