2.13.2013

Once a Month Grocery Shopping {Revisited}

I've written about Once a Month Grocery Shopping several times here... And we're still doing it around these parts... We've been pretty successful at having just one major shopping trip each month. I wanted to share a little more about why and how we manage to shop once a month. {Just to clear this up from the beginning, I do make one or two extra trips for produce and dairy.}

I wrote some basic directions for Once a Month Grocery Shopping {OAMGS from now on} last June, but I wanted to elaborate on it a little bit... Bear with me, this might get long!

Here's what I'm going to cover:
- Why You Should Consider Shopping Once a Month
- A Few Negatives to Shopping Once a Month
- The Process I Go through Each Month
- Meal Planning for an Entire Month
- Answers to Anticipated Questions

Are you ready? Here we go...

1. Why You Should Consider Shopping Once a Month:
- You'll save money.
- You'll save time.
- You'll have freedom to mix up your meal plan more often.

2. A Few Negatives to Shopping Once a Month:
- It'll take a bit more time to plan all at once at the beginning of the month.
- You'll spend a good chunk of money when you do your big shopping trip.

3. The Process I Go through Each Month:

{A} Meal Planning: Know that it'll take a little time to sit down and write out your monthly meal plan, but once you have your first month planned, you can use it as a skeleton for the following months. I grab our calendar and try to plan around our commitments and activities, but if something comes up, it's easy to switch with a meal later that week or even later in the month! My monthly meal planning time takes about fifteen minutes.

{B} Inventory: After I make my meal plan, I take an inventory of my fridge, freezer and cabinets. I check my spices, veggies, canned goods, beans, baking supplies, EVERYTHING! If you feel better about making your inventory list before making your meal plan, go for it! You can use up anything that's about to go bad before it does... I just happen to do it the other way around. This takes me another ten or fifteen minutes...

{C} Make a Grocery List: Use your meal plan and inventory sheet {and grab a cup of coffee!} to create your grocery list. This area might take you a little more time, depending on your meal plan. Because we eat a lot of the same meals month to month, I have a general idea of what I need for each meal. Plus, think about it, if you're eating the same meals each month, you'll have a similar grocery list... But if I've incorporated a new recipe {or even one I haven't used in a  while}, I grab the recipe card or jump online to be sure the ingredients are also on my grocery list.

I don't like to have only enough for our menu. By shopping to have stocked cabinets, we don't have to make several trips to the store throughout the month. For example, I keep about nine cans of tomato sauce, six or eight cans of tomato paste, six cans of diced tomatoes, six cans of diced tomatoes with green chiles, four cans of green chiles, canned jalepenos... You get the idea. This allows me to switch meals up - I don't have to be a slave to my menu plan - it's just there to guide me!

One more thought: I have a general idea of what things cost at our grocery store... And I keep our grocery budget in mind when making my list. I set money aside for my second trip {for dairy and produce}, and sometimes we do without something to keep under budget. This might take me twenty or thirty minutes.

{D} Going Shopping: We've been using the cash method for our grocery shopping. My husband usually goes with me, so he keeps track of our balance on the calculator. Even if your husband doesn't go with you, keep track of your balance as you shop... It'll keep you from being shocked at the register! We generally only shop at two stores, and, on average, our shopping trip takes us no more than two hours.

{E} Portioning food: When we first started OAMGS, we'd go after Caleb got home from work around 8:00 p.m. He unloaded the car while I put things in the fridge and freezer. I waited to portion our food until the next day. Now we go on his day off or earlier in the evening so I'm able to portion whatever needs portioned the same day. Also, when we first started, we bought a lot more in bulk {ground beef in three or five pound chubs, chicken legs in three pound packages, etc}. We've since found a place to buy one-pound individually packaged, local, grass-fed beef in bulk at an incredible price. Because of that, I don't have much to portion out after our trip... I spent about an hour when I portioned in the beginning, and now I might spend fifteen minutes.

