The Boy and I are self-proclaimed foodies. One of our favorite things to do together is to try new restaurants and/or recipes. If you’ve been here before you’ve seen pictures of my honey and from what people tell me he’s a big guy. Despite his appearance, he generally doesn’t eat a shockingly absurd amount. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a man so he can put away some food, but he’s not eating us out of house and home. Anyway, even though I love food and like most people prefer the foods that have been deemed “unhealthy”, we try to make conscious decisions about what we put in our bodies and as always I try to avoid breaking the bank when I grocery shop. We have developed a system that keeps our spending down, let’s us consume healthy meals while allowing a little cheating, and gives us enough groceries to last no less than two weeks. After our trip to the grocery store last weekend, The Boy suggested that I share our strategies for how we get 60+ meals for less than $250.
The key to keeping your spending low is to only buying what you really need. For us this means meal planning. Meal planning can probably be quite complex, but we keep it pretty simple. Each of us is responsible for planning five dinner meals (dinner is cooked at least Sunday-Thursday in our house). Before we visit our respective sites/apps for ideas, I like Pinterest and he likes the AllRecipes App, we see what we still have in the freezer and pantry. We then plan meals that will allow us to use food first, then head off to our respective apps. Once our meal list is complete, we go through each meal and write down any ingredients that need to be purchased. For example, just writing “baked chicken” down on the meal list won’t work. What sides are you having with the baked chicken? Something like “baked chicken, salad, baked potato rounds” would be more appropriate. If you didn’t write down your sides, how would you know to buy ingredients for salad or potato rounds? Already we are at 20 meals (10 days * 2 people = 20)
Next, we handle lunch for Monday-Friday for both weeks in less than 5 minutes. Because we are trying to be health conscious and not spend unnecessarily, we avoid eating out for lunch during the week. We typically have chicken breast every day, but try to add variation by using different marinades, having it with salad or wheat pasta with pesto, and changing the way we cook it (grilled, baked, etc.). Sometimes it gets a little bland, but when we do it consistently both of our bodies thank us by shedding pounds and looking svelte. Now, we’re at 40 meals (20 dinner meals + (10 lunches * 2 people) = 40).
Breakfast is by far the hardest. I for one am usually WAY too tired to eat in the morning and am NEVER hungry. However I know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and plays an important role in getting my body going. This week we are doing smoothies for breakfast! I have always loved smoothies and am finding that it’s really easy for me to ingest them when I’m on my way to work. We bought a ton of frozen fruit, almond milk, orange juice, apple juice, and yogurt to see how many ways we can combine them to create things we like. Next week, we will be having homemade blueberry muffins and fresh fruit bowls for breakfast. We will buy the fruit this weekend so that it will stay fresh for the week. There you have it, 60 meals (20 dinner meals + 20 lunch meals + 20 breakfast meals = 60 meals).
Now that we have established what we need, it’s time to talk about cost. We utilize three cost saving strategies to spend as little as possible.
- Buy the cheapest meat. This doesn’t mean you have to buy the meat that’s marked down because the “sell by” date has passed. Instead, I select the meat that physically has enough, is the cheapest for its size, and has a “sell by” date similar to the other packages. While this may be common practice for you, I know The Boy used to just pick up the first t-bone steaks he saw with no regard to the price before I showed him how the prices weren’t all the same.
- Shop on deal days. A local grocery store here in St. Louis, Shop n Save, has a weekly coupon to save $10 when you spend $50 Thursday-Saturday. Because we grocery shop together, we are able to take advantage of this coupon twice by paying for our groceries in two separate transactions.
- Buy in bulk. I know it may seem silly that I’m suggesting you buy in bulk for just two people, but stay with me for a second. We eat a TON of chicken (breast and wings especially) so family packs are perfect for us because of the reduced price compared to if we bought the same amount but in smaller packages. We simply separate the food into freezer bags when we get home and voila!
I’m almost always shocked at how much stuff we are able to get and how it usually lasts us closer to three weeks than two. We often have leftovers, which is a welcomed break from chicken breast for lunch or eliminates the need to cook the following night. I should also note that we do buy snacks. I’ve got to have my Talenti, sunflower seeds, white cheddar popcorn, and cheezits. Even with our snacks, we rarely if ever go over $250. I feel like some people may read this and feel we are spending a lot, but it breaks down to over 60 meals for less than $250! That’s spending $62.50/person each week. I don’t know about the rest of you, but The Boy and I can easily spend more than that on one meal at a restaurant.
P.S. an extra money saving tip — if you have an Aldi’s in your store, shop there! They have a lot of off brand products for much cheaper prices. We usually can’t even tell the difference taste wise.
Do you meal plan? If so, how do you do it? How do you save money at the grocery store?