A few weeks ago, I shared with you my crash course in Meal Planning 101. Today I want to delve into some of my favorite tips & tricks to use once you have your meal plan set and are ready to grocery shop. This Grocery Shopping Game Plan + Free Printable should be used in conjunction with your meal planning to create a seamless, stress-free process to set you up for success!
If you have yet to start using my free Meal Planning & Grocery Game Plan printable, now is a great time to get started! In my Meal Planning post, I focused on the top portion of this printable and shared how I come up with meals for the week. For our Grocery Shopping Game Plan, we are going to utilize the meal plan we've created and quickly make our grocery list before we head to the store.
How Often Do I Grocery Shop?
I have seen many articles and posts on how to grocery shop once or twice a month. Sure the thought of doing a task once and being set for a whole month sounds awesome, but it just doesn't work for my family. I've tried versions of these concepts in the past, but feel I've set myself up for failure. While I understand the point of this schedule is to save time & money, I believe the way I meal plan and grocery shop once a week does the same thing in a less overwhelming way.
First of all, I don't have a ton of extra kitchen storage space to keep a ton of boxes and containers of things. If I bought all the canned goods and snacks we consumed in a month, I would have no where to effectively store it. I also prefer stocking up weekly on fresh produce. I don't feel rushed as often to use things up before they spoil as my family usually easily consumes what I buy within the week.
This may be different for you, but we are big milk drinkers in our family. We go through at least 3 gallons of milk a week between the 4 of us, and there's no way I could store more than that at once. My in-laws are dairy farmers so maybe it's genetic. The running joke is that we need to put a cow in our backyard to keep up. We would probably not have to cut our grass as often, so it's tempting, but in the meantime I use my weekly grocery shopping trip to stock up.
Here are some of my favorite go-to recipes to add to your weekly meal plan:
Where I Grocery Shop
I am a tried and true Aldi shopper. I started shopping at one about 4 years ago and a couple years ago one opened right in my town. It takes a little adjusting to get used to the process there (remember your quarter!), but shopping here has helped with the grocery budget for our growing family. I know from my years of shopping at Aldi that there are items that they don't carry. In this case, I'm lucky to have a great hometown grocery store that I use to buy any loose ends on my list.
I know many families utilize membership-based warehouse stores for groceries and other household essentials. I think they can be a great option for families. When determining where to shop, I would recommend looking into the distance to travel to these stores, comparing prices and making sure your spending and saving make sense compared to your membership fees.
When looking for the best option for your family, it's okay to shop around for a place to shop. A lot of it has to do with personal preference, location and budget. Shop around to find your best match. The more you shop at your "chosen" store, the more efficient you will become!
The Grocery Shopping Game Plan: The List
Using my meal plan as reference, I fill out my grocery list to ensure I get all the ingredients I need for the week. As you can see, the grocery list template is split into 4 sections. Each section represents a different area of the grocery store. There's nothing worse than getting to the frozen section and having to walk all the way back to produce because you forgot something. Using this method, you shop the grocery store in sections completing one before moving onto the next.
The first section of the grocery list includes produce and bakery items. This area is usually the first place you enter coming into the store. After finishing up there I move clockwise on the list to dry goods that will hit the middle aisles of the grocery store. From there, refrigerated items and finishing up with frozen. There truly is a method to the layout of grocery stores. It makes the most sense to have the frozen foods be the last section you normally walk through before reaching the check-out when making a loop around the store.
For snacks and other kitchen items that aren't necessarily "planned" but need to be stocked, I like to take a quick pantry inventory checking on the status of snacks, spices and supplies such as plastic wrap.
Grocery Shopping Game Plan: Budgeting
The amount of money spent on groceries for your family depends on your preferences and family size. This is not going to be a one size fits all amount. To determine your grocery budget, I would encourage you to use this meal plan and grocery list template for a good month. Save your receipts and at the end of the month, reflect on your experience. Did you stick pretty well to your plan? Did you purchase a lot of extras that you didn't consume? You may see a trend for a ballpark amount from the 4 or 5 weeks that will give you a good idea of what you spend each week.
Budgeting shouldn't be viewed as something that tells you everything you can't buy. It should be used as a guide to help you allocate the right amount of money to certain areas of your household. When creating a budget amount, don't set yourself up for failure by setting the bar so low that it would be almost impossible to reach.
I will be the first to admit that I come across things in the grocery store that, in the moment, I feel I can't possibly live without. Yes, I try to stick to my list as much as possible, but it's not meant to be so regimented that you can't have some fun. Give yourself some grace and I guarantee you will find this process a lot easier!
Grocery Shopping With Kids
I am far from a parenting expert, and I have no miracle that makes grocery shopping with kids less stressful, but I've come up with a few tips & tricks over the past couple years that makes it a little more doable.
First tip happens before you even leave your house to head to the store and it's something that you are completely in control of: your attitude. I would often get in the mindset of dread and anxiety with the idea of taking my kids shopping by myself. I'd always think to myself "what if they throw a fit" or "it's going to be so stressful". By doing this, I would set myself up for failure with this negative mindset. A change of attitude can make a world of difference.
Obviously my number one solution to ease the stress of shopping with young kids is to not bring them with. Easy right? When possible, I try to go shopping when my husband is home. They love some alone time with dad, I get out of the house by myself. If you're kids are in school or daycare, take advantage of some of this time to get your shopping done. I'm somewhat in the middle of this situation with one kiddo in preschool 3 mornings a week. This leaves me with just one to bring along and it is a bit easier.
When all else fails, bringing little ones shopping can happen without everyone leaving in tears. Remember your attitude? Behind the million questions and temper tantrums, I find that kids truly want to feel included in activities. Be open to creating small learning moments that will help engage your child and make them more likely to cooperate with the whole experience. Involve them by asking "can you find the bananas?", "I'm looking for a blue container" or give them the option between two snacks and let them make the decision. This has been my saving grace!
The tips & tricks featured in this Grocery Shopping Game Plan have really helped smooth out the process of meal planning and grocery shopping for my household. Taking 15-20 minutes each week to get ahead for the week has been a huge game-changer for me. I encourage you to implement some if not all of these tips & tricks, and I'm hopeful they will give you some time back during the week to enjoy doing more of what you love.