Shopping and Planning for Meals and Treats

When we joined the Army a few years ago, we went from a two-income family to a one income family and took roughly a 40K cut in annual pay. YIKES! So, needless to say, I had to change the way I cooked and shopped for the family.

I must confess that I’m not as thrifty as I could be. I’m not willing to do the hard work required for it, beyond clipping coupons anyway. However, I have learned that a little bit of planning really helps me save money on groceries (because I make fewer trips to the store) and it makes my family happy with whatever it is I am or could be cooking! Here’s what I do…

When it becomes time to go to the grocery store, I sit down one afternoon with some cooking magazines and I just flip the pages. (I like to use Real Simple, Everyday Food, Cooking Light and the Penzey’s Spices catalog!) As I find things I like, I tear them out of the magazines or I write them down on recipe cards if I really think I’ll like it.

This also inspires me to think about new recipes I could make up, old recipes I haven’t made in a long time, and some kind of mix in between. It makes you hungry doing this and you should certainly be hungry when you make your grocery list! (If you are not hungry when you make your grocery list, you’ll forget to write something down or you’ll be uninspired. This means you’ll have to go back to the store…trust me.) Oh and I should mention that while it is good to be hungry when you make your list, it is not good to be hungry while you are AT the store!

Next,  I take a piece of paper as I’m flipping through magazines and I write down the things I want to make for dinner over the next 1-2 weeks. Usually this is anywhere between 5 and 8, maybe sometimes 10 meals.  I also write down the desserts or special treats I want to make. It is also helpful to get out the calendar and look at what is coming up (potlucks, events, etc.) and when we will be home for dinner vs. not home for dinner etc. After all that is done, then I start to write my grocery list on the other side of that piece of paper (the one with the list of meals and treats I want to make).

If you want to be super anal, you can write your grocery list out in the order of which the store is laid out (produce first, etc). I know it sounds corny, but it is especially helpful when you have kiddos with you because you don’t have to back track. It’s best to do as little thinking as possible if the munchkins are there and studies have shown you spend less money when your kids aren’t stressing you out at the store!

Additionally, having the list of meals and treats on the back of your grocery list is extremely helpful as a point of reference when you are shopping.

One last tip: I have a little dry erase board that I keep on the fridge. After I am done shopping, I write down all the meals that I purchased food items for so that I don’t have to wonder…”gee, what do I have in the house” or “what should I make for dinner”. This is also great for the hubby because I would often ask him in the mornings, “honey, what sounds good for dinner tonight?” The list was on the fridge and all he had to do was scan his options and pick what sounded good to him! Be sure to cross them out as you go though.

And that’s it! I hope that doesn’t sound daunting. To me, it is way easy and even kind of fun. But I like food, so I like the grocery store!


One thought on “Shopping and Planning for Meals and Treats

  1. Carrie says:

    My process is very similar to yours. I even started the dry erase thing a few weeks ago – works better than the magnetic notepad I had before. The difference is that I don’t flip through magazines. I just rack my brain. The other difference is that I don’t enjoy meal planning, list making or grocery shopping (and let’s not forget putting away all the blasted groceries once you get home). I just like cooking for my family once all those annoying things are finally done 🙂

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