I hate grocery shopping. I don’t like the “sticker shock” that I get each time I am at a store and notice how much prices are going up. Sometimes, it seems as though they change the prices every week. I almost never use coupons. How clever of the food industry to never make coupon for the foods that we actually use! (please insert the necessary amount of sarcasm here) I have never found a coupon for the pantry basics. If you don’t buy the packaged or the more pricey foods, then you are out of luck when it comes to utilizing coupons as a way to cut costs. It is only on the rare occasion that I find a coupon that is for something that I actually do need.
With that in mind, I go to the store with a well planned list of what I need for the month. Yep, you heard me right. I do a month’s worth of shopping at a time. The only exception being perishables that I am unable to home can. Luckily, those items are very few. It takes a lot of planning to shop this way. At first, you may only want to do 2-week’s worth of grocery shopping at a time. This would be in consideration of the expense of monthly supply runs. You can, however, prepare as though shopping for a month’s supplies.
I started by making a list of our family’s favorite meals for evening dinner. I started out with a couple of sheets of paper sectioned into columns. Each column was a different category of meal. Some categories are: casseroles, soups & stews, various ethnic foods, and any other category that you can come up with. Under each heading, I started making the lists of meals that we like. Some are ones that we have eaten a lot, while others are meals that we enjoy less often. You may even have seasonal favorites!
From these lists, I started planning weekly menus. In the warm months, I have menus that take advantage of the gardening season when produce prices are lower or when a family garden is producing. In cold months, I have much more of the casseroles, soups & stews on the menu. I also take advantage of late autumn produce. I write up as many combinations of meals as I can think of without using the same meal more than 3 times. If you eat a lot of meat, try to avoid having too many different types of meat in a week.
Once I have the weekly menu planned, I write a grocery list for that menu on the back of the menu. I don’t list each and every ingredient as much as making sure I have noted the main ingredients that are not a regular item in my pantry. I make note of the amount of each item listed to make the week’s meals. This helps me later on in planning the shopping trip.
Once I had a good selection of weekly menus to work with, I chose out 4 of them. These would become my monthly menu. I place then in the order that I want to use them. Next, I start writing up the shopping list. Using the ingredient lists on the back of the menus, I make a list of everything that I need for that month’s meals. For items that are repeated, I add the amounts together so that I am able to purchase enough for the entire month.
By making the monthly shopping list, I am able to save money. I can buy larger quantities which are broken down into the amounts needed for the individual meals after I get home. Being that I home can, I may buy 2-3
bags of frozen chicken breasts. I roast them in a roasting pan with a bit of water. Once they are nearly done, I cut or shred the meat and process it in canning jars with it’s broth added. This gives me a ready supply of fully cooked chicken that is ready to add to a meal. The night that I am doing this, we like end up having roasted chicken breasts for dinner. Sometimes, I will shred the meat and add BBQ sauce to it before processing in the canner. The shredded BBQ chicken makes great sandwiches or as a topping over a large baked potato!
When I began planning and doing my shopping in this way, I dropped our monthly grocery expenses 1/3 from what we had been spending. I was shocked at just how much the savings added up. We have been able to feed our family on far less than what we used to spend. It takes planning and discipline on my part. Once I shop for the month, I have to stick to the plan and not keep changing my mind on what to make. This doesn’t mean that it is not flexible. It only means that I have to be certain to not incur extra grocery expenses that month. It works great for our family. If you don’t do home canning but have a nice sized freezer, you can still do this method. Instead of canning the extra meat, simply put it into containers and freeze them.