Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My crazy meal plan and grocery shopping process

My friends and family think I'm crazy but I always end up going to 4 different grocery stores when I do our main shopping trip for the month. Splitting up items between Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Publix & Kroger make it more affordable to eat organic and be selective about our meat choices. I used to have a coupon system but since I've made the switch to buying mainly unprocessed or organic foods, there isn't much to use with coupons. Now I mainly clip them for staples like olive oil, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.

My husband is in school getting his undergrad business degree after a few years of playing music on the road. We made the decision for him to go to school and only work part-time, so our budgets are tight yet we still have to stick to organic, fresh food because of my gluten/dairy limitations. Here's how we stick to our budget:

1) When I'm ready to make our meal plan, I start by taking an inventory of what I have left in the pantry. 

2) Next, I go to and look at the deals for the week in Nashville. I concentrate on Publix buy1get1free deals and Kroger's sales. Be careful not to buy things you wouldn't ordinarily need anyway. A sale's not a sale if you weren't ever going to
eat it.You can also shop from the circular for each store, which is always online, but I like Faithful Provisions because they know what really is a good deal and what isn't.

3) Then I make a meal plan that combines what's in my pantry with what's on sale that week. This is what my meal plan looks like for this week:
It's not designed or pretty but it's functional. I usually create at least 10 meals to choose from for dinners. The husband and I like to be able to pick what we're in the mood for that night without too much structure. Those dinner choices stay at the top and I revise our lunch and breakfast each week. We keep those assigned to certain days because they are the meals we never have time for :-) It's easier to look at the list the night before and prep for the next day.

4) Next, I make a shopping list for each store.

5) Now for the nerdiest part of all: I import the shopping list into an online list at Remember the Milk is an amazing web-based "To Do" list that has a coordinating iPhone App. The web app is free but if you want it, the upgraded Pro account is $25/year. Obviously, using a list from paper and ink is just fine so don't sweat it if you don't want to upgrade the account... but if you're a weird list person like me, you'll love it for so many reasons!
Importing the list into Remember the Milk is a different post but I wanted to at least mention that it's part of my nerdy process. I like having the list in my phone to checkoff as I go and it's a little greener. I also find it easier in case I don't find what I'm looking for that night, I can keep it in the list and go back another day without needing to tote around my shopping list. Another perk is that you can share lists with people so my husband and I can both see it. When he's at a specific store and sees that I need something, it's easy for him to grab!

6) Go Shopping :-) I prefer to go shopping all at once and get it over with but my husband thinks I'm crazy. If he was in charge of this process he'd split it all up. But he's not :-)

I know you're probably reading this and thinking... wow - she either has too much time on her hands or she's missing a few marbles upstairs. Honestly, I like it and it's gotten addictive. If the husband and I grow up and don't have to stick to this budget forever I might get a little more relaxed about it. But right now, we've made a commitment to not only a budget, but to being organized and that helps us save & get much better food for our money. We wouldn't be able to buy all of our meat locally or at Whole Foods if we didn't control our budget and organize the meals as a whole.

I'm always looking for great tips so PLEASE let me know if there's an awesome thing you do when you plan meals or shop!

1 comment:

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