Saving money on groceries has always been a big deal to us. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know we typically spend between $75-$100 on food every week. I’ve been working on ways to cut that down even further because….
DUN! DUN! DUN……
I QUIT MY JOB!!
Effective as of earlier today, I am on my way out of the “corporate” world and my last day will be April 15th. If you want to know more about that, you can read how the cat made me do it, but for now – back to the grocery challenge:
Many of my fellow bloggers give great advice on how to go a month without spending a dime but I’ll be honest – that doesn’t work for me.
A “no spend” challenge can definitely be a great way to save money and get back on track financially, but as I always say, creating a budget is a lot like dieting — I don’t do what I can’t maintain.
So this week, in celebration of my new career pathway as a blog mentor (woot woot!), I decided to see if we could spend $20 or less on food for the week with no prep work done beforehand (i.e. stocking up on essentials).
How to Save Money on Groceries
Full disclosure: I also forgot this past weekend was Easter and therefore our weekly shopping trip to Aldi – usually done on Sundays – wasn’t an option. I hate shopping anywhere but Aldi because of how much more I spend elsewhere. All the more reason to be extra thrifty this week!
Start with Your Pantry
To begin, I gathered up all of our dry goods. I work best with visuals, so I needed everything in one spot to begin my assessment.
Oh and let’s not forget our mass quantities of quinoa that we seem to always have on hand…
After I took a look at what we had with the dry goods, I evaluated our fridge and freezer section. We didn’t have much to work with there, beyond a bit of produce, some cheese, and some frozen chicken – still better than nothing but it certainly wasn’t leading us down the road to a gourmet dinner.
If you make the conscious effort to evaluate what’s already on hand or in your freezer, it can make a major difference to what you’re spending for the week. It can be easy to overlook items that have been hanging out for over a month, so it’s important that you take the time to take inventory and see what you can put to use.
Brainstorm Your Meal Ideas
Once I had an idea as to what we already had to work with, I grabbed my laminated weekly notes list and wrote out meal ideas on the back.
Even if you think up a meal that then won’t necessarily work for that week, go ahead and write it out. Let the meal ideas flow and then consider what makes sense for the week, and what you’d need to buy.
Everything we needed and already had was written in blue and anything we’d need to buy was written in green:
As you can see, I started to write “garlic bread” – because what’s a pasta dinner without garlic bread – but we could make do with regular bread and I didn’t want to chance going over that $20 limit!
Include the children in your meal planning
Now since we do have two
picky…err…SELECTIVE toddlers, we do have certain things each week that we HAVE to buy lest we incur the wrath that is our children.
Call them spoiled if you’d like, but my daughter’s screech makes the dog run for cover.
Including children in meal planning not only helps you consider what they’ll enjoy, but also allows them some “ownership” in what they’re eating. I’m by no means an expert on picky eaters, but I do notice that when I give my children options, they’re less likely to fight me at dinnertime.
Our final grocery list looked like this:
I knew we’d be cutting it close cost-wise so I ended up eliminating the coffee from the list. Luckily we already have some amazing mango iced tea on hand to keep me from caffeine-withdrawal.
Stack Your Meal Plan
When you’re thinking about how to create your meal plan, try to follow the “cook once, eat twice” mentality – if you’re planning a dish with chicken in it, you might as well cook up extra chicken and use it in another meal later in the week. Or if you’re planning to use quinoa for dinner, cook some extra to have in oatmeal jars for the next morning (always a great and easy breakfast idea!)
Our final meal plan for the week came to be the following, with dinner’s leftovers always going towards the next day’s lunches:
Breakfast for the week: Eggies with green pepper, tomato, and feta and quinoa jars
Sunday – Dinner: Korma (delicious Indian dish, I highly recommend it!)
Monday – Dinner: Tortilla pizza and couscous
Tuesday – Dinner: Stirfry
Wednesday – Dinner: Lentil soup
Thursday – Dinner: Pasta with tomatoes and homemade cream sauce
Friday – Dinner: Chicken, potatoes, and green beans
Saturday – Breakfast: Pancakes and smoothies
Lunch: Tuna and spinach salads (Mac n Cheese for the kids)
It’s not the healthiest meal plan I’ve ever made, nor the most appetizing, but our grocery bill came to a whopping $19.67! Which would have been even less had I remembered Aldi would be closed on Easter Sunday…grumble grumble…