(Closed) Your food plan strategy: how do you shop for food?

posted 6 years ago in Cooking
Post # 47
Member
2177 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2012

We get paid bi-weekly, so it made sense to me to shop bi-weekly.  I make a meal plan for 2 weeks that typically includes 10 dinners.  I try to plan meals that use similar ingredients or things that can be cooked once and used for a second meal– i.e. making a bunch of shredded chicken and using it for soup, then tacos, then a casserole, or planning 3 meals with ground beef so I can buy a bulk package of meat instead of individual ones.  

I’m not super strict on sticking to a plan, but I do like knowing what I have ingredients on hand for.  I take meat from the freezer and thaw it in the fridge overnight/next day while at work, and it’s ready to be cooked when I get home.  For breakfast and lunches, we tend to eat the same things most of the time (yogurt, protein bars for breakfast; leftovers, frozen meals or sandwiches for lunch), so I buy enough to get us through at least 2 weeks.  For snacks and drinks, its the same– I tend to buy whatever is on sale or looks good, and we are usually well-stocked.  

We do shop at Costco pretty often, which is helpful for bulk packs of meat, yogurt, grains, snacks, etc.  Maybe once or twice after work, DH or I have to stop at the store on the way home to get something I forgot, or something that wouldn’t keep for a long period of time (like fresh bread).  Our system works pretty well.  I can feed both of us for 2 weeks by spending about $160 in groceries.  We eat dinner out around twice a week to make up the balance of the total meals.

Post # 48
Member
2546 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

@sienna76:  Our food system sounds very similar to yours. DH got me in the habit of just picking up items every night for dinner and once I realized how much extra we spent doing that I had to come up with a plan. 

I’ll usually survey the house to see what we have for main dishes/sides already- usually plain staples like our costco frozen chicken or costco pork loin, or a big bag of rice. I’ll start by listing our those items and adding extras to them to make a full meal. Then together we will come up with other dishes for that week- I shoot for at least one dinner without meat, no real reason except it saves us $$ & its a little healthier, then we figure out what meats we are missing & form meals from there. I make a shopping list, then my ocd kicks in & I sort the list in the order we go through the store (otherwise I end up running all over it). I also have a white board on the fridge I put the meals on & have gotten some funny comments from friends- usually wishing they could stay for dinner! I don’t assign meals to any day’s though, we just have 7 meals & can decide when to make them. 

I just stareted making my own recipe binder. I used to have recipes all over the place- pinterest, foodgawker, random cookbooks & magazines. It was beginning to be difficult to find my tried & true recipes in all that mess, so I printed out my best ones and put just those into my binder. So usually I’ll go through my binder for a few tried & true easy meals- we have movie night at the neighbor’s once a week & take turns cooking  so I know at least one night the meal needs to be for a crowd. Every other night I make sure to at least double my recipes so we have lunches too. It’s been tough as DH is weird about his food- he hates leftovers & thinks he might die if he doesn’t eat meat every day… But he’s slowly coming around and is enjoying it now. 

I’ve considered shopping around local sales ads and making my menu from them, but we already shop at a discount grocery store that doesn’t even do sales ads. Most of the time their prices are cheaper than the big box stores sales prices so I’m not too worried. I’ve been able to reign in our weekly grocery spending to under $100 for us two (plus the weekly movie night feeding 6+) not including beer/wine/alcohol… We’d easily spend $50/night at the grocery store previously!

Post # 49
Member
889 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: November 2015

@sienna76:  We (mostly I, but Mr. H throws in his own ideas every now and then 😉 ) sit down on Saturday afternoons and plan out meals for Sunday – Friday of the following week. The first thing we’ll do is add any staples we’re out of: eggs, butter, flour, condiments, TP, etc. After that, I take to the cookbooks to figure out budget friendly and healthy meals.

At least once a week I tend to make a multiple serving dish, like soup or curry or something that will last for a few days. After we eat that for dinner one night, I immediately put it into mason jars for heat-n-eat lunches.

Other than that, we just try to be healthy. Cooking Light’s cookbook is my bible for this, and I try not to repeat ethnicities or meats in a week. Really, some nights we don’t even have meat.

Here’s our menu for the week, for example:

-Monday: Buddha Bowls (basically a very large, diverse salad)

-Tuesday: Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup, oven roasted corn

-Wednesday: Spaghetti Squash w/Butternut Squash and Shallots

-Thursday: Shrimp Pitas w/jalapenos, avocado, tomato, sour cream, green onion, and lime, side of black beans

-Friday: Jerk Pork Tenderloin with pineapple chutney, coconut basmati rice, and skillet onions and peppers

If we end up not using one night’s menu–maybe friends invited us out or we just had popcorn for dinner, whatever–it gets moved to the end of the list. We still cook everything we plan.

We actually have managed to stay on a budget of around $100/week for 2 people, which is something I’m proud of considering healthy and sometimes international foods are not cheap! On weeks that we are out of every single thing, like TP, paper towels, soaps, lady stuff, etc., it comes out closer to $150. But still not bad for lots of healthy fresh food!

Post # 50
Member
1274 posts
Bumble bee

Our meals and grocery shops are really different now, because my Fiance and I both commute at least 1 – 2 hours away (him to school or a work placement and me to my job.) He has been living on protein shakes, bottled water, granola bars and bottled smoothies because he refuses to take leftovers to school or work. On the plus side, he doesn’t buy a lot of lunches out, just a coffee maybe once or twice a week, so that saves money. 

