Cutting grocery costs
One of the areas that I consistently spent too much money on was food - both groceries and going out to eat. Cutting going out to eat seems like a no brainer - just don’t do it. However, it means that I have to have food to eat at home and I need to remember to bring food to work for breakfast and lunch. That requires meal planning.
My grocery budget was high for just two people even though we spent a lot of money going out. How could that be? We were wasting a lot of food. We’d order in instead of eating leftovers and the leftovers would end up being thrown out. Even worse were what I called the “vegetables of good intentions.” I would spend a lot of money buying healthy vegetables (fruit, too) and I wouldn’t end up eating them, they would go bad and I’d have to throw them out. The solution there: meal planning and actually sticking to it.
I would actually plan meals for the week quite frequently but then I would be tired when I came home and not want to cook and order in. The food I bought would eventually go to waste. This was a double whammy.
I decided to do something different for the month of May. I planned four weeks of meals. I looked at my plans for the month and figured we would need five meals per week. I tried to have one sheet* pan chicken recipe, one sheet pan pork or beef recipe, one pasta recipe, one stir fry/currry recipe, and one taco burrito night each week. The first weekend I did all the meat and pantry shopping for the whole month and produce and dairy shopping for the first week. I also prepped all the meat for each meal - portioned, trimmed, cut up, and marinaded - then stored the meat for each recipe in a freezer bag and popped them in the freezer. I also made chicken taco/burrito filling and black beans in the Instant Pot and then split them into four portions for the taco/burrito nights.
I’m still in the first week but it’s been easy to get home each night and finish making whichever meal is on the menu for that night. I take bags out of the freezer every couple of days so I always have meals for the next two days or so thawing in the fridge. My daughter is a busy teen and doesn’t always make it home for dinner every night and I usually bring leftovers to work for lunch so I figured five meals per week would be a good balance and allow me to use up all the leftovers. I will adjust for June if I have to if I find I need more meals or fewer.
Sheet pan dinners are amazing if you haven’t discovered them yet. Throw the meat and veggies on a sheet pan, throw it in the oven and soon dinner is done. It’s so easy and really tasty. I even have a cookbook called Sheet Pan Suppers that I use all the time:
In addition to meal planning to make sure I don’t waste food, I’ve also started a price book to figure out how to pay the lowest prices possible for the things I buy. So far, I’ve input prices from BJ’s, Trader Joe’s, and Stop & Shop (a local grocery chain). BJ’s prices have consistently been lower than the other two but I need to weigh that against the sizes I have to buy at the warehouse club, especially for perishables. I also compared prices for non-perishables against Amazon Prime Pantry and none of Amazon’s prices were lower than BJ’s.
I am planning to try a couple other local grocery chains to see if their prices are better. In addition, a Market Basket is opening up about 20 minutes from me soon. There is one now that’s about 40 minutes away that I’ve been too. I was really impressed by their selection and their prices but it’s a little too far away for a regular shop.
I will continue to look for ways to reduce our spending on food and household items and avoid food waste.