Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping Tips

I was a single mother for almost 15 years. Yes that was a long time but I do miss the days when my kids were home.  We had a “family meeting” every Sunday where we would go through all of the grocery store flyers and we would all come up with ideas for breakfast, school lunches, after school snacks and dinners.  After a long day of work and a busy schedule with the kids cooking on Sunday’s made the rest of our week more organized and everyone happy! 

I finally caught on that the neighborhood kids were even coming over after school because they knew a healthy treat was waiting at the end of the day!  With a tight budget and busy schedule we ate at home most meals but the best part was we ate together.

We lived in a pretty big city with large markets and smaller specialty markets and it was worth the morning of driving to different stores to get the best deals.  (of course the price of gas was much cheaper.  But we mapped out our strategy so we were just making one loop then back home!)  Being organized does make things easier…

To Start – Go through the flyers each Sunday or go on the internet.  With the different types of coupons on line spending a little time investigating can save you a lot of money!

Remember – Keep a list going as you run out of staples so you don’t forget when you are ready to go shopping!

Shop the Sales

Make a list of sale items.  This is great for a dish you have been wanting to make but the cost of the beef or chicken was just too expensive.  Now that is it on sale – Let’s make it this week.

Take the time with a cup of coffee or tea and look through your magazines, cookbooks or favorite blogger sites for recipes ideas.  Ask you family what they would like and if they are able to help go through the magazines they will be happy to be involved.

 Planning

Most recipes are available on-line. If you find one in your favorite cookbook or magazine it is most likely on line.  Print it out and go through every ingredient.  Make your list accordingly.

Organize your list by produce, deli, isles, meats, freezer, etc.

If one of your dinner choices is a roasted chicken – Perfect for a Sunday dinner.  Look for other chicken recipes to use the leftovers.  If roaster chickens are on sale then buy 2.  Make them both and make chicken pot pies, chicken salad or add in a tomato sauce to serve over pasta.

Grocery Shopping

You are not hungry (eat something before you leave the house)!  You have your list now it is time to head shopping!  Try to go by yourself.

Shop from department to department checking off your list as you go!

Most popular pantry items are tomato sauce, chicken broth, beans, tuna and dressings.

1. When meal planning, always take a look at the food you already have on hand. Try to create dishes around those items so you can use up your supplies.

2. If you find staple pantry items like chicken broth, tomato sauce and beans on sale – stock up. For me, these are items that I can quickly and easily create meals around.

3. Pay attention to the scanning display.  I have found several errors.

Here are some money saving shopping tips!

Stay away from the prepackaged salad mix. First of all I don’t think it taste very good and it seems dry not the moist feeling of fresh lettuce. There are so many varieties of lettuce so look for what’s on sale.

Grow you own herbs – Check out my post about herbs. Keep the perennial herbs and for all others keep inside you house on a windowsill. Not only will you have fresh herbs on hand all winter but your kitchen will smell great. Or in my case – I keep some in my bathroom!

Whole grains, dried herbs, oats, nuts, etc. that you use often buy in bulk. If you only use certain herbs on occasion some store now sell a smaller package for about $99.

Stock up when staple items are on sale. I know Olive oil does not last long in my house so what it is on sale I stock up. The same with balsamic, wine vinegar, canned sauce, tuna, capers, anchovies and pasta. I keep shelves in my basement (as long as yours is dry) for storage.

Buy chicken and beef in bulk. We love chicken and beef so when it is on sale we purchase in bulk and repackage and freeze to use later. For example if both bone-in breast, thighs and drum sticks are really cheap. Make a package with a couple of each – Now you have all the chicken for my chicken cacciatore and other great chicken recipes. A great way to store ground beef – Store in freezer safe bags but lay flat and squeeze out the air. They stack much better.

Stock up on canned goods. Look for them on sale for chicken broth, canned sauce, beans, and other staples you use often. Look for the sales.

Stock up on frozen vegetables. When they are on sale for $1 fill up your cart. They are great for stir fries, soups, salads and you can quickly made another side dish when unexpected company shows up!

This is my personal feeling on seafood – If seafood is on sale then make it that week – I don’t purchase then freeze (unless already frozen) Seafood is such a great part of your diet so go to the fish counter first and see what is on sale – Make your selection the finish shopping to make your magical dish. I love salmon and when it is on sale I but extra and use in my omelet for breakfast and top on a salad for lunch.

Organic VS non-Organic
Not everyone will agree with me but I make choices when buying organic. I try to always purchase organic chicken, beef and pork. But I feel the below list is just fine and a lot cheaper.
(My rule of thumb is if you peel it to eat it – you can forgo organic except for a few items).

Artichokes
Asparagus
Avocado
Cabbage
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Coconut
Eggplant
Grapefruit
kiwi
Lemons
Limes
Mango
Mushrooms
Onions
Papayas
Pineapple
Sweet peas
Sweet potatoes

This is where I always go organic:
Apples
Arugula
Celery
Collard Greens
Cucumbers
Grapes
Kale
Leafy Greens
Lettuce
Nectarines
Peaches
Peppers
Potatoes
Spinach
Strawberries
Summer Squash
Tomatoes
Zucchini