Monthly Grocery Shopping to Save (a Ton of) Money
In this article I am going to discuss how we were able to do monthly grocery shopping successfully. And I will teach you how you can grocery shop just once a month, too, in order to potentially save a ton of time and money every month!
Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on how to do monthly grocery shopping later!
Monthly Grocery Shopping: 7 Money-Saving Tips
A long time ago in a lifetime far, far away, it was just my husband and me before we had kiddos. Back then, I didn’t like grocery shopping, just like I don’t like grocery shopping now :), and we were very focused on becoming debt free. One of the ways we were able to save time and save money to go toward paying off our debt was to do monthly grocery shopping trips.
How do you save money grocery shopping just once a month? Largely, by not having the opportunity to impulse buy as often. Secondly, monthly grocery shopping can save time and money because this method of shopping encourages simpler meal planning. Third, grocery shopping just once a month virtually ensures that you have to meal plan, which could be the biggest money saver of all.
Are you wondering how monthly grocery shopping can work, especially with keeping produce and milk and all of that? Read on to find out!
1. Plan to have the money available to cover all of your grocery shopping in your first paycheck of the month.
First, if you are going to grocery shop just once a month, you need to be able to budget so that you have the money available to buy all of your groceries at one time. If you are currently barely scraping by, you may need to stop living paycheck to paycheck first.
And if you are not yet budgeting, you also going to need to start budgeting or else otherwise plan your spending (learn about a simple budgeting alternative) to have the money available in your account so that you don’t have to rely on credit cards or go into debt to do all of your grocery shopping in one trip.
2. Create a strategic meal plan.
Whether you grocery shop once a month or once a week, the way to save time, money, and sanity is to shop with a meal plan. As with every area of your life, things will go more smoothly and you are far more likely to succeed (and to become a super saving superstar :)) if you have a plan.
When you want to do monthly grocery shopping, you have to create a strategic meal plan in order to succeed.
As part of this plan, you should determine, with a calendar beside you, all the meals that you will eat each day for the month. If there are nights where you have been invited for dinner or other activities, for example, make sure you account for that in your planning so that you are not buying (and therefore potentially wasting) more food than you need.
After you make your meal plans for the month, make a list of all of the (especially perishable) ingredients that you will need to use so that you can determine what you need to buy more of when you do your food inventory in the next step.
Another important part of your plan is to determine what stores you will shop at. You may decide to shop at two (or possibly even three) grocery stores in order to save the most money possible during your monthly grocery shopping trip. You can buy the items that our on sale at your local grocery store, for example, and then buy the rest of your groceries at Walmart or Aldi or wherever you generally find the best prices in your area.
Because these monthly grocery shopping trips will generally last a couple of hours (but you will still save time in the long run because you will only have to spend a couple of hours once a month!), it is a good idea—even more than normal—to leave your children at home with your spouse while you grocery shop. Young children may not have the stamina to endure a monthly grocery shopping trip very well, and grumpy children will make it more difficult for you to get all of your shopping done in one trip.
You will also need to plan for a place to keep all of the food that you buy during your monthly grocery shopping trip. So before you go, make room in your cupboards and pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you are serious about monthly grocery shopping or even just grocery shopping once every couple of weeks, you may want to spend the money to buy a chest freezer or upright freezer.
And be sure to sign up to receive my free meal plan printable just below so you can begin to meal plan like a pro! It includes simple instructions to help you to easily and effectively meal plan to save time and money!
Meal Planning Made Even Easier: Consider Using an Inexpensive Meal Planning Service
If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create a meal plan and add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive service like $5 Meal Plans could be a great option for you. $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month, and they do all of the planning for you!
They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool! With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And the service comes with a 14-day free trial, so you have nothing to lose! If this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out $5 Meal Plans here.
If you’re regularly spending several hundred dollars on groceries or hundreds of dollars eating out per month, one of these meal plan services could really help you get on the right track and save your food budget.
3. You need to do a food inventory as you make your grocery list in order to make monthly grocery shopping successful.
Figuring out what you already have and what you need to buy is always an important part of meal planning and creating an effective grocery list, but when you are determined to do monthly grocery shopping, it is even more important.
While you make your grocery list, quickly go through your fridge, cupboards, and pantry to see what you are out of or what you are getting low on. This is crucial so that you don’t run out of something mid-month and have to run to the store. If you do overlook something, before you go to the store, see if you can substitute the item (Googling works great for this) or simply leave the item out or go without it. Or do the old-fashioned thing and ask your next-door neighbor. 🙂
Pro tip: Keep a piece of paper stuck to your fridge or a place on your phone where you can note food items you are low on or have run out of so that you can be sure to add them to your grocery list for the next time you go to the store.
Another pro tip: Use the grocery price comparison cheat sheet to save big on your grocery spending! With the cheat sheet, you will know when foods are a great price so that you can stock up on them, and you can also pass over foods that are overpriced. Sign up below to get yours now!
4. Plan to eat your fresh meat, dairy, and produce first.
After you go grocery shopping, freeze any meat that won’t keep for more than a few days. (Meat such as lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage will last for the month unopened.)
When you purchase your milk, look for the gallons that have the latest “best by” dates. Sometimes the difference between dates can be three or four days. Generally, whole milk lasts the longest, so the best by dates for that milk will generally also be three or four days past the other types of milk. (And it only has 2% more fat than 2% milk, so the difference between the two really isn’t that big.)
Also know that you can still drink your milk even it is past the best by date—depending on how quickly you get the milk in the fridge after you buy it and how cold you keep your fridge, it could stay good for up to a week beyond the best by date.
