One thing I pride myself on juuuust a teeny bit is my meal planning and grocery spending. I love food. Like, LOVE food. It’s expensive though, as I’m sure most of you know. I have a few tips and tricks to help me achieve a monthly budget of (roughly) $350 for 3 people. We eat organic when possible, meals are what most consider “healthy” and a good chunk of them are paleo friendly.
*side note: my husband does get some free meats from his job, I would say it takes about $25-50 off of our monthly bill, so still a great price point.
Tip #1: Aldi. If you don’t have one near you, this post may not help. I apologize. Some things about Aldi that seem to throw people off: 1)You bring your own bags. They also have random boxes around you can use or you can buy their bags. 2)There is no guarantee that they will have everything you need/want. When I make my meal plans, I usually just know that if I have asparagus down as a side, it may end up being green beans. You get to used to it. They also do sell quite a bit of organic, so I try and purchase that when I can.
I shop at Aldi first and then go to Harris Teeter. I am a little picky about meats, so the only ones I will buy from Aldi is their grass fed beef and wild caught salmon. HT sells $1.99/lb chicken at the meat counter, so I usually stock up on that and grab all the little things Aldi didn’t have. Harris Teeter is thought of as expensive, but they do B1G1 sales on tons of items. A few weeks ago they had chicken sausage on sale for B1G1 so I got 4. They release weekly sales online so I check before-hand!
Tip #2: Meal prep. I do 2 weeks a time. We’re super busy, so I don’t really have time to do this once per week. I also feel like the less time you spend in a grocery store, the less you spend. Doing it for 2 weeks has been a learning curve, but I am learning which foods last longer than others. I plan stir fry during the second week almost always, onions, peppers and potatoes last for a while, so add some meat and you have a meal! We also like to do pizza at the end of the second week, just have some dough on hand and add all the items that are going bad, it almost always turns out great! (This is obviously a time when I am not eating paleo).
Making the meal plan is somewhat obnoxious, so you can also use meal planning services like this one! Right now, I just ask John if he has any requests, and then I pull up a word document and Pinterest. I write a letter for each day we need planning (M,T,W,Th…) and put in the meals. Then below all of that, have a section for produce, meat, dairy/eggs, and frozen/extra. I look at day one and put in each ingredient needed to make that meal in the right category. I have a private Pinterest board with meal prep ideas and recipes galore, that helps a ton. Always check your fridge/freezer/cabinets and base a lot of it off of what you have! John eats a little different than I do, so a lot of what I cook can work for each of us, so on taco night I eat a taco salad and he and Jack have good ol’ tacos.
Here is an example of what my meal plan looks like:
M- BBQ Chicken with Corn and Broccoli
T- Pear salad with grilled chicken
W- Pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and carrots
T- Picnic in park / Sandwiches and chips
S- Sweet potato black bean burgers over salad
M- Chinese chicken salad (we will have some cabbage left from Friday)
W- Pizza Night
T- Tuna cakes with broccoli
F- Food truck Friday
S- Tacos (Taco salad)
Most items are linked to recipes to make your grocery list!
Tip #3: This one is talked about a lot, but I agree so I’ll say it again…buy seasonally! Avocados are so expensive in the winter, give them up! Produce is the largest part of my trip, so buying what’s in season is key.
Tip #4: Make your own condiments! Especially those that you rarely use. I never use bbq sauce, but needed some for a recipe. I looked on Pinterest for a quick recipe and found this one. I had everything except the Worcestershire sauce and it tasted fine without it. Another big one I save a lot with is salad dressings. Just mix olive oil, apple cider vinegar and random herbs and you’re good to go! Just keep your fridge and pantry stocked with basics and you can make just about everything. I always keep olive oil, coconut oil, ACV, white vinegar, honey/agave, lemon juice, ketchup, herbs of all sorts, and hot sauce around.
Tip #5: And finally, keep some prepped food and snacks in the fridge or on the counter. I always keep some form of energy bites in the fridge, make a dozen or so hard boiled eggs for the week for all of us, make smoothie packs to just throw in the blender, and salads in containers ready to be topped with salmon or chicken! This helps so much.
That’s it! Sometimes I totally fail and spend way too much and I’m still earning every time, but I hope this helps a little!