This post is part of a series on how I plan, shop, and prep food for my family. I explain my processes so that you can adapt some of the strategies to your individual situations.
Okay, so you’ve meal planned and you are ready to join me for part two. Great! Grab a notebook and come back; I’ll wait.
*whistling and listening to elevator music*
One of the best ways to speed up your shopping and save money is to know your grocery store. If you start out writing your list grouped the way your store is set up, you can get through faster and avoid picking up those random items as you hunt for the things you’ve missed. I don’t go down aisles where I don’t need an item, and that helps a lot with splurges. If you aren’t sure, ask for a store map when you go to the store the next time. Chances are, they probably have one at the service desk.
Regardless of your store’s layout, you should move from dry good to frozen food to make sure . Here’s the order I suggest:
- If you are fortunate enough to have a coffee shop in your store, stop there first. I treat myself to a Venti Mocha so that I’m not hungry while shopping and so that I don’t get tired and shove random stuff in my cart. I don’t even have to touch my grocery budget thanks to my monthly Teachers Pay Teachers earnings.
- Pharmacy, Health, and Beauty Care
- Baby Items (if needed)
- Cleaning Products and Kitchen Items (paper towels, toilet paper, ziploc bags, detergent, etc.)
- Pet Items
- Dry Food Items – these are almost always grouped together in the middle of the store. If you STICK TO YOUR LIST, you will end up doing less damage to your time and wallet here!
- Bakery/Produce/Deli/Cheese Counter
- Fish Monger/Butcher/Meat Case
This is my store layout (roughly) with my pathway. Yes, I circle the store twice. I need the exercise, and it’s actually much quicker than wandering every aisle. You can click on the image to view it larger. I labeled things as I would visit them. And, yes, my Kroger is AMAZING and huge, and I absolutely adore the market-style experiences (and NO, they aren’t paying me to say that, haha).
Now that you have your store order down, separate your page into three columns and leave space for groups of items. In the first column, group items in aisles 1-11 and 12-19. In the second column, make groups for 20, 21-22, 23-24. In the third column, make groups for 25-26, 27, and 28. I’ve thought about making a cute sheet for this, but each column changes sizes based on what I need that trip, so I just use a regular piece of paper. Here’s an old list from my most recent trip. Sorry for the chicken scratch – I had a kid in the shopping cart so I didn’t have anywhere to set my list.
What are all of those notations? I write the price (rounded up to the next dollar, even if it’s $1.01) so I have a rough price and plenty of wiggle room for tax. Please excuse my idiocy in adding them all up – I transposed 21 instead of 69 from the second column when trying to corral the cart and the kids. The tally marks next to items are when I need multiple quantities – for example, I purchased 5 pounds of ground beef. I didn’t write it on the list, but I purchased 3 pounds of bacon instead of 2. You can see I had a couple of extra items that I had forgotten – containers for lunches, pot roast sauce, and breakfast waffles. My most expensive category is nearly always dry goods, since I have one kid in diapers and another in overnights. Meat is also high, but usually not quite this high (I splurged a little for the farmer’s bacon, cubed ham, ground sausage, and pot roast).
How did I get this list from my meal plan? I looked at each of my meal plan items individually, then began adding them to the columns. I left off what I knew I had in the cabinets (and scratched off a few things I had forgotten about already having when I double checked before leaving the house). Here’s what I thought through with each meal:
Hamburgers – buns, ground beef,
cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, mayoVegetable Soup – ground beef,
stock, 2 cans green beans, carrots, corn, tomatoes, peas, black beans, onion salt, soy sauce, chopped onion, parsley
Chicken Fajitas – chicken, fajita seasoning,
sugar, tortilla shells, queso, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream
Chicken Alfredo – chicken,
Italian seasoning, onion salt, butter, garlic, sundried tomatoes, heavy whipping cream, parmesan cheese, milk
Crock Pot Roast – roast, carrots, onions, potatoes, McCormick’s Beef Stew Liquid Seasoning (2)
Meatloaf – ground beef, onion soup mix,
stuffing, eggs, ketchup. potatoes for mashing, peas, flour (to make gravy from drippings), milk
Stir Fry – chicken, stir fry veggies,
soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, white rice, eggs
BLTs – bacon, bread, lettuce, tomato,
Beef Tacos – ground beef, tortilla shells, taco seasoning, queso, lettuce tomatoes, sour cream
Skillet Lasagna – ground beef, ground sausage,
bowtie noodles, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, Italian cheese, Italian seasoning, onion salt, onions, garlic
Potato Soup – butter, onions,
soy sauce, parsley, bacon bits, cubed ham, heavy whipping cream, milk, potatoes
Tuna Noodle Casserole –
tuna, rotini, cream of mushroom soup, shredded cheese, potato chips
Breakfast for Dinner – bacon, pancake mix,
maple syrup, apples (for apple pancakes)
Kids’ Lunches – bread, turkey, colby jack, raspberries,
clementines, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, black olives, cucumber, yogurt (special request from Clark)
At this point, I try to add other things I know we will need, and do a quick inventory through the house in case we are running low on toothpaste or toilet paper and didn’t realize.
Is this involved? Yes, the first few times I did it, it was. It’s become so normal to me, though, and I know nearly every recipe off-hand, so I can rattle the ingredients off. It really only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish to meal plan and make my list.
Finally, I log onto my Kroger app and go through my paper coupons to pull out what I will need so I don’t have to mess with it at the store. I do not calculate coupons into my prices – I’d rather be pleasantly surprised when I check out.
Looking at the list above, I had $256 listed for my $250 budget. I knew I had at least enough coupons to be at budget, so I didn’t worry. The grand total? $235.21 – comfortably under budget. Considering the huge expensive of dry good items during this shop and the fact that this will feed my family for two weeks with really good meals in big enough portions to eat leftovers for lunches, this is actually really great for a family of four! That breaks down to roughly $120 a week to feed and care for our family — pretty awesome. We’ve cut it down to much, much less when we’ve been on tighter budgets. I also stock up when I have a little bit of extra budget and see a sale on things we use that can go in the pantry or freezer — for example, I spent $4 getting two loaves of take-and-bake fancy bread so we can throw it in the oven to go with our meals any night without worrying about it going bad. I will do a big pantry shop once every 4 months or so if we have a little extra cash.
It’s taken me awhile to develop this method, but each time I use it, I get faster at the process and I find that grocery shopping stresses me out less and less.
Our next post will be on prepping – what do you do with all this food that you just bought in bulk??? Click on over to see it soon!