If you had to explain grocery shopping to someone who never has done it, how would you describe it? Would you talk about how you work hard all week only to spend a fortune on prepared food that is only slightly less expensive than the take out place down the road? Would you say that it is a big time commitment that leaves you with sacks full of food and no real plan to use it? If I were to describe grocery shopping I would say that its an opportunity to be creative, save money, and a challenge to see how well you can organize your food storage space.
I’ll admit that I used to stress about getting to the grocery store every week. It would take me about an hour to get everything that I need and I would still occasionally forget something and need to make a last minute trip on my way home from work which would inevitably leave me with 10 extra things that I didn’t need. I would cut weekend trips short if I knew our fridge was bare. And grocery shopping on a Monday night was just such a pain and it that meant that we didn’t make lunch for Monday and both my husband and I would end up eating out that day. When I buy my lunch at work I want it to be my choice and not a default answer to poor planning. It took me a while to realize that instead of trying to shop for the week I could buy enough for the month.
Every day I’m amazed at both how much money we are saving on groceries and how much time I’m saving by not going grocery shopping as often. The start of a new month gets me excited. I’ve started doing one big shopping trip during the first week of the month. I pick up all of my staples and replenish my pantry and fridge. I buy all of the potatoes, onions, beans, olives, eggs, cheese and tubs of sour cream for the month. One of my favorite parts about shopping this way is that I don’t need to remember what is getting low in the fridge or pantry since I’m not making a big grocery list every week. If we run out of sour cream before the end of the month, we will do without. Same thing goes for potatoes, onions and eggs. The world isn’t going to end if you have to eat rice with your steak instead of the usual mashed potatoes.
There are a lot of ways that you can achieve a shrinking grocery bill. You can copy someone else’s grocery list item by item and cook exactly what they cook. But what if your family doesn’t like some of the meals on that list? What do you do then? That is why I think a better long term solution is to create your own list. Of course could just copy my grocery list but unless you cook exactly what I cook – it just won’t work.
Here are the steps that I take to maximize my grocery shopping efficiency.
- Make a list of all of the groceries that you buy during the month
- List how much of each item you will need to last you the entire month
- Remove the items that expire quickly that cannot be frozen – like milk, salad fixings, fresh berries. You can still buy these but only buy enough that can be used prior to expiration.
- Save this list in a place that can be easily accessed. I keep my grocery list in good docs and print it out when I do my big monthly shopping trip.
- Print out this list (or keep it digital and edit the document) and take a quick inventory of your pantry, fridge and freezer
- Grocery shop with the intention of only buying those items on your list during your once a month trip.
- Keep track of when in the month that you run out of the items on your list. For example: I thought that we could get through the month with 6 cans of olives since we use them in our salads for lunch, I forgot that we also use olives on tacos and nachos (and those are on the meal plan almost weekly). After one month of running out 3 weeks into the month I upped our monthly amount to 8 jars.
- Repeat next month.
Of course this method isn’t a one size fits all, but it is designed to be tailored to your own eating habits. When you consolidate your shopping into one trip instead of spending extra time at the grocery store, you can spend your time doing the things that you want to do. Always think of your list as a work in progress. You should be forever tweaking the amount of what you buy or even the types of food that you eat but always make a decision for that month and stick with it. Also, make it your mission to eat through all of your pantry and freezer fossils so that nothing goes to waste and it makes room for all of the tasty new foods that you want to try. If you truly don’t like a food that you tried, there is no sense in allowing it to take up space – just get rid of it. Either give it to someone who will use it or just throw it away. Of course you should keep a good variety of fresh vegetables in your diet and use frozen when fresh is not available or too expensive.