I love menu planning and grocery shopping. I know I know, that sounds crazy to some of you but I get a big kick out of it. I have a method I've been using for about 6 months and I can't believe how cost effective it is becoming! I typically shop a week at a time depending on how Mr Right's and my paydays fall (some months they fall opposite weeks and some they fall on the same week). So far my greatest success has been feeding my family of four on $38! Yep, that was breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for a week!! I know, crazy right?
My secret weapon? MyFridgeFood.com. Have you checked that site out yet? Oh don't wait any longer! MyFridgeFood.com helps me see what I actually have and saves me a TON of money at the grocery!
I'm going to let you in on my method of madness!! Everything---your going to see what I do step by step! I'm SO EXCITED!!
It takes four easy steps:
- Use MyFridgeFood.com pantry list
- Choose Recipes based on what I already have or which require only purchasing a few ingredients
- Utilize my Menu Planning Board (Shared later in the post)
Step 1: Using MyFridgeFood.com
- Set my laptop, Kindle or what ever tech-y device I'm using, right on the kitchen counter
- Open every food cabinet and pantry door...fridge and freezer as needed. A written pantry list pops up on the front page of the site with an option for a more detailed list!
- Place check marks next to the items I already have in my kitchen. (the food list includes everything! Spices, condiments, etc, and alcohol too)
- Hit that ol' save ingredients and search for recipes button and voila, menu planning at its finest!
Step 2: Choose Recipes
Once I hit that save ingredients and search for recipes button, pages of recipes will pop up! Every recipe is based on the ingredients I already have! Don't have everything a recipe calls for? It tells me that too..down to exactly how many ingredients I'm missing and what they are! There is an option for placing the recipe in my recipe box (registration required, IT'S FREE) and also for adding all the ingredients for that recipe onto a shopping list! Could it get any easier? I don't think so!!
Step 3: Utilize my menu Planning Board
My menu planning technique is really simple. You can download What's for Dinner? here
- I find a recipe on MyFridgeFood.com
- I write the name of it on a mini post-it and attach it to a day of the week. This is very flexible, because I shop for the entire menu so I have all ingredients for every meal.
- I can rearrange as I want or need to. I don't have to have what is on any given day, I can move it around. If I don't feel like maker poppers on Tuesday, I just switch it with another meal.
- I reuse the mini post-its on the dinner menu board and rotate them through, typically a month at a time.
- After I have cooked the planned meal , I simply remove the post-it and stick it inside a small binder I keep on top of the fridge!
- There is also a larger post-it where my family members let me know what they need, even if its not food related....toothpicks, deodorant, etc.
- Wondering what YOYO is on Sunday? Well that is what I call You're On Your Own (YOYO) night. That means you are finding whatever is left in the fridge and fixing your own meal for the evening. It's not always Sunday, Yo-yo depends on how crazy our schedule is and how mama's feeling after a long day at work! :)
- Like what you see? Get it here: WHAT'S FOR DINNER
I also keep a spreadsheet for breakfast/lunch ideas (I have boys and lets face it, if something doesn't jump right out at them, they do not see it!). Posting what's available on the front of the fridge helps them know what's to eat! These items don't change very often, but if I do have something new or different I just put a post-it on the board! So far it seems to be working!
Get a blank one here! It's editable, so make it your own once you download it!!
Step 4: Shop
How does all of this save me money at the grocery? Well, because I have used recipes based on what is already in my kitchen, I only need to buy items I don't have. I am not guessing or trying to remember if I have something. It also means I can really shop the sale ads because I know exactly what I need. I tend to stick with just a few stores. Aldi, Big Lots, and the Dollar Tree (my Dollar Tree just recently added a frozen food section!! LOVE IT!).
Usually between these three stores I can find everything on my list and at lower prices! If by chance there is an item on my list that one of these three stores does not carry, I hit the bigger chain stores but that tends to be very rare!
Big Lots is where I purchase nonfood items because they tend to sell bigger quantities for less. For me this means fewer trips for these kinds of items! BONUS!
The Dollar Tree has become my new fave for some of my frozen foods and refrigerated items. Just this week they were selling medium eggs in packages of eight for $.50! I can also typically find things like cooking sprays, oil, some pasta, and snacks for $1 instead $2 or $3 at most other stores.
Aldi is where the bulk of my food buying takes place. They tend to be lower on things like milk, cereal, fruit and veggies than larger chains. Their meat section is getting better and the cuts are looking really good! I tend to buy fruit very carefully here (it seems to go bad rather quickly). I usually buy it, prep it, and either freeze it or use it right away, but I'm still getting a lower price than at other places!
Well, there you have it! All my secrets to being a frugal grocery shopper! I always get excited on payday because I can't wait to see if I am going to beat last week's grocery bill!
Happy Planning & Shopping,