Okie dokie folks, I'm trying something I've never done before, and figured it might be something you're curious about too!
While I love menu planning, shopping sales ads, and using coupons, just like you I get plain-ole'-worn-out sometimes. This summer I've been awful about menu planning and grocery shopping, and our “eating out” budget has paid the price.
While our family finances have changed and we've got some wiggle room in our budget, I hate seeing how much money we're throwing away because I'm not choosing to be a good steward of our money. So, last week I decided that for the month of August I'm going to try once a month shopping.
Before shopping, I cleaned out our pantry, refrigerator and freezer so that I really knew what we had in stock. We still have quite a bit of meat that I stocked up on during good sales over the last six months, so I wasn't completely starting from scratch.
I also made a mental note of any laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and paper products we were low on. (Thankfully we were pretty stocked up on everything except laundry detergent, which definitely helped this month!)
Because Kroger is having a huge Mega Sale this week, I went through the coupon matchups quickly, hunted down a few coupons and headed out to shop. (My coupons are a mess, but I was super excited to have several Garnier & Tresemme coupons making those just $1, and 2 Buy One Get One Free General Mills Cereal coupons which made the big boxes just $.50 each after they deducted $4!)
When I checked out my total was $223 for $390 in groceries. This is by far the most I've ever spent in one grocery trip (I usually spend $65 – $75 on bigger trips), and it literally took two carts to get everything out the door.
My plan is to budget an additional $25 each week during the month for a weekly trip. Here's what I'm hoping to purchase with that money:
- fresh produce
- any fantastic coupon deals (this will be tough which is why I haven't tried this before ~ we'll see how it goes!)
And here are the meals we have on the menu plan . . .
- Pizza Pasta Bake (this one or this one)
- Barbecue Stuffed Potatoes
- Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken Tacos or Nachos
- Homemade Pizza (this one or this one)
- Grilled Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops
- Grilled Chicken
- Slow Cooker Alfredo or Homemade Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo
- Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Bake
- Slow Cooker Chicken & Dressing
- Zaxby's Chicken Tenders
- Fettuccine Carbonara
- Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Frozen Pizza (x2)
- Hamburgers (x2)
- Hot Dogs
- Something with ham 🙂 (we have a bunch of ham left over that's been in the freezer from Easter and I'm determined to use it up this month – if all else fails we'll have ham sandwiches and egg & cheese omelets!)
IF (that's a big if!) everything goes according to the plan, this is how our budget will look:
- Once a month shopping trip $225
- An additional $25 for groceries weekend of August 8th, August 16th, and August 23rd
- Total = $300 for our family of five, or $75 per week
I already noticed a few things that we'll need to pick up at the store this morning while I was baking. Here's the list of things (I'm putting it here so I won't lose it, and you'll get a peek as to what things are always worth keeping on hand!)
- baking soda
- large plastic bags
- chocolate chips (I made pancakes this morning for a slew of kids and they begged for chocolate chips ~ then I decided we needed chocolate chip banana bread too, so only 1 day in and I'm all out of my only bag) 🙂
And last but not least, here are my concerns:
1) Food rationing. 🙂
Part of the reason I don't like keeping massive amounts of food in our house is that if it's here, my kids will hunt it down and eat it. I explained to them yesterday that this was our “big” week of shopping, so there would be no more goldfish, ice cream, or juice boxes purchased until September. (The juice boxes and goldfish are for school lunches – with school not starting until next week you can bet it's going to be tough for them to wait!) I'm curious to see how they'll do, so we'll have to wait and see.
2) Missing a deal.
By limiting my budget each week I may miss a few deals, but after doing this for years I know another deal just about always comes around. Hopefully I'll be okay with that (we'll see!)
3) Not allowing myself a trip to the store from now until the weekend.
I make quick trips into the store pretty regularly, so I'm not sure how I'll do not shopping only once a week. I think it will hugely improve our budget, but definitely means I need to plan things out well in advance. What I love about this idea though is how much more efficient I can be if I take the time to plan things ~ by planning ahead on what we need, I should save myself time, money, and even gas as I won't be making extra trips to the store!