I work 9-5 but with my commute, I’m out of the house 6:50 am – 7 pm. I shop by myself (because I can swing through a store way quicker on my own) and only do it every two weeks or so. So on a Sat or Sun morning I sit down with the online flyers of the week see what’s on sale and go to the one store with the most stuff on sale that I will use. We have a Costco membership too, so we’ll buy our staples there, chicken breasts, any meats, pasta sauce, pasta, milk, bread, pb, eggwhites, salsa, cereals as well as a lot of our household stuff like tp, etc. 

Before I shop, I meal plan in my head roughly how the week will go because I;m cooking for just me a lot. Because I like to do a big Sat or Sun dinner like a pasta dish and salad and bread or pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes and a veggie. On weekends I’ll also cook up 6 or 8 chicken breasts and package them individually, then I can take one to work to cut up to put in a salad, or reheat to use in a quick stirfry or make fajitas or burritos one weeknight. I’m all about the quick and easy recipes. Otherwise I eat cereal for dinners. Like last week, when my favourite cereal was on sale. I mean…NOTHING. Embarassed

 

Post # 51
Member
188 posts
Blushing bee

Oh my, this all makes me hang my head in shame. I am like the women the OP described, (except we don’t eat out much). I shop haphazardly and I guess I’ve never even considered, “meal planning”. Oh god. I’ve been married 5 months and we are TTC. I am going to have to become a real grownup and do this. I am a disaster in the kitchen. Thank goodness DH’s mom is a chef and lives nearby. Starting next week I am gonna try and make some dinners…wish me luck?

Post # 52
Member
4687 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2013 - Upstate NY

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@lalalyanne:  hi food-shopping twin! 🙂

Post # 53
Member
1400 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2015

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@lealorali:  it’s the way to be! We control our food money waaaay better this way! And there’s not usually much question as to ‘what’s for dinner tonight hubby?” Look on the fridge. The list is there. If a recipe is requred, I clip them on the back of the list. Can’t fail (often..)

Post # 54
Member
1400 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2015

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@BeckyS0:  this! Haha.. Making a grocery list by store location (like produce, meat, bakery, dairy, natural good aisle, canned veg/fish aisle)is just something we DO. It’s a no brainer! I thought it was normal For a loong time until Fiance looked at a list and went “oh that’s smart” and i was like.. What? Not everyone does this? How bizarre.. It’s so simple and effortless and genius :p

Post # 55
Member
3051 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: February 2015

wow there’s no way I could do that. I’m not spontaneous about like anything in life but I don’t know at breakfast what I even want for dinner. And even if I have a general idea, I don’t usually stick to it because by dinner, it doesn’t sound good anymore.

I really do need to expand my portfolio though. I could stand to buy more ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes and actually stock up. When I graduate I want to take a cooking class and start experimenting a bit. For now, we spend around $250/month for 2 people and it works fine. We shop sales but don’t eat healthy foods because we both hate cooking right now, we don’t have time!

Post # 56
Member
2142 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2015

We usually get the same foods every week- milk, cereal, lunchmeat, cheese, bread, (sandwiches for lunch) freezer burritos (snacks), sour cream, and chicken breast, hamburger, and steaks that we spice up different ways and cook with rice, vegetables or pasta for dinners

Post # 57
Member
31 posts
Newbee

We shop once a week and occasionally DH has to pick something up midweek (bread or milk etc). He works in town, I work in a tiny village halfway between home and our nearest town. I can happily go a week without going near a shop.

I don’t tend to plan before I go to the store but I have my method for shopping nailed and DH pushes the trolley!! I usually start with meat and plan in my head what is on that week and which nights we need a quick tea or which I can slave for hours over! I generally buy the best value meats or fish and build a meal plan around them. Usually something like a pork shoulder joint can be cooked in the slow cooker as a roast one night then turned into a pie the next or suchlike.  Everything we eat is cooked from scratch and tinned tomato is about as processed as our diet gets!

I’m flexible and can stretch most meals to feed extras if they turn up or send leftovers to work with DH. I rarely plan desserts but generally whip something up if it is requested from store cupboard ingredients. 

Post # 58
Member
4687 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2013 - Upstate NY

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@lalalyanne:  mine’s on a mini white board on the fridge! bam! I cannot imagine shopping without a meal plan!

 

Post # 59
Member
569 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@sienna76:  Sorry, I tend to shop like your friend 😛 I love going to the store or farmers market and seeing what’s good for the day and buying everything fresh and cooking it on the same day. My sister loves to laugh at me when I buy one onion or potato at a time. There’s a Trader Joe’s across the road, which makes it super easy to just walk over whenever I want something. Though, admittedly I can only do this now that I’m not working. We’ll definitely have to plan more meals ahead of time and get ourselves a Costco membership when I go back to work. I’ve been meaning to get one of those awesome apps that keeps track of everything you have in your pantry and fridge and spits out recipes that you can make with only what you’ve got on hand.

 

Post # 60
Member
122 posts
Blushing bee

@sienna76:  yikes I shop bi weekly but make a menu of what I need for those 2 weeks spending about $150, so I’m not buying frivolous stuff. I also eat lunch out at work 1-2x a week, I totally get why her boyfriend it nuts

Post # 61
Member
5009 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: April 2012

We shop twice a week (sometimes more) because I don’t actually have enough space in the fridge to store enough vegetables for a week. An average evening meal (witch leftovers for lunch) will have around a kilo (2.2lb) of fresh veg in it, plus 500g (1.1lb) meat (sometimes more) and some sort of starchy carbohydrates.

Add that all together with the fact that we have a small fridge-freezer and it becomes clear why we shop twice a week. I have to be organised on what we eat in terms of deciding the night before and often doing some of the prep either after dinner the day before or in the morning before work, but planning out a week in advance just ended up a bit stressful and dull.

Yes, we probably spend more than a lot of you, but that’s because we probably eat more than a lot of you and I’m determined not to just eat junk!

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