While living alone, I used to totally wing grocery shopping.
I’d basically wander around the store 1-3 times a week and pick up meal basics, such as bread, milk and cheese. However, random non-essentials always seemed to find their way into my basket. Sometimes, I grabbed these things because they were on sale. Other times, I just wanted to try something out. Either way, they were never necessary and always cost me more money.
Although that wasn’t a big deal at the time, since getting married, I’ve tried to be more conscious of how my grocery shopping dollars are spent.
This is partially because I am now buying meat for Dan, which is more costly. However, the main driving force behind my grocery shopping reformation is that I’m just trying to be more responsible with my money — or, rather, with our money. There’s just more at stake.
For those reasons, I’ve picked up a few strategies that have helped me keep my grocery spending about equal to what it was when I was living on my own.
Yes, you heard that right. I’m now feeding an additional man for the price I used to spend on myself. Here’s how…
Every Sunday, I sit down at the computer with my trusty pad of yellow legal paper. Then, I click open my local grocery store’s website and pull up the weekly ad.
In this week’s case, I cross-compared Dillions to HyVee and found that HyVee had the better deals for me.
After jotting down what would be a potentially good buy, I checked out the state of my refrigerator to see if anything I already had could be paired with one of the sale items for an easy meal. The fewer things I have to buy, the better!
Unfortunately, the fridge was looking pretty scrappy today.
There was more to work with in the produce drawer.
I also did a quick scan of the freezer (where I keep a lot of frozen vegetables) and the pantry (where I have more canned beans than I know what to do with). Then, it was time to get planning!
In a few cases, I was able to come up with meals on my own. For example, there were pretty good sales on lean ground beef and avocados at the store. I had a can of black beans in the pantry and cheese in the fridge, so I decided to buy some tortillas and make tacos one night.
After running through those easy options, I took to the internet for some more inspiration.
I found a good-looking recipe for panzanella, which would make for a good use of the cheese I already had and the other ingredients were pretty cheap. What really sealed the deal, however, was this: Dan told me he wanted to have artichoke paninis. I already had canned artichoke hearts and brie cheese, so all I needed was bread and spinach — both of which were ingredients in the panzanella!
That meant I was saving money and preventing food from going to waste. Win-win.
Finally, I went rogue on one recipe. I was craving something with butternut squash and thought it would work well with some quinoa I already had. I flipped open my beloved Flavor Bible and scanned for other ingredients I could match it with.
Ricotta and rosemary stuck out to me, so they went on the shopping list!
At that point, I had enough meals planned for the week. However, Dan and I would get a little hungry by just eating dinner. I scanned the pantry and fridge again and jotted down some of the essentials that we needed to replenish. This week, I had to pick up eggs, cereal, tofu and pumpkin.
Then, I packed up my legal pad and headed to the store.
Unlike before when I didn’t even write a list, I was disciplined about keeping to mine. As a result, the grand total for our week’s meals was… $40.03!
That bought me:
- 1 bunch spinach (for panzanella and paninis)
- 1 bunch asparagus (a side for paninis)
- 2 red onions (for panzanella and butternut squash)
- 1 avocado (for tacos)
- 1 lemon (for paninis)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes (for panzanella)
- 1 container low-fat ricotta (for butternut squash)
- 1 package of tofu (fridge staple)
- 1 lb. lean ground beef (for Dan’s taco)
- 1 package whole-grain tortillas (for tacos)
- 1 loaf whole-grain bread (for panzanella and paninis)
- 1 carton eggs (fridge staple)
- 1 box Kashi cereal (pantry staple)
- 2 cans pumpkin (pantry staples)
- 4 small spices (pantry staples, on sale)
Sadly, there is one noticeable absence from the bunch. There was no butternut squash at the store. Tragic, I know. However, a grocer said they were expecting a shipment in the next day and that butternut squash was set to go on sale on Wednesday.
I decided it would be worth the wait. When I go back on Wednesday to buy the squash, it should only add $2-3 to my cost. That still puts me well below my average expenditure from last year!
Just goes to show that a little planning goes a long way…
Questions: When it comes to grocery shopping, are you a planner or an impulse buyer? What do you spend most of your grocery money on?
I’m definitely still learning about planning effectively, but the money I’ve saved makes it worth the extra effort! I spend most of my money in the produce department. Buying seasonal produce helps, though!