{F} Weekly Mini Meal Plans: This is fairly new to me, but since I began sharing our meal plan each week, I've made a mini meal plan each week. This helps me recall what we actually ate the week before compared to our meal plan - and it helps me tweak our meal plan for the following week depending on what new activities come up!

4. Meal Planning for an Entire Month:
When I first started making a monthly meal plan ten months ago, I decided we wouldn't repeat any meals through the month. This worked for a while, but then we decided we'd try to save money on our grocery bill each month... Now we eat beans, potatoes, and cornbread once a week; and other meals might get repeated a time or two {and that's okay!}.

5. Answers to Anticipated Questions:
How will I save money by shopping once a month? When I first became a stay at home wife, I shopped once a week. Then I realized that we could probably save some money by shopping twice a month. It worked! Then we decided to try OAMGS with a second small trip for dairy and produce. I'd venture to say that our grocery budget has been cut in half by switching, but this might not be the same for everyone. Here's a thought: Most people don't come out of the grocery store with only what was on their list... This way I'm only buying one or two extra items each month instead of each week.

Do you have any other money saving tips? Buy in bulk if possible... But keep your budget in mind. For example, in January, we knew we could save money in the long run by buying a 25 pound bag of pinto beans to last us several months; BUT because it was a savings of 5% and would cost us about $20, we decided to hold off. The 5% savings wasn't worth going over our budget... Another big way we spend so little on groceries is by eating simple, filling meals. Yes, we eat meat. Yes, we incorporate processed foods {mostly in our baking department}. Yes, we eat yummy food. But we keep it simple, use up leftovers, and don't have a lot of junk food in the house.

How will I save time by shopping once a month? You might wonder how you'll save time if the planning process above takes so much time... When I shopped before, I probably spent 45 minutes shopping each week. When you add to that the time it takes to make a meal plan, inventory list, grocery list, portion food, you can see how it can easily add up each week. For us, on the long end of things, it takes us about 3.5 hours to get it done. I guess technically this doesn't save hours upon hours, but here's one more thing to conisder... Once it's done, I don't have to think about it for another month!

If you only shop once a month, what do you do about fresh produce or dairy? I mentioned this before, but I'll elaborate a little bit... While we call it Once a Month Grocery Shopping, we do make a second trip for fresh produce and dairy. Some people freeze milk or eggs, but I can't wrap my mind around it. When I make our second trip, I usually go by myself and spend fifteen or twenty minutes in the store. The remaining cash from the first trip is all I have to spend. Any extra at the very end of the month is saved for the next month or added to another budget.

Do you plan all three meals plus snacks and sides? Breakfast is quick and simple around here, and we usually have leftovers for lunch... I know that's not possible for everyone, but in this season of life, it is for us. We eat oats, fruit, or granola for breakfast most days. I don't usually plan side dishes, but we usually have at least one vegetable with dinner.

Any More Questions?? Ask away! Email me or leave a comment... I'll do my best to give an answer!

If you've made it this far, congratulations! That was a long post... If you want to see a little picture example of what you just read, click here. Happy Wednesday!

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22 comments:

  1. This is a really great article. I have always been a meal planner and it has not only saved time, but money. I used to shop for two weeks, but I have never tried one month. I will have to give it a thought. There are just two of us now, so I am not sure it would make much difference.

    Thank you for linking this great idea up to the In and Out of the Kitchen Party. I am going to share this on facebook and pinterest! I look forward to seeing what you bring next week!

    Cynthia at http://FeedingBig.com

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  2. Thank you! Great ideas....now I just need to sit down and make myself plan meals for an entire month...I hate that part :)

    mothersniche.com

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  3. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful tips. I am a meal planner too...however there is always one week where we seem to get off track. ;) I hope to get better at it. I'm going to give this a try.

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  4. I try to have two big shopping trips a month but I'm not ready to commit to just one. What is your monthly grocery budget?

