It took me about 28 years to realize something, I am going to want to eat every day. It’s much easier to eat when there is food in the house. It’s a heck of a lot easier to have food in the house if you have gone grocery shopping, and it’s so much easier to go grocery shopping if you know what you’re going to want to eat. Phew! I have finally come up with a system of meal planning and grocery shopping that saves tons of money and makes the kitchen feel luxurious like a Food Network show.
I started by writing down all of the meals and recipes I could think of. I wrote everything by hand in the beginning and kept a meal planning binder/ recipe book. I would flip through the binder for dinner ideas, and wouldn’t have to start from scratch every time I made a grocery list. If I found a good recipe on Pinterest or Epicurious, I would print it out or hand write it and add it to the binder. I could check my pantry for what I had, and what I needed to add to my grocery list based on what I decided to cook that week. It was a pretty good system. I wasn’t able to buy in bulk because we didn’t have a car or very much cupboard space. In our new house we actually have a pantry! Yay! We also have a car, so I came up with a new system where I plan out meals for the month and do one giant grocery shopping trip.
I transitioned my binder to an app called Menu Planner. There are tons of menu planning apps, but I picked this one because I can create my own recipes and import recipes from any website. It does require a bit of set up time at first, but it’s crazy easy and so worth it. (Side note, I am not getting paid to advertise for this app, I just really like it.) Menu Planner takes all of the ingredients that are listed in your recipes and creates a pantry list. You can even go in and note how much each item costs. From there you can set up your shopping list and print it out or even text it. I love it! I am able to plan my whole month’s worth of meals, and print our a really nice looking calendar to hang on the fridge. I have a “recipe” for going out to eat, which we try to do once a month. Nothing fancy because of the baby. Last month it was IHOP on Halloween. I have a “recipe” for leftover day for when I make a big stew or casserole that week. Having a plan helps me save my brain space and sanity!
On my giant shopping trip, I go to Costco first for anything I can buy in bulk. I get my meats, cheese, nuts, oils, butter, 1/2 & 1/2, eggs, dry/ canned goods, and baby formula. Then I go to Sprouts for fresh fruits and veggies. I’ll go to Sprouts one more time in the middle of the month for more fruits and veggies. I budget $550 a month for our family of 3. The trick is to know exactly what I need and not make any impulse buys. I make the majority of our meals from scratch, and don’t really get too fancy with anything. If it requires more than 6 or 7 ingredients, we probably aren’t going to be seeing that recipe on my table. I do make yummy, healthy, fun food that makes me happy and fills my family’s bellies.