You can also freeze milk, and then just thaw it and drink it after you drink your other milk. If you do this, it’s a good idea to open the milk and use about a cup of it before freezing it so that it won’t overexpand when it freezes. That being said, I have frozen it without drinking any of the milk, and it ended up being fine.
If you can tell your milk is getting close to going bad, you can also put it in waffles and other things. We also always keep powdered milk on hand in case we do run out of milk between scheduled shopping trips.
For yogurt, you can safely go a month or more past the best by or sell by date. Same with cottage cheese and sour cream. So you don’t have to worry about those going bad before your next monthly grocery run.
Some types of produce really do not last very long. Strawberries and other berries, such as blueberries and raspberries, are really only good for a few days unless you freeze them. But they do freeze very well. So to have berries after about the first week, wash them when you get home, and put them in zip-top bags or freezer-proof containers. Then stick them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
Bananas generally are good for only about a week, maybe two during cooler months. Apples will last up to a month in the fridge, as will oranges.
Tomatoes can generally last two or three weeks in the fridge.
Green peppers can last up to about three weeks, and onions can last three or four weeks or more. (If you’re brave like we are, just cut off any bad spots if they go past their prime.) Carrots and potatoes can also last a month (you can keep potatoes in the fridge or in any cool, dark place). Broccoli and cauliflower generally last two to three weeks, but they also freeze well, so buy what you would normally use in two weeks, and then double that and freeze that amount so that you can have broccoli and cauliflower throughout the month.
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is also another great way to preserve them, and you can buy a pretty good and inexpensive food dehydrator for less than $50. We love to dry apples, bananas, mangoes, peaches, plums, and sometimes even green peppers and onions with our dehydrator. The dried fruit is about as sweet as candy, and much better for the kiddos. 🙂
Pro tip: Check out this article for the list of cheapest produce and other groceries.
Listed below are examples of items that will (generally) last for a month or close to it, that you don’t need to worry about eating first and can save to eat till later in the month if desired. These are not the only grocery items that can last for a month, but they are some of the most common.
Meat and related items that will last for the month
Lunch meat (unopened)
Hot dogs (unopened)
Pepperoni (as long as the package is resealed after it is opened)
Eggs (as long as they don’t get a crack; they can actually last for a few months in your fridge before going bad)
Dairy products that will last for the month
Milk (can possibly last up to four weeks, if you find the gallons with the farthest out best by date and get it home and in the fridge pretty quickly; you can also freeze it)
Cheese (as long as it is not opened)
Yogurt (as long as it is not opened; sometimes even if it is)
Cottage cheese (as long as it is not opened)
Butter and margarine
Produce that will last for the month
Guacamole (if unopened; also freezes well)
Bread and related items that will last for the month
Bread (if kept in the fridge or freezer; some bread will stay fresh and soft if kept in the fridge, depending on the brand)
Buns (if kept in the fridge or freezer)
Check out these related articles:
7 Simple Steps to Create a Meal Plan to Save Time and Money
100+ Recipes for Cheap Meals to Save You Money and Time!
59 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment
5. Keep bread, bagels, buns, tortilla shells, and so on in the fridge or freezer to extend their life.
If you get the right kind of bread (which does not mean it has to be the most expensive; it’s just those that are soft and stay that way for longer), you can put bread and buns in the fridge and they will still be soft even after a few weeks. So we generally keep out enough bread for a week or two, and the rest goes in the fridge or freezer.
6. Save your frozen and canned fruits and vegetables and meat for the last week or two of the month, and consider using powdered milk.
As I mentioned above, as part of your meal planning when you are doing monthly grocery shopping, plan to eat your fresh meat, dairy, and produce first. Also plan to buy or prepare enough frozen and canned meat, produce, and dairy to get you through the last week or two of the month.
Meat will freeze well for a few months (sometimes up to six months). Hamburger, steak, roast, chicken, turkey, pork, and more all freeze well. Lunch meat and hot dogs freeze well, as do bacon, sausage, and pepperoni.
Also, if you are really committed to monthly grocery shopping, then you may want to consider using powdered milk for your baking and any other needs for the last week or so of the month. If you have young children who do not like the taste of powdered milk, try adding a little chocolate syrup for a fun flavor. Or during the winter, warm it up and add a little sugar or make hot cocoa.
7. Try to stick to just one monthly grocery shopping trip.
To save the most time and money, try to go the whole month without needing to return to the store by following the tips shared above. If you do need to go to the store, try to go just one other time, perhaps two or three weeks into the month. And limit your shopping to just buying milk if you can, or milk and a few produce items.
If it is difficult for you to overcome the temptation to buy more than you planned to during the second mini shopping trip, see if you can send your spouse (if he or she is less likely to impulse buy).
One of the biggest budget categories for most families is groceries, but the awesome thing is that it is also one of the areas where you can save the most money if you choose to! By doing monthly grocery shopping, you really can save a ton of time and money that you can then use for other important things.
Using a simple weekly meal planner printable like the one available above (and sticking to it!) is one of the best ways to be successful at monthly grocery shopping in order to save money on groceries each month.
Learn 7 simple steps for how to create a meal plan to save time and money! And if you are new to meal planning and it just seems overwhelming and you regularly spend more on groceries than you would like to, consider an awesome meal planning service like $5 Meal Plans, where they do all of the planning for you and send you the recipes and shopping lists. And you spend just $5 a month and can then prepare meals that cost less than $5 each! It really is a great service.
Read this article to find more than 50 ideas for how to save money on groceries! And check out more than 100 easy recipes to save you money and time; these easy recipes are ready in 30 minutes or less and cost just $5 or less!
Have you tried monthly grocery shopping? What tips do you have for how to make monthly grocery shopping successful? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Leave a comment below to let me know!
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