If you've tried grocery shopping like this before, I'd love for you to leave a comment and share how it's worked for you!
New to budgeting and don't know where to begin? Here are a few posts that might help you get started:
- How Much Should a Family Spend on Groceries
- Don't Sacrifice What You Really Want For What You Want Right Now
- Budget Check Up Week One: Have You Determined Your 2013 Grocery Budget
- Are you on an all cash budget?
- New to couponing? Here's where to start.
- How Does Your Grocery Budget Look?
- Extreme Coupon Fraud: What You See On TV Isn't Always Real
- Are You Spending Within Your Budget?
- Save the Way You Can Save: Penny Pinching Is Not A Competition
- Are You Satisfied With Your Penny Pinching?
- You Do Have Time To Coupon (But You Don't Have To Do Everything. . .)
- Are Coupons For Everyone?
- How to Save on Organics
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Bobbi C says
I have been monthly shopping for 29 yrs , my husband only gets paid monthly. We live a distance from Aldi & Sams Club. Now that my children are grown & gone we only shop about every 3-4 months , if I run low on something I just substitute something else for it . I run a 30 day. Meal plan & I just do meals , not days – so you can pick & chose what you want for the week. I do periodically go & buy milk , bread & some produce . Make a master list & after a couple of times it will be much easier. I spend my last time 1100.00 & I try to stretch that 4 months- I usually go when I run out of meat – my husband is a meat & potatoes person!!
lenny face says
Thanks so much for sharing Debbie – so good to hear it’s working for you!
Jamie M says
I have been doing once a month shopping for 8 years now. My husband and I have 6 freezers, crammed full. I only buy on sale and have everything in its place (yes organized I am). Once freezer is chicken, one is pork, one is beef, one is butter and cheeses, one is leftovers and one is misc. We have 2 refrigerators. 4 out of the six freezers are small ones, but work well. Since I retired recently, I am able to use my inventory sheets (one on each freezer to know exactly what I have. We have always bought in bulk and I really need nothing currently. We are on a very limited budget, but it works for us. I only get produce once a month from a group (Produce without waste), $10 a month for 60 pounds, sometime I buy two if I want to make jelly or jams. I freeze milk also, when it is on sale, make my own breads weekly (pennies for fresh bread) and live very good because of it. I am now starting a monthly menu, but have usually just cooked on weekends and used leftovers as other meals (when I worked full time). I try to use everything possible, throw nothing out and just make good sensible meals. Soups and stews, crockpot and pressure cooker meals. So far so good for us. It takes time to get into the better habits, mostly to stay away from the stores, sales or no sales, because I already have it. Hard to do when you are a bargain shopper, but worth it when you can use what you have. I am really, really trying to just stop shopping for 6 months and see if I can dwindle down the stockpiles that I have. Wish me luck….
We are on a strict budget (thank you student loans!) of $400 per month for food. I feed my family of 4.5 on $200 every 2 weeks. The first and 16th of every month: I take out $200 cash and when that is gone, it’s gone. We eat healthier than I have ever been because of this. I don’t buy much for processed foods because whatever we do eat really needs to count, no empty calories.
So a couple days before I even take the money out I make a list of 15 meals. Then I go through each meal and make a grocery list of the items needed to make that meal. I add to that list the running grocery list I have on my fridge for staples like butter and eggs and coffee (if I can splurge).
I have been getting some good meat sales but sometimes have to pass them up because I have to stick to what we need for the 2 weeks. Oh how I love a good meat sale!
As for meals, I have a couple growing binders that I keep recipes in and I also made a meal list sorted out by type of meat. I’ve learned that if your meat isn’t mixed in with something (you’re eating a whole chicken breast for a meal) then each meal will cost more than if you were to mix the chicken up with some veggies for a stir fry or something.
I still buy kids snacks like snapea crisps, applesauce packs Togo (if they’re on sale) raisins, but if we are running out the door I slice an apple, grab a cheese stick, grapes, carrot sticks. I will say that I have learned to make a lot of snacks on my own because I can’t buy them.
