So yesterday I started on a new adventure… grocery shopping for a whole month at a time! I was inspired by this pin I saw on Pinterest, which led me to this blog where I discovered that maybe this was something do-able for me.
I had heard of women shopping for a month all at once, but thought that also involved a whole day of cooking meals for the freezer and that just isn’t for me (at least not yet). But this woman’s way of once-a-month shopping was more like stock-up shopping – which I was very familiar with after my stint with semi-extreme couponing.
I have also recently been shopping regularly at ALDI and had been thinking to myself how redundant it was for me to go there every week and buy the same things over and over when the prices there really don’t change that much. So I guess I was ready for this experiment in shopping in hopes that having a plan for the whole month it would save me time and save us money.
I started planning for this shopping spree a week ago. I printed out a four-week meal planning sheet, gathered our favorite recipes, and got out my calendar to see what days were going to be busy or when we might be eating out over the next month. I then started plugging meals into the calendar. I planned to do a crockpot meal each Sunday so lunch is ready right when we get home from church. I tried to plan meals with chicken, turkey and beef or fish each week for some variety. I went with the idea of planning meals that use fresh veggies for the first two weeks and meals with frozen veggies for the last two weeks of the month. My husband doesn’t like to eat sandwiches much, so I usually cook dinner each night and we eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.
The next day I organized my recipes into a three-ring binder like so:
I put them in plastic sleeves to protect them while cooking and arranged them in the order in which they will be used.
I then used the recipes to come up with a HUGE grocery list! It was actually really helpful to see it all there in front of me and be able to estimate the amounts of each item that we would need to last the entire month. I also went through our house to see what other non-food grocery items we would need to get through the month (i.e. paper products, soaps, personal hygiene, diapers, etc.) and wrote those on the list. I got out my calculator and did a rough estimate of how much all of this might cost to make sure that we would be within our budget (and ended up crossing a couple of things off the list that I realized we could do without).
The following day I divided my list up by store. I always shop at ALDI because the prices are the best, but they don’t carry everything that we like. So I decided this month to also shop at Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s. I organized each store list by category or aisle: dairy, dry goods, canned food, fresh meat, produce, paper products etc. This made the task less daunting and really saves time at the store.
I made sure that my husband was prepared for Daddy-duty so that I could do all of this shopping without a screaming 2-year-old (which happens to be another motivation to go shopping less often). I went to Wal-Mart on Friday night (I know all of my single friends reading this are now thinking that being single isn’t so bad after all) because I wanted to avoid the craziness of shopping there on a Saturday.
Today I first went to ALDI, which is where I bought the majority of the food. It was a challenge to figure out how to strategically pack the groceries into the cart, and it was filled and overflowing! It was a struggle to not feel rather embarrassed by the amount of food in my cart as people moved way out of my way when they saw me coming up the aisle! I wondered if people thought I had ten kids at home or if I was shopping for some huge event or something. But nobody ever said anything or asked me about it, which is kind of an interesting social experiment in itself. :) I ended up with two carts full of grocery bags when all was said and done.
I took the groceries home and put them away before going to Trader Joe’s because I had bought a lot of frozen and refrigerated items. Thankfully my parents gave us their chest freezer (otherwise this grocery adventure would not be possible at all) and it was just the right size. We filled it to the brim!
I froze gallons of milk and loaves of bread, plus I had purchased a lot of frozen veggies, chicken, and other items (like pot stickers and naan bread from TJ’s!). We only go through about a gallon and a half of milk each week so ended up freezing six gallons of milk (I don’t think any more than that would fit in our freezer). I am lactose intolerant, so I use soy or almond milk which you can buy shelf-stable, yay! Oh, and speaking of shelves, our pantry is also overflowing, but with some creativity I got it all to fit in there:
I did prepare a few fruits and veggies for the freezer today. I planned a couple of meals with mushrooms toward the end of the month, so I decided to try sautéing them and freezing them. Strawberries were on sale, so I bought some extra and froze them for use in smoothies. A friend gave us a big zucchini from their garden, so I shredded and steam blanched it, then measured, bagged and froze it to use in some yummy zucchini muffins later.
I was actually surprised that our refrigerator wasn’t over-packed. I think it is less full than it would be if I had planned for just a week because I pretty much threw everything that could be frozen into the freezer except for what I would use for the next day’s meal.
A lot of the fresh fruits and veggies I don’t refrigerate, though, so just had to be creative in finding space for them on the counter. I bought a ton of bananas, but I’m planning on freezing many of them once they ripen a little more.
It was a lot of work to do grocery shopping this way, but I still think it will save me time in the long run. It took me about an hour to plan the meals (it can sometimes take me that long even when planning for just a week’s worth of meals), a couple of hours to make the grocery list, organize it and estimate how much it would cost. I spent about an hour at Wal-Mart, a little over an hour at ALDI (factoring in bagging your own groceries), and maybe twenty minutes at Trader Joe’s. When I do weekly grocery shopping it takes me at least an hour per week and I usually go to multiple stores, so I figure I’m freeing up some time this way, hopefully saving money, and having less stress in my life pondering what I’m going to make for dinner!
I’ll let you know how it goes!