As part of Focused Frugal February, I will be diving into an expense category in order to provide specific advice to reign in your ONE category of focus for the month. This week’s category of focus, the grocery bill. I would love to be able to write on this topic, but I don’t actually do the meal planning in our home, so today’s content is provided by the incomparable (other) Mrs. Fierbird.

I lucked out in the fact that I married someone who generally enjoys cooking and is amazing at it to boot. Our grocery bill, like many household’s has been one of the tougher line items to nail down our spending. Some months are crazy and others are light. My wife has taken it upon herself to reign in our spending on groceries this past year.

Got to marry this lady and I’d do it again!

So, here is my amazing wife’s step by step process for our meal planning and grocery shopping:

Here is my process for meal planning/grocery list making.

I like to try new recipes and am trying to start adding more vegetarian meals into our diets, so I cook fairly adventurously, with some family favorites that get repeated more frequently. I also learn about a lot of new recipes at work, where I also cook dinner five nights a week, and sometimes I try those recipes out at home as well.

I used to plan out 7 meals a week, but was struggling with cooking burnout/food waste/freezer pile up. So, I started planning specific days for leftovers/freezer meals, and with that I gave myself at least two days off every week from cooking, which was a huge relief. At this point, I usually plan for 5 meals a week to cook. I will likely cook 3-4 of those meals, as we will make last minute weekend plans/have a spontaneous meal. Sometimes we are invited to Emily’s mom’s house at the last minute or her mom will send her home with leftovers if she stops by or neither of us will feel like cooking that day and we’ll have an extra night of leftovers.

When planning my menu, I add back to it any meals I didn’t make the week before but already have ingredients for at home. I plan those meals early on in the week so the ingredients don’t go bad.

We shop primarily at Aldi, so I take a look at their circular to see what’s on sale. Anything we can’t find at Aldi, or don’t prefer the Aldi brand of (which is usually not much) we will get at another store. We usually go to Stop and Shop as they’re close by our Aldi, so I’ll look at their sales as well. For non-perishable staples and bulk items, we go to BJs once every other month, which sends us coupons in the mail.

Knowing what’s on sale, I look at the recipes I’ve saved on Pinterest. I save a lot of recipes and some of them I might never cook, but we’ve tried a lot of new and interesting meals and have repeated several of them! I generally focus on the protein source and choose specific recipes based on what meat we have in the freezer or what’s on sale for the week. Last year, we started adding more vegetarian dishes to our rotations. For those vegetarian meals, I focus on the ingredients we have on hand already.

I plan the menu for the week, and either one or both of us will do the shopping. We usually do this on Saturday morning. A typical week looks something like:

  • Sunday – Apple cranberry walnut salad (veg, but we sometimes add chopped chicken to it)
  • Monday – Pumpkin beer and sharp cheddar soup (veg)
  • Tuesday – Sheet pan eggplant parm with cauliflower (veg)
  • Wednesday – leftovers
  • Thursday – Salmon cashew coconut curry with mashed sweet potatoes
  • Friday – leftovers/at a friend’s house/invited out for dinner
  • Saturday – Lemon garlic orzo with roasted veggies (veg)

While this may sound like it takes up a lot of time, it usually only takes me about 30 minutes each week to plan everything out. On top of that, between using this process and adding in more vegetarian meals to our diet our grocery bill is now substantially lower. Not to mention the benefits to our overall health and the environment.

Previously, we had been very bad at wasting food and creating massive swings in our grocery spending. With Kayla’s meal planning process, we’ve gotten both of those issues under control, while bettering our bottom line. We spend approximately $300/month for the two of us. It’s not as cheap as we could go, but it’s as much as we’re willing to cut while keeping a mix of healthy, delicious foods in our diet every week.

Did you pick your grocery bill as your spending category to reduce? If so, did this help? Let me know in the comments below!