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  5. This is a great detailed post! We normally shop twice a month but I will have to try this monthly planning. If it saves money I'm in! Thanks for sharing!
    Selene @ restorationbeauty.com

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  6. I've been shopping this way for several months now. I actually find it a lot easier. Once you get started with the planning, it's not all that much extra effort to do it for a month instead of a week, especially if you are willing to repeat meals. And the relief of not having to do it at all the other 3 weeks of the month is very worth it!

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  7. I think the time saved is completely worth it! Grocery shopping can be such a huge time waster. I would totally do this only I would have no where to store all of the food. Any suggestions? Erin

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  8. I am trying this for sure. I do weekly plans now, but I DREAD going to the grocery store each week. I love cooking, but going to the store takes the fun out. Just doing it once a month with little trips for produce is ideal. IDEAL. Can you post a full month menu once just for us to see that? (Rather than a weekly)

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  9. Great post. I agree. Shopping once a month is the best! It truly saves time and money. I have a list of 30 meals I switch around each month that way it saves me alot of time with meal planning. We dont mind eating roast one day and eating it again in 3 weeks. I can usually squeeze 2 months out of my stocked cabinets except for veggies, fruit and eggs. I do freeze my milk and bread andhave never had an issue. Thanks again for a great post. Love you blog.

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  10. wow, this is very interesting to me! I haven't thought of doing this before, but I can definitely see the benefits! yay! This is fantastic! I would like to invite you to link it up to our blog hop! I think our readers would love it!
    xoxo, Jordan.
    http://www.lilywhite-designs.com/2013/02/frugal-crafty-home-blog-hop-11.html

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  11. Great post! Love all your tips and you know I am a firm supporter of once a month shopping. Love your name as well:>

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  12. wow! really great tips! I try to plan and shop once and week and I still have to go in the middle for more milk and other things.. We live in an apartment with a tiny fridge.freezer though :o) I host a Tasteful Tuesday Link party.. would love for you to join! It opens Monday night... come check it out! http://www.nap-timecreations.com/

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  13. I do OAMGS as well and really, really love it. Like you, I do a small in-between trip for produce and dairy. With good planning and some practice, I feel like this could benefit a lot of families.

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  14. This was really great! I pretty much do everything you have suggested but I do it weekly. I never even thought to do it another way and I'm going to try it. Probably do the every 2 weeks first to make the adjustment but again -- thanks! Just stopped by from Family Home and Life.

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  15. So...I love this post! I stink at all of this and I spend way to much because I go to the store at least every other day. I am putting this info to good use! I'll be featuring this on the Tickled Pink wrap up this weekend.

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  16. I really am going to push shopping out a bit more. I try to biweekly but would love to push it out further.

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  17. Great Tips. Motivates me to do meal plans for longer than week to week.

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  18. Danielle, I love this idea. Love it! I felt revolutionary when I pared my shopping to twice a month except for a quick stop for perishables that won't last two weeks. A month at a time is awesome. I am sharing the link to the post on my Ducks 'n a Row Facebook page.

    New follower, fan etc. here. Would love it if you would stop by my blog on Wednesdays for the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop!
    Many blessings,
    Sinea Ducks ‘n a Row

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  19. Hi Danielle, Love your blog, I try to incorporate most of the things you have mentioned here, I do slip now and again. I agree with calculating while you go really does stop the surprise when you reach the till.

    I'm a new follower from the Share The Love Blog Hop.. Following on Bloglovin, GFC & G+. Hope you get a chance to check out my blog.

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  20. This is a super good post. Growing, my Dad was the grocery shopper and pretty much did it once a month. Towards the end of the month we had to get creative with what we had on hand (we had a huge garden too)but it was a fun challenge. I think I might try that approach again with my family :)-Franticmommy

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  21. Great post! I shop fortnightly and have succumbed to the evil mid week shop where you spend $50 when you only wanted one or two things. That's why I started meal planning!

    meandmyreadymadefamily.blogspot.com

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