Flexing my Meal Planning Guns

5622813470_659c70ddac_bYep, flexing the guns…Okay, so I don’t know this little person but I thought it worked here. (Photo CC-eLLen)

My mission this week was to fine-tune my shopping list for my new monthly meal planning adventure I’ve embarked on.

First note—buying for a month is pretty much impossible. I found that I had to make little trips to the grocery store for more cheese, bread, milk, eggs (the basics that we go through so quickly) and Mountain Dew because that’s a staple in our house too.

Second—the crock pot is a life saver…for real! I found 30 recipes online through Pinterest when I started meal planning last month & the majority were crock pot ones & they are simply A-w-e-s-o-m-e!

I spent quite a pretty penny on my meal planning last month, compared to what I would normally spend, but my cupboards are still pretty well stocked but it’s time for a run to Wal-Mart to get some of the things that we go through quickly.

I was looking for tips to shopping on a budget & I repeatedly found this theme:

  1. Make sure you shop with a list. Don’t even go without a list, it will be a disaster.
  2. Don’t shop hungry—you will go home and say, “Seriously, I bought 4 packages of poptarts…we don’t even eat poptarts in this house!” That’s because shopping on an empty stomach makes everything look good…even stuff that really isn’t that good…unless you’re pregnant maybe.
  3. Don’t grab & toss. Make sure you have a real plan before going to the store. If you try to meal plan as you walk through the store you will buy everything in the store. The average person who just grabs & throws things in their cart spends $30-$50 more than they would if they had stuck to their list. So come on, it’s not dorky, write a list! And stick to it!

My next inkling was to check out bulk vs. single serve shopping. I love bulk shopping because we are at least 30 minutes away from a town with a Wal-Mart so I have a closet made just for my OCD bulk shopping items. I typically go to Sam’s Club & buy my things in bulk. I have compared 4 common household items. I was a little shocked to see some of the results.

Product comparison

Product Sam’s Club Price & quantity Wal-mart price & quantity Deal? explanation
Heinz Ketchup $7.38 for  44 oz. 3 pack $6.52 for 50.5 oz. 2 pack Bulk is better for condiments: By spending an extra $.86 at Sam’s you get 31 oz. more of ketchup & are spending $.05 per ounce.
Cottonelle Toilet paper $35.28 for 48 rolls ($.74/roll) $11.97 for 24 rolls ($.49/roll) Wal-Mart is better for you tp: Better deal is Wal-Mart—you save $.25/roll—that’s HUGE!
Folger’s classic roast coffee $11.48 for 48oz. container ($.24/ounce) $9.68 for 33.9 oz. container ($.29/ounce) Bulk is better for coffee: Sam’s saves $.05 per ounce.
Traditional Ragu Pasta Sauce $7.68 for 3-45oz. containers ($.06/oz) @2.98 for 45 oz. container ($.07/oz) I thought bulk buying would be a huge savings but it’s only one cent/oz.

(I used Walmart.com & samsclub.com for my research here)

This proves that it does pay off for some things to buy in bulk but not always so making a comparison before you enter the store (even though it may be time consuming) is well worth it. But then I have to think—Okay, so yeah, sometimes bulk is a little more expensive but what about going through the Wal-Mart quantity in a month or less, is it worth buying in bulk? That’s one that might be unique to each family. Maybe it’s just peace of mind for me but I would rather pay $7.68 for 3 jars instead of $2.98 for one because when I go through one I don’t have 2 hours to carve out of my day to make a trip to town just for pasta sauce—that wouldn’t even make sense. But I am one of those people who loves a stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry. I was raised that way & having it full makes me happy.  P.s.—I’ll post my monthly meal plan for next month next week…I have a few hours before I go shopping so I’m going to fine tune it.

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10 thoughts on “Flexing my Meal Planning Guns

  1. Your research comes in handy. I used to live in the country and found that I bought in bulk and kept it in the pantry. Now that I live in town I tend to make a lot more trips. Good post.

    • Thanks, there is so much prep that can be done before grocery shopping & can feel overwhelming but it’s good to get started so I’m not spending a fortune on groceries each month. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. I am so glad this is working for you! I have meal planned for a month for the past several years, and it makes life so much easier after the first few months of crazy buying and planning. One tip I would add is save your lists. I found that I tend to buy the same staples every month or two. If you type out your first list, and then add to it for a few months, you will have a master list. I keep my master list in my pantry and highlight what I need so I don’t forget it. It makes things easier and faster in the long run. I can send you mine if that would help you visualize it, in case I did not explain it very well. 🙂

  3. Even though I’m just a college student living in a dorm room, I go through a lot of food (mostly because cross country makes me perpetually hungry), and I’m always trying to save money on food, because, let’s face it, food is much more expensive than I expected it would be. I can easily spend over $100 in one grocery trip, and it doesn’t even seem like I buy that much food! Some of the tips you suggest, such as making a list and sticking to it, are things that I already do, but I found your comparison of bulk vs. regular to be interesting. I often buy granola bars in bulk, because I just eat so darn many of them. Sometimes I wonder if it’s actually cheaper to buy them in bulk, or if it would be more cost effective to just buy two packages of regular ones. Your blog inspired me to check next time I’m at the grocery store. The savings may not be huge, but every little bit makes a difference. 🙂

    • Yes, please do! The comparison was really easy & very helpful. Granola bars would be interesting to see if they were cheaper in bulk or not. I was surprised at the tp comparison– I always thought that buying those in big packages was better but I was way wrong.

  4. I meal plan in the store all the time–and routinely spend gazillions of dollars on groceries. I really like the idea of meal planning for a month. I do it weekly and it seems like it’s happening ALL THE TIME. I saw in your other post how you have the blank monthly calendar printed out with a list of meals. I find it very difficult to organize my recipes too. I have a lot of cookbooks and also online recipes and I need to get the things I actually like to make organized in one place so I can remember them. Thanks for the reminder about crockpots! I need to start cooking with mine more often. Have you started a Pinterest board yet? I need to follow it!

    • I do have a Pinterest board but I had to stop & take the time to write out recipe cards & I spread them out all over the counter & choose my favorites for the meal planning period. I like to find some online, in cookbooks, etc. too so organization became key for me.

  5. I also try to plan meals. I wonder why it is so hard to stick to the plan. However, I will say that years ago when I was using the cookbook, “Cooking once a month,” I found I saved money and always had something ready for supper. I guess the most important reason for planning meals is because it seem the men in our lives generally feel loved when meal planning is a priority. I don’t mean that men expect woman to do all the cooking and cleaning. However, I do think it is important to have a plan. Honestly, the cooking once a month plan is wonderful.

    • I agree. My husband loves having a nice meal ready for him after work. It’s also a way to show that I love him– by filling his stomach each night. It also gives me a reason to meal plan.

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