And now I have made the longest comment ever- but I am sure passionate about this lifestyle change. It’s definitely a learning process, there were times where I would cry in my car because I spent too much but you live and you learn. Best of luck to all!
I plan a full month of menus and that helps me plan better for a big monthly trip. Two years ago we moved out to the country and it takes me twenty minutes to get to the nearest Kroger. So to save gas and time (I am a SAHM with 2 young ones) I started doing one big trip..I was real good for almost a year but got out of it. It definitely helps but of course there still always are trips to get perishables. Now I go a few times a month but still am able to get most of the month’s done my first trip each month..
Chris G says
Oh, I’ll also add I love to plan my meals by the month because it keeps me from falling into a rut! I always plan 20 – 25 meals, and plan for leftovers or dinners out the other 5 – 10 evenings. I keep a “calendar” word document on my computer, then I can look back to last year, the same month and see what foods we enjoyed. It helps to compare last year/this year as the foods we eat in December aren’t always the same as our June meals.
Chris G says
We’ve been doing OAM shopping for about 3 years. We started when our middle child was born for two reasons- we cooked a bunch of freezer meals right before his birth and it was harder to get away to the store with two littles. We’ve found it works really well for our budget as it limits the number of times we’re in the store. Not in the store = not buying stuff we don’t need! We have a great deep freeze and we also participate in a freezer meal trade group so that helps us. We do shop weekly for produce, milk, and a few other things. Lately we’ve been off track and more junk food is making its way home, but hopefully with school started we’ll get back on track. We try to just run to Aldis for our weekly runs as there is less temptation there! Thanks for sharing, I’m glad I found your site!
I’ve been doing 1x/month shopping for quite a few years. Here are some things I’ve learned that help: I have a master grocery list I print out and then I go through it and check off what I need based on basic supplies and my menu for the month. I actually write down the price estimate on my list so I know if I’m staying on track. Then I highlight with different colors the items I want from Aldi, Kroger, Walmart or SAMs. I do go to all 4 places, so I usually do the big 2, Aldo & Kroger together and make a separate trip to SAMs & Walmart. You are right that the kids have to learn to ration themselves with snacks. When they were little, I actually pulled all the snacks out, divided them into portions and made a big bag for each child of their snacks for the month. That helped them see what they actually had, and no one could complain they didn’t get any Cheetos! Good luck! It’s been a great budgeting tool for me!
Thanks so much for sharing Debbie – so good to hear it’s working for you!
Is there a grocery list that you followed in order to get all these items for your meal planning month? I have a family of 5 1/2 plus an infant, my 1/2 is my ever so picky toddler who would live off pbj if I let her. I have NEVER done a meal planning but after looking through everything you’ve been doing I thought “give it a try” for next month after throwing in a few of these during this month.
I enjoy reading your website and feeling more confident in using coupons now that you’ve explained in a way that I understand it.
Hi Alicia! I didn’t have a special menu plan (I went through my pantry and made a list of what I needed, but it was pretty unorganized!) If it works, I’ll share my menu plan at the end of the month. It’s definitely worth having one and will save you a BUNDLE – good luck!
Rhonda English says
I do a big grocery trip once a month and it actually gives me more time with my kids. I work full-time outside the home, so I miss a lot of time with them already. I could probably save more if I shopped each week but the time with my family is more important. We have been doing this for just a few months and it was a rough start. I have 4 teenagers in my house so the snacks and juice did not last long. I kept telling them that I was not buying more snacks until the following month and I stuck to that. The next month they took my word and conserved their snacks a lot better. One good thing that came out of this was that I found myself cooking more at home because I could come home and get started immediately. I use to have to go to the store to pick up this or that. I will say that one big trip a month does require a lot of planning. I usually start about 7-8 days before I go to make sure I get everything needed and coupons to match, if possible.
Good luck with your endeavor,
Thanks so much Rhonda for sharing! Like you I’m really concerned about how my kids won’t go through snack food way too quickly – we’ve had a long talk about it already. But, I also think it’s going to be so much easier to cook at home because we have everything here – and in the long run should save me time!
Thanks so much for sharing – so glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this!
Elizabeth Tuten says
My favorite recipe for leftover ham: