May 20, 2014

How to Create a Meal Plan || Part Three

This is part three of a three part series on how to create a 
{weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly} meal plan. Today I'll be sharing how I grocery shop and portion certain items. It's been really fun to share all of this with you.
I hope it's been helpful!
Here we go!!!

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia

>> Three Part Series >>

Meal Planning Basics ~ Part One
Creating Your Meal Plan and Shopping List ~ Part Two 
Grocery Shopping, including my real list, budget, and timed shopping trips ~ this post

>> The Basics Review >>

1. Do what works for your family - details in part one

2. Set a food budget - details in part one

3. Organize - details in part one

4. Make a staple shopping list - details in part one

5. Make a skeleton meal plan - details in part one

6. Fill in your skeleton plan with recipes - details in part two

7. Make a shopping list - details in part two

8. Grocery store - this post

9. Put away food, organize - this post

10. Post your weekly plan - details in part one

>> Grocery Store >>

Usually when I've seen posts on meal planning, it's just that, meal planning. I'm including grocery shopping because I feel it's so connected. If you don't plan you won't know what to buy, if you don't buy all the items you need for what you have planned...equal annoyance! To be on a budget, organize, and save time you need to have a system that incorporates all aspects of eating at home. 

I'm working on some templates for doing all this on paper, but give me a couple weeks to have them ready for you. Oh and I'll make them really cute too! 

For the purpose of this post and to show the effectiveness of planning I've timed all my shopping trips. The time is from walking in the door, bought, and bagged

>> Supplies >>

Grocery Store Supplies:

1. Don't be hungry 
  • Danger zone - if I am, I'll buy outside of my list and be grouchy.
2. Shopping list
  • This is on my phone, but a paper list works perfectly!
3. Calculator on my phone
  • Helps you stay on budget.
  • Helps you not impulse buy.
  • No surprises at the check out. 
  • Either start with your budget and subtract OR start at 0 and add to see how much your spending; same thing, just your preference. 
Hint: It you have an iPhone you can double click your home button (the big button on the front of your phone) this is a multitasking feature. Since I use my phone for my shopping list and calculator it makes it super easy to switch between the two, check something off my list, add it to my budget. 

4. Know your budget
  • Cash only is the best way to stay on budget, if you struggle with this.
5. Any store flyers and/or coupons
  • Store Flyer, if you're getting something in the flyer, bring it to make sure you are getting the right thing, stores try to be tricky about this stuff sometimes. 
  • Coupons, I keep my coupons in a three ring binder organized using baseball card sleeves. Those plastic accordion things make me CRAZY and make me want to start throwing all the stuff from the shelves to the floor! They don't stay open, awwww! There's my rant, really it makes me crazy. Then you have to dig through all the coupons to find something or to clean it out, waste of time! Then the lid cracks because you've bent it over so many times trying to get it to open....sorry still ranting. 
  • Even though I've already planned which coupons I'm going to use I take my binder with me. It's happened before where I didn't realize something was on sale and I had a coupon, but only brought the coupons I was using with me, bummer! 
  • I have my binder setup to hold my coupons for me while shopping. Otherwise you're like a juggler in the store -  these are the coupons I'm using, these are the items I'm looking for, these are the coupons of stuff they don't have, wait what was this coupon for?? I needed a system, simple and organized. Here is my binder, it's WAY better, then you just flip the pages. You can see everything at a glance. 

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia
My Coupon Binder
1. Clip for coupons I'm planning on using.
2. Clip for coupons where I've found the item and it's in my cart.
3. Baseball card sheets to store coupons.
4. Labels.
5. Clip for coupons that they were out of.
I'll put those away next time I clip and add new coupons.

7. Reusable shopping bags
  • A lot of stores will give you money off if you bring your own bags. It's much easier too, than having a million bags stuffed under your kitchen sink! 
    • I have a system for this! I use my reusable bags for all stores expect Walmart. Walmart I get their bags because we use those for our garbage bags. It works perfectly! Regular size garbage bags are too big with composting and recycling, so we have a little can with a Walmart bag and take it out every 2-3 days depending on what is in it. Cross that off the budget, free garbage bags! 
Loves: My two favorite reusable shopping bags are from Thirty-One. I have a large thermal I keep all my dairy and frozen items in there. It's big and awesome, really you need this! Then I have a few large totes, they are great for shopping because they hold so much. I put the bags in the cart and fill them as I shop, then the dairy and frozen items stay cool while shopping! I absolutely love these bags, and they're really cute too! I recommend these to anyone who grocery shops.

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia
Thirty-One Fresh Market Thermal $50
Size: Approx. 10.5"H x 15.5"W x 10"D (snapped down);
15"H (when top is expanded)
There are over 5 different patterns to chose
from, this is Navy Wave.

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia
Thirty-One Large Utility Tote $35
Size: Approx. 11.75"H x 21.5"W x 10"D
There are over 20 different patterns to chose from and
you can get it embroidered if you like that.
The bow/scarf is $10, Thirty-One as well. 

A friend of mine is a Thirty-One consultant, I hosted a party and got the Fresh Market thermal for ½ price and got the Large Tote and scarf for free! I love them! They have a lot of good organizing products, but these are my favorites! If you are interested in getting them and you don't know a consultant you can order with my friend, Erin.  You can order online and have the products shipped straight to your house. (To order - click here, then click "place an order", click on the "click here" link under shop online).

Again, I'm not sponsored or get anything for this, I just love sharing great products. Actually the first party Erin went to was a party I hosted last year, because I love these two products so much I thought my friends would as well - how cute is that!

6. Water

>> Shopping >>

Once a month

  • Costco - We go to Costco together the beginning of the month to get whatever is on my Costco list. We also have dinner in the food court area, so that works nicely for meal planning that week. The items we purchase save us enough to cover the cost of membership plus more. 
  • Grocery Store - non perishables and fresh for upcoming week. 
    • Aldi - Huge savings if you have an Aldi by you check it out. (I did a price comparison, I'll post that next month)
    • Walmart - any items Aldi doesn't carry or if Walmart has the brand I like better.
    • Pick n Save - sale or double coupon items, this is why I grocery shop on Wednesday.
    • Penzey's - spices, seasonings, or vanilla.
      • See what stores are close to you, we live in the perfect location for me to go to these stores. I drive on three streets, within 8 minutes of my house and pass all of my stores, love it!

Remaining three weeks 

  • Grocery Store (weekