Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning

This is another reader’s request, like the protein powder post.  Last week I was asked to share a little about my grocery shopping and meal planning.  I don’t consider myself an expert on either topic, but I am more than happy to share what I know and hopefully it will be helpful, useful or informative:-)

Let’s start with meal planning because my meal plan usually dictates my grocery shopping.  This is the area where I feel I don’t have as much wisdom to pass on, but here is how I do it. I sit down one day a week, (the day or the day before I go shopping) and make a list of what dinners we will have.  Like most families we have a few staples (chicken cakestostadasbasil tomato spaghettibalsamic tomato chicken) that are either super easy or a guaranteed favorite and I save them for really busy nights or when I can’t think of anything else and want to pick something I know will be appreciated.  For the rest of the nights I try to think of meals we haven’t eaten in a while, experiment with an idea in my head or consult my favorite food blogs for ideas.  That is it for meal planning.  The best advice I can give is to meal plan.  You don’t have to follow the plan to the exact night, but then you have a list of dinners to choose from and the task of coming up with something every day is removed.  Though my biggest reason for meal planning is that it saves me money.

When I first got married I didn’t meal plan and I went to the store whenever we needed something… until I tallied up our grocery bill for the month.  Then I decided that I would only shop once a week and if we ran out of something it would just have to wait until my shopping day again.  This helped with the budget, but until I started planning out our meals I didn’t always buy the right amount of ingredients and whether I wanted to or not I ended up going back to the store.

From a budgeting point of view here are a few grocery-shopping tips.  I know everyone says you can’t eat healthy and eat on a budget, but that is not true.  I just calculated how much money I spend in a month on food and it comes out to $1-2 per meal per person.  That, my friends, is a great price for healthy, well-balanced meals.  My secrets?  I buy bulk at Costco whenever I can for items we eat frequently and the unit price is cheaper than my grocery store.  You have to pay attention to the unit price because Costco is wonderful, but it is not always the cheapest solution.  Another tip is to know your local stores.  Know which stores have the best deals.  Don’t necessarily shop at the nearest store.  You might save money by going a little farther.  There is a store in my neighborhood that has amazing deals on produce, but they are different every week.  I walk to that store first and get whatever produce is on sale (or cheaper than my usual store) before doing the bulk of my shopping.  The rest of my financial secrets lie in shopping at Winco.  I know not everyone lives near a Winco so this isn’t always an option, but hopefully you have something similar in your area.  I love Winco because it is Costco prices without buying in bulk.  My favorite section is the bins where I can get grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, spices, ect and it is so much cheaper than the pre-packaged form.

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So now that we have covered a few financial tips I will share with you a few health tips to grocery shopping.  Have you ever heard that you should shop the perimeter of the store?  It is true.  The perimeter of the store is all the fresh ingredients: produce, dairy, poultry, meat, the bins (Winco).  I do 80-90% of my shopping from the perimeter.  You can see in the picture above that there are very few items that come from the aisles.  However, there are a few needs that come from the center of the store and those make up the rest of my purchases.

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There are a few canned good that I buy ever week, mostly canned beans and tomatoes, though sometimes I pick up some coconut milk or canned chicken for specific recipes.  This along with other conveniences, oil, vanilla, pumpkin, instant oatmeal are examples of items you would have to get from the aisles.

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Also if you don’t have access to a store that offers bulk bins then your spice, grain, nut, dried fruit, seed needs would have to be taken care of from the center of the store as well.

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The bulk of my groceries every week is produce.  Beautiful, wonderful produce.  This is what almost every meal in our house is based off of.  I know bread has been known as the staff of life, but I disagree.  Fruits and vegetables are the staff of life.  Sometimes my body wants bread, but it needs produce.  Listen to your body’s needs:-)

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That is it.  The highlights are: meal plan, budget, know your stores and shop the perimeter.  I hope this was helpful in some way.  Tomorrow we will have another recipe for you to enjoy.  I hope you had a FANTASTIC weekend, we sure did, and I hope you have a marvelous Monday!

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