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Meal Prep & Planning: How I Grocery Shop

So by now we’ve covered How I Meal Plan, How I Meal Prep, How I Stock the Pantry and How I Stock the Lunch Fridge. Today I’m talking about one of the things I get the most questions about- how I grocery shop. Over the years I’ve tried different approaches to grocery shopping- once a month, twice a month, weekly, with the family, without the family…I’ve tried it all. Finding a system to grocery shop that allows me to stay on budget, shop during off hours (i.e.- not when every local retirement community is shopping at Walmart), and is sustainable on an on-going basis was my challenge. I think I’ve finally figured it out for my family. I shop at 4 places every month- Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart and ALDI. And I try super hard to not make in-between shopping trips that drive up the budget because let’s be honest- nobody goes into the store for one thing and actually comes out with one thing. 

Sam’s Club– the very first weekend of the month is my Sam’s Club trip. We normally go on Saturday and we do take the kids because there are typically a lot of samples and this is how I feed my kids lunch that day. That’s called smart planning, my friends. I have some basic staples that I always buy at Sam’s such as Belvita Breakfast Bites, Peanut Butter filled pretzels, Naan Bread Dippers, and string cheese. I’ve priced these items out and they are the cheapest at Sam’s Club. One thing I always check is the meat that’s on sale at Sam’s. Last trip I found chicken legs on sale for $0.72 a pound- I grabbed 3 packs and put them in the freezer. The chicken thighs were on sale for $0.82 a pound so I also got 3 packs of them for the freezer. Boneless pork chops were on sale for $1.23 a pound so 6 of those are currently in my freezer. Those prices are less than I can get at ALDI. 

Costco– I generally try to also do a trip to Costco that same day and feed the kids the rest of lunch with the samples! Again, smart planning. Costco hasn’t been open near us for very long so I’m still figuring out what to buy from there. I tend to buy things that are on sale for now- mostly lunch items for the kids. Last month I bought a box of 52 Frito brand chip packs, Nature Valley Almond Biscuits, Welch’s fruit snacks, and a few other lunch items I saw on sale. I’ve found that while Costco has a great meat selection, it tends to be out of my price range so I don’t buy meat there. I do love their chicken salad so sometimes I’ll grab a tub of that with a container of croissants and we’ll get a couple of snacks, lunches and maybe a dinner out of that. 

ALDI– I shop at ALDI every Thursday. I’ve found it’s the best day at my ALDI- the new sales start on Wednesday but it’s usually not fully stocked until Thursday. If you wait until the weekend then all the good sale items are gone and they rarely re-stock mid-week. So Thursday is my day. I always do ALDI before Walmart because anything I don’t get at ALDI I can add to my Walmart list. Most of my fresh fruits and produce come from ALDI and I do buy a lot of meat there- I typically plan my meals around whatever meat is on sale that week. I get all of my shredded cheese and dairy products there except for milk and yogurt. I also get a lot of snack items for lunches such as Veggie Straws, Green Pea Crisps, Cheddar rice cakes, granola bars, etc. Nearly all of my bread and breakfast items and canned goods come from ALDI. 

Walmart– After ALDI I go immediately to Walmart. There are specific items that I always buy at Walmart either because they’re cheaper, we prefer the brand, or ALDI doesn’t carry them. I try to do Walmart as quickly as possible because nothing raises my blood pressure faster than a trip to Walmart. Milk, yogurt, cheese slices and P3 packs come from Walmart as do a lot of the pastas the kids like, spaghetti sauce, flavored drink drops, and some lunch snack items that are cheaper to buy in smaller quantities. Basically ALDI is my main grocery store and I fill in with Walmart as needed. 

Some Notes:

  • My grocery budget is not fluid. It’s firm and set and I have to make it work. If I go over one week then I have to subtract from the next week. This means I tend to shop at ALDI and Walmart alone. Kids will kill your grocery budget every time…so will husbands. 
  • To keep myself on budget I use a free app called List Ease. It allows me to input the price of each item and it saves it from week to week. It adds tax as I add items to the list so I have a very good idea of where I’m at with my budget. 
  • I do my grocery list for Costco and Sam’s Club first because those are my 2 biggest upfront costs. Then I divide what’s left in my monthly budget by 4 and that’s what I have left for the month for Walmart and ALDI and can plan each week accordingly. 
  • I buy almost all of my household items from Sam’s- toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, fabric softener, etc. Our dog food comes from Sam’s as well as all of our prescription medications. I do not include the household items or dog food in my monthly food budget- those things have their own line in the budget.
  • I do not restock most of the lunch items more than once a month. The bulk items that I buy at Costco or Sam’s Club are once a month and if the kids eat them all in 2 weeks then they’re going to be really unhappy for the last 2 weeks. I do restock the items in our canisters such as the cheese crackers, wheat thins, green pea crisps, rice cakes, veggie straws etc. 
  • I try to stick to in season fruits and vegetables because they are often the ones on sale. Luckily my kids all love a variety of fruits so they go with the flow on what’s available. 

You can find all the posts in my Meal Planning & Prep and Lunch Planning & Prep series HERE

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