Meal Planning Part… what are we on now? 17? The Shopping Part.

Today is exciting!! Well, at least for me, because I can finally share how using this plan has already saved me some cash! Or at least it would if I wasn’t an impulsive buyer who doesn’t know how to stick to a list, but whatever. It wouldn’t be as exciting if there wasn’t any room for improvement, right?

Oh my gosh. We need to stop for a second though so I can clarify something. While I’m ultra flattered that some of you out there think I am capable of prepping and cooking all this stuff ahead of time, ARE YOU CRAZY??.  Sooooo not happening here! I mean, it does help me understand why some of you might still think this sounds super overwhelming, but no. The extent of my meal “prepping” is splitting up portions and throwing them in the freezer. So if you’re thinking this “meal planning for a year” involves me cooking 365 meals in advance….that’s a strong heck no. I DO want to up my freezer meal game, but that’s about as preppy as it’s gonna get. We’re basically just making a shopping list. That’s it. If the thought of cooking 500 meals for 62 hours straight has been what’s holding you back, have no fear, no one’s making you do that.

*Hopefully* this post will be a lightbulb moment for you and you can finally see how this all comes together. At this point, you’ve made a meal list and have seen how many yummy things you already make! You’ve figured out some meals that are going to be regulars each month, and you’ve filled in your calendar with enough family favorites that you make a meal often enough to be appreciated but not get tired of it. AND you’ve channeled your inner nerd and figured out how much you’ll need to feed your family for a certain time frame (for me it’s a year, for some of you it’s a couple weeks or a month). So at this point you have a list that looks kind of like this:

If you’re a Type A you’ve hand-lettered a cute title and you’re keeping it in a binder with a protective sleeve over it. If you’re a Type B it moves from counter to counter and you hope you remember where it is when you need it while keeping it out of your toddler’s grubby hands. There’s no wrong way here, friends.

So let’s break down this list and the shopping….procedure…for lack of a better term. Can I just take a moment and add “procedure” to the list of words that are just as yucky as the “m” word?  It just sounds like something gross that’s going to happen to your body at a doctor’s office. I’ll have to consult a thesaurus for alternatives. ANYWAY. I may have mentioned this before, but this is my test run for October, November, and December for a few reasons: It’s a pretty manageable amount of time and I don’t have to worry about freezer space. I whipped it up fairly quickly because I knew there was a big sale on chicken coming up, so I wanted to both stock up and use it as a starting point for figuring out how often the sale comes around. I also knew I could afford to stock up for a couple months now; obviously most people don’t have the funds on hand for an entire year’s worth of groceries.

THE METHOD (Thank you, thesaurus.)

  1. You’re always going to bring this “master list” to the store with you.
  2. You’re also going to look at the meals you have planned for the week and make a list of any other ingredients you need. Don’t forget your regulars like milk and bread and all that jazz.
  3. KEY TO REMEMBER: If something is on sale, you stock up. If it’s not on sale, you ONLY get what you need for that week.
  4. Optional: buying 40,000 snacks for your husband and kids that aren’t on the list.
  5. But seriously, if you take just one thing away from this post, let it be #3.

I won’t bore you with the details of my entire grocery list and what we ate or didn’t eat (yet), but here’s how shopping off the master list is working out.

For 3 months, I needed: 6 big family packs of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts; 5 packs of boneless thighs, 4 packs of stir fry beef (I could probably just slice stir fry pieces from a cheaper cut of beef but whatever. I’ll gladly pay for the convenience as a reward for planning this crap 3 months in advance.); 5 pork tenderloins; 1 pack of chicken tenders; 1 ham steak; 2 roasts; and a large pack of stew beef.

First week of shopping: The best price I find for chicken I trust is $1.69 a lb. No, it’s not free range or organic, but I like to believe it’s a step above say, Perdue. I bought 6 packs. Well, technically 5 because they put SIX breasts in a family pack instead of the usual SEVEN and I had to make another trip to the store for the sixth because they hate me.  That same week, I had some surprises that weren’t in the sales flyer. Roasts were $2.99/lb so I got the two I needed. Thighs were on sale for $1.69 as well so I snatched up 5 packs. Stew beef was $4.49/lb and only $.50 cents off the normal price so not a great sale, but I only needed one pack so I got it.

Second week:  I needed stir fry beef for that week, but since it wasn’t on sale I just got 2 of the 4 packs I needed. Spent $6.99/lb which is kind of painful but oh well.  Pork tenderloin was also on sale for $2.49/lb and since I know it won’t get any cheaper than that, I got the 5 I needed.

Spending vs. Savings: Of course I lost the receipt from my first week so I don’t have the exact dollar amount I spent on chicken breasts, but I know it was about $45.00. Full price is $3.49/lb so I otherwise would have spent about $90.

Thighs: $22.88 vs. $47.25

Stir fry: $11.81

Roasts: $12.85 vs $21.45

Stew  beef: $11.67 vs. $12.97

Pork tenderloin: $16.09 vs. $29.01

Total at full price: $212.49    Total spent: $120.30    Total saved: OVER $90 BUCKS!!

That’s $90 bucks that can be saved or, my personal preference, spent, elsewhere! There are just a couple things I need  as far as meat goes for the rest of the year, so if they go on sale I’ll just cross that off the list and stick it in the freezer, and if not I’ll just get it the week I need it.

In a follow up post to this we’ll talk about my budgeting method and some ways to get things started even if you’ve got a pretty finite weekly budget and don’t necessarily have the funds to stock up for weeks or months in advance. My hope for the meantime is that you’ll see how this can save you not just cash in the long term, but time and energy figuring out what you’re going to make for dinner every. single. week. I already feel so much more freedom- and trust me, out of the two weeks I’ve been doing this, neither “plan” has happened exactly how I’ve planned.  But it’s all good! No one’s starved to death yet and no one’s suddenly decided they hate my cooking, so we’re winning!

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