Step 10: Start Over!

February 3, 2010

You have now completed one complete cycle. You’ve planned and prepped and cooked and eaten and it’s probably time to start thinking about next week (or at least your next grocery shopping trip). Just start back at Step 1 and repeat! As you practice and gain confidence and discipline with this, you will become more creative and get into your own little grocery groove! Enjoy!


Step 9: Cook, Eat, Revise

February 3, 2010

As you go about your week, preparing the meals from your menu plan, you might start to accumulate leftovers. This is another aspect of the family-feeding process that takes time to develop. Leftovers are wonderful.

With practice, you will learn to actually PLAN for leftovers for the purpose of turning them into another meal. Or you might plan leftovers in order to save up some extras in your freezer. For example, whenever I cook chili, I make a gigantic batch on purpose. We have found this to be one meal that improves with time! The first day, we eat the chili as is. The next day, we either just have leftover chili, or I add the chili to pasta or use it to top a baked potato. Then, I freeze all the rest in meal-size portions. I cook once, but we eat up to four times!

If you make something and end up with enough leftovers for one meal, you may choose to just eat that the next day, or another day that week. In which case, you will be ignoring one of the meals on your menu plan. When this happens, just move the “ignored” meal to the NEXT WEEK’S menu plan, and you’ve got a head start!

You might also want to keep a running list of meals you are adding to your freezer.

There might be other circumstances that pop up throughout the week that cause you to stray from your menu plan. This is okay. Just revise your plan and keep track of what you still have on hand.

Just a note: I always keep old menu plans. They are useful when I’m lacking inspiration. I look back on old plans for meal ideas when I just can’t seem to think of anything. You might want to set aside a binder or special notebook or box of some sort for keeping all your menu plans.

Also, the same goes for recipes. As you plan your menus, you may start to incorporate some new recipes. Print them off or write them out and keep them. Organize them. Reuse them! Make notes on them – ingredient substitutions you made, revisions you would try next time, notes about how many servings the recipe actually made, etc.

Step 8: Update Your Inventory

February 3, 2010

At some point shortly after you have gotten your groceries put away, it would be a good idea to update your inventory. This is not necessary. You can always start back at Step 1 next week, and re-evaluate your inventory using your Master Grocery List. However, if you’re a large family, or have a large stock on hand, it’s never a bad thing to keep track of what you have so that you can make use of it in your menu planning.

If you are not the inventory-keeping-type, my next suggestion is to have a piece of paper or a pad of paper specifically for the purpose of your grocery list ON DISPLAY in your kitchen. The MOMENT you realize you’re running low on something, PUT IT ON THE LIST IMMEDIATELY. If you can keep this list on hand, it will make your menu planning/grocery list process easier next week.

Step 7: Put the Groceries Away

February 3, 2010

For now, you can do this however you want. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. I am sharing the tips in the post for those of you who have followed along with the previous steps and are motivated enough to “go the extra mile.”

* Put frozen foods away first.

* If you bought meat/fish/poultry that needs to be put into the freezer, put that away next. If you bought it in bulk and it needs to be repackaged into smaller amounts, I would suggest putting it into the fridge until you have everything else organized.

* Put away the stuff that needs to be refrigerated (dairy, produce, etc.)

* Put away the rest.

THEN, if you’re ambitious and love the idea of saving yourself time and energy throughout the week, try the following:

* Repackage bulk meats, if necessary. If I get a bulk case of chicken breasts, for example, I repackage them in small ziplock bags with two breasts in each bag. If I have a huge case of ground beef, I repackage that in small ziplocks as well. OR…

* Precook ground meats. If you use ground beef or turkey in a lot of your recipes, fry it all up at once with the seasonings you usually use. Let it cool, then repackage it in smaller amounts and put it in the freezer.

* Do the same thing with chicken breasts. Chop it up and fry it so it’s ready for casseroles or other dishes. Package it in smaller amounts and freeze.

* Chop up veggies that you are planning to eat raw during the week. I have found that celery, in particular, lasts a lot longer when we do this. Invest in some good quality storage containers. I store sliced celery in a ziplock and just leave the zipper slightly open at one end. It lasts a good two weeks this way. Carrot sticks are stored in a plastic container with a little bit of water in it.

* Prepare all your lettuce for the week. I like to make salad a lot. I use a mixture of green leaf, red leaf, iceberg lettuces, and spinach (if it was on sale). When we get home, my daughter washes all the lettuce leaves, spins them in the salad spinner, tears them up into bite-size pieces, and we store them in a good quality bin I bought specifically for this purpose. It has an air vent that allows the perfect amount for lettuce, and this also lasts a good two weeks.

* If there are other snacks or dishes that you want to have on hand for the week, go ahead and make them on grocery day, if you have the time. I have often done this with things like puddings, gelatin salads, marinated salads, homemade cookies or bars, granola, etc. This is not a necessity, by any means, but if your grocery day happens to be a day that works well as a general food prep day, take advantage of it and you’ll reap the rewards for the rest of the week.

Step 6: Go Shopping!

February 3, 2010

This is pretty straightforward. You’ve planned your shopping trip, so all you have to do is gather up your grocery bags (if you have reusable ones, which I highly recommend), and go! AND DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR LIST!

Your list is the key. The number one rule during grocery shopping is to STICK TO YOUR LIST! I cannot stress this enough. Don’t buy something extra just because you see it’s on sale and it seems like a good deal. If it’s not on your list, don’t buy it. No exceptions. If you’ve been diligent and careful on Steps 1-5, there will be no need to make exceptions to this rule!

The rest of your shopping trip is simple.

There are the usual pieces of advice, like shopping on a full stomach. There’s the common sense stuff, like saving the frozen foods for the end of your shopping spree.

One thing I like to do, just because I am a little bit compulsive about a few things, is to keep like products as close together in the cart as possible, and then when I’m putting it all on the counter at the till, it gets bagged together. I like to shop in this order: dry and canned goods (so they go on the bottom of the cart and don’t crush anything else), meat and dairy (heavier items, some can be stacked, usually compact or flat packaging), produce, then frozen stuff. Depending on how much I have to get, I sometimes get the frozen stuff right after the meat. It helps to keep the meat cold. Then, at the till, all the produce gets bagged first, then the frozen and meats and dairy, then the dry goods. It helps to keep the food in good shape until we get home. Then, at home, it’s quicker and easier to put things away.

And that’s it for shopping!

P.S. Save your receipts! You’ll eventually be glad!

Step 5: Plan Your Grocery Shop

February 3, 2010

Plan your grocery shop? Does this step sound a little unnecessary? If you’re a total beginner at this, it might be a little meaningless to you right now. But it’s important to develop this step as a habitual part of your weekly grocery plan. As you learn the different techniques and tricks for saving money and spending less on groceries, you may discover that it is worth shopping at more than one store for your groceries. When you begin to do this, you will need to plan for it in order to make it worth your while and to save you time and energy and fuel.

With your grocery list in hand, decide which items you will purchase at each individual store.

I have three main stores.

Costco is a RARE stop for me, and in fact, I probably won’t renew my membership there. While there are several items that are cheaper to buy at Costco, I don’t think it’s worth my while to renew. And besides, my mom goes there REGULARLY, so if there’s something I really want from there, I can get her to pick it up for me. (I know that’s cheating, but it’s the truth!)

Sobey’s is my favorite regular supermarket store. It has better quality meats and produce than the discount stores, and it’s less expensive (in general) than Safeway or Co-op (the other two main supermarkets around here). I also receive a 10% off coupon for my local Sobey’s once a month. This particular grocery store has a monthly sale week called Dollar Days. During Dollar Days, there are many of my regular items on sale for $1. With my 10% off coupon, I can stock up on these items for $0.90 each! So during those weeks, it’s worth the extra stop for me.

A majority of my grocery shopping is done at Superstore. (Extra Foods and No Frills are basically the same thing, but Superstore is the closest to my home.) This is a discount store, almost like a warehouse store. It’s big, and the store brand (President’s Choice) is excellent quality on most of the products I buy. They also have a lot of no name products, which, naturally, are very inexpensive. If you shop here, remember to bring your own bags because they charge you $0.05 per plastic bag!

So, with my list in hand, I mark my items according to store. If I’m using my Master Grocery List, I will highlight all the Costco stuff in one color, and all the Sobey’s stuff in another. Everything else is assumed to be a Superstore purchase.

Another method is to do this step along with the previous step. Make your grocery list for each store individually.

Just use whichever method works for you. And again, it takes practice to figure out what you like best.

Step 4: Make a Grocery List

February 3, 2010

You can choose to make your grocery list as you are creating your menu plan, or you might want to focus entirely on the menu plan first, and concentrate on the grocery list after the menu plan is complete. Either way works. Just pick what works best for you.

The trick for this step is to make sure you don’t leave anything out. The point of the grocery list is to insure that your home will have everything you will need for the next week in order to feed your family nutritious meals. If you run out of something, you either have to put your creative juices to work and improvise, or you will have to go to the store, which will cost you more money in gas, and probably add unnecessary expense to your grocery budget.

An easy way to make your grocery list is to print of a copy of my Master Grocery List, found on the Printables Page. Over time, you may wish to create your own Master Grocery List using the ingredients that you buy most often. There are also many other versions of lists like this all over the internet. Using a Master Grocery List is easy and saves time because you don’t have to write anything down. You can use it in one of two ways:

1) Based on your menu plan, CROSS OUT the items on the Master Grocery List that you DON’T need. Everything else that is left is your new grocery list, already written out for you. If you use my list, there are little checkboxes that you can use as you’re at the grocery store to mark when you’ve got the item in your cart.

2) Based on your menu plan, use a highlighter to mark the items on the Master Grocery List that you need to buy. Items not marked are not needed.

If the Master Grocery List idea overwhelms you, feel free to just write out your list on any old scrap of paper. This is the logical choice particularly when your list is very short! However, if your list is longer, I highly recommend sorting your list according to the layout of your grocery store as much as possible. List dairy items together, produce all together, frozen foods together, etc. This will save you time in the store and help you to stay focused and not add any extras to your cart!

As this whole process becomes second nature to you, you will learn to incorporate the weekly grocery flyers into your meal planning and grocery lists as well. You will slowly start to develop a stock while sticking with a very low budget which will enable you to keep your weekly grocery shopping list a lot shorter. Don’t worry about this for now. Just be aware that it’s something to work toward.

With your grocery list in hand, you’re ready to move on to Step 5!