I realized years ago, that shopping without a plan and a list practically doubled our grocery bill. I would grab random things, and then get home and I couldn't put together enough meals to last us. And there was no money left to go buy even more food. Then I tried the random shopping trips for a couple meals a couple times a week. That was even worse!
I knew I had to do something, or we would go bankrupt buying groceries! I am, by nature, a list person. I always made a list for non food items, for parties, for gifts, for cleaning. But I always forgot for grocery shopping. Don't ask me why, because I couldn't tell you!
So I bought 2 notebooks with tabs and a pack of multi colored pens. And the savings rolled in. Here's how I did it, and what I've changed over the years as our family grew.
I listed every meal and snack I ever made. Then I divided those up into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
From there, I broke my dinners into categories.
Soups and Stews
On each tab in the notebooks, I added the titles.
Then I listed the meals and their varieties.
A lot of my meals have multiple versions. For instance, I make ground beef tacos with garlic salt or packaged seasonings. I make those sorts of tacos, plus chicken (about 4 different versions), shredded beef, shrimp (2 of these), carne asada. You get the idea. So in each category I listed sub categories. It looked a bit like this:
Shrimp: grilled with shredded cabbage and pico de gallo. Skillet with veggies.
Chicken: Ranch chicken. Seasoned chicken. Shredded chicken; with spicy tomato sauce. Shredded chicken; deep fried.
And it went on. Once that was done, I typed it into the computer and printed it and placed it in our family binder. And every other week, I opened it up, chose a dinner from each category and added it to my meal planner.
Over the years I changed it up only twice. I added an ingredients list to each meal first, to make my shopping list easier so I wasn't thinking of what each thing needed. Recently I took each meal and put them on index cards and put them on rings for each category. I like this one the best because I can remove a meal from each category, pop the cards in my purse and use them as my shopping list. No more writing out each list. I do the same with breakfasts, lunches and snacks/desserts.
All of my cards are laminated for durability. I just keep a dry erase marker in my purse to cross everything off. And before I leave the house, I cross off what I already have or when it's a multiple item or a large package, like chicken or frozen veggies. Then, after each trip, I wipe the cards down, they go back on their corresponding rings and they're ready for the next trip.
This is something that took me several hours over several days to do. It's not a fast and easy project, but it's super worth it. And you can save so much money being prepared! Plus it's nice to see all your meals in one place, where you can just pluck a few out for the week and your menu is already done.
This week's menu:
Split pea soup with ham and fresh bread
Blt's with sliced avocado, french fries, corn, and cottage cheese.
Sloppy Joe's with fruit salad
Ground beef tacos with seasonings and refried beans
Stroganoff with strip steak, broccoli and garlicky dinner rolls
Garlic chicken and pasta with veggies
mini cheese pizzas with English muffins
bean burritos from leftover beans
BBQ chicken salads with corn and black beans
Eggs with hash browns
veggies and dips
peanut butter cookies
Next Monday I'll share another way I save money along with next weeks menu.