Welcome to my Grocery Shopping 101 series! I have five posts planned for the week, which I hope will cover all of the bases:
- Assess Your Kitchen
- Meal Planning
- Rethink Quantity
- Unit Price
- Save Even More
However, if you have questions in the meantime, please don’t hestiate to ask. Sometimes, I ramble off things and miss important info!
So, I get a lot of questions from readers about my grocery shopping habits. I’m a cheapskate at heart and grew up without a lot of money, so I’ve learned how to get creative with my spending. Nowadays, Mal and I have a budget of $75 per week ($300 for the month) and we rarely ever go over it, unless we’re hosting a get-together or buying booze. This week, we only spent $24 for an entire week’s worth of groceries, which isn’t typical, but definitely possible thanks to some serious meal planning.
I’m all about saving money at the grocery store, but much of it happens before I even leave my house. I do all of my planning on Sunday morning, and it doesn’t take me more than 10-15 minutes.
Here’s the first step in the process:
Assess Your Kitchen
The first thing I do is assess what’s in my kitchen, including the cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Knowing what I have in my kitchen is the most important aspect of saving money. Wasted food = wasted money.
Keep An Organized Refrigerator
You probably don’t hear many people say this, but I have an organized refrigerator. It’s partly due to the fact that I like things nice and neat, but even more so because I’m can’t stand wasting food (and money)!
When I keep my refrigerator organized, ingredients and leftovers aren’t pushed to the back and forgotten about, so food doesn’t go to waste. I make sure to store half-eaten tomatoes or leftover quinoa in clear plastic containers right in the front of the refrigerator, so I can easily see what’s inside.
Figure Out What Went Bad
On Sunday mornings, I also take note of what foods are about to go bad or have expired in the refrigerator.
For the foods that are about to go bad (usually fresh produce), I incorporate them into a meal that day or the very next day. For the food that is passed its prime, I toss it, which makes room for new food in the refrigerator. Plus, when I see what went bad, I’m less likely to overbuy it at the grocery store again.
This week, for example, a package of extra firm tofu is about to expire, so I am making it into buffalo tofu for lunch.
Really SEE What You Have On-Hand
When assessing my kitchen, I take the time to move things around and really see what I have on-hand. Most of the time, I am surprised by what I find– a jar of marinara sauce, a can of chick peas, a half-used box of pasta. So, instead of buying these items again or letting them go to waste, I incorporate them into the coming week’s menu.
Check out what I found in the cabinets yesterday:
Almost all of these items will be incorporated into meals this week.
Additionally, our refrigerator was fairly well-stocked. We had plenty of fruit and bread, so there was no need to buy more.
Taking these few extra minutes to examine my refrigerator really helps me focus my shopping list, which, ultimately, saves me more money at the grocery store.
Display Your Produce
Before we had a refrigerator with clear drawers, I used to keep my produce in a big bowl on the top shelf instead of in the crisper where I couldn’t see them. Whenever I opened the fridge, it was the first thing that I saw.
Similarly, I keep a big bowl on my kitchen counter to display fresh produce. The vibrant colors are a beautiful addition to my kitchen and a constant reminder to not let my nutritious produce go to waste. I’m so cheap, I’d pick an almost rotten banana over another snack just to make sure it doesn’t go to waste!
Incorporate On-Hand Ingredients Into Meals
A jar of marinated artichoke hearts, for instance, is a perfect addition to a homemade pizza. A random packet of pesto mix is an easy way to spice up a boring pasta dish. Basically, I build my meals around what is already in my kitchen instead of buying more ingredients. This also helps me get creative with my meals!
Next up: MEAL PLANNING!