Thursday, July 8, 2010

Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping

The main key to my success in keeping our food bills low is menu planning. I plan two weeks of meals at a time and do most of the shopping for those two weeks in one shopping trip. In doing so, I not only save money but also time. 

Some basic principles: 

1) Consider your schedule when planning. If you have an afternoon appointment, plan a quick and easy meal, a crockpot meal, or leftovers. 
2) Plan meals that use the same ingredients (e.g. tostadas one night and taco salad another). This results in buying less and wasting less. 
3) Plan meals that use fresh produce for the first few days after your shopping trip. For the rest of the two weeks, plan meals using frozen vegetables. 
4) Take inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer, then plan meals using ingredients you already have. 
5) Look at the weekly ads and plan meals with things that are on sale. 
6) Every few shopping trips, skip one week of shopping. This forces you to use the staples you have stocked up and saves a lot of money. Plus it makes you be creative with what you have. 
7) Go to the store with a list and stick to it. This doesn’t mean you can’t pick up something you see at a great price or something you realize you’re out of, but don’t deviate from the list too much. 
8) Organize your list according to your grocery store’s layout. 

Here is an example of one of my lists. I started by writing out the next two weeks’ worth of days and filling in activities (in parentheses). Then I decided on the meals, taking into account what I already had. 

6/29T – roast chicken, rice, sautéed zucchini
6/30W – BBQ chopped salad (with leftover chicken from Tuesday)
7/1T – fried rice (with leftover rice and chicken from Tuesday), Asian salad
7/2F – (doctor appointment) Date Night!!
7/3S – spaghetti, Caesar salad
7/4S – BBQ at Mom and Dad’s
7/5M – (doctor appointment) leftovers
7/6T – baked potatoes with broccoli and chili (made from leftover spaghetti sauce)
7/7W – pancakes, eggs, fruit
7/8T grilled cheese, tomato soup
7/9F – pizza, peas
7/11S – BBQ at Mom and Dad’s
7/12M – burritos, corn

Here is the shopping list I made for this menu (organized according to WinCo’s layout).  Keep in mind this list takes into account items I already have in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. 

Green bell pepper
Russet potatoes

Red beans
Chow mein noodles

Right side
BBQ sauce
Mandarin oranges
Tomato sauce (75 oz.)
Diced tomatoes (30 oz.)
Tomato paste (12 oz.)
Tomato soup

Left side 
Tortilla chips
Paper towels

Whole chicken
Chicken leg quarters
Sour cream

Mixed veggies

I also make a Costco list.


This system of planning and shopping has worked for me since Robbie and I got married almost seven years ago!  It does take time to plan meals and make a list, but in the long run, I save a lot more time than if I was running to the grocery store several times a week.


Unknown said...

True that, girlfriend. Same rules I live by, except I don't usually shop anywhere else except Winco because I don't have time. Everyone needs to know these tips - saves so much money!

The Guddats said...

Question: Have you compared price per unit of canned goods you use such as tomato paste at Costco vs. Winco? I don't have a Winco so I buy mine in bulk at Costco. Do you buy canned items on sale at Winco or other stores? Thanks!

Sumiko said...

It's been a while, but last time I checked, canned goods were cheaper at WinCo. I rarely buy canned goods anywhere but WinCo and usually buy their store brand. Next time I go shopping, I'll compare prices again and let you know!

Sumiko said...

We made a family trek out to WinCo and Costco today, and I did some price comparisons on canned tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. The cheapest way to go for all three is to buy the #10 can from Costco, but this is a bit much for household use. For normal sized cans, it is cheaper to buy WinCo's store brand (Hy-Top) than the name brand (S&W or Contadina) in bulk at Costco. Here's the breakdown:

Tomato Sauce, 15 oz.
WinCo, Hy-Top--$0.47/can
Coscto, S&W--$0.62/can

Diced Tomatoes, 14.5 oz.
WinCo, Hy-Top--$0.58/can
Costco, S&W--$0.99/can

Tomato Paste, 6 oz.
WinCo, Hy-Top--$0.45/can
Costco, COntadina--$0.50/can

Hope this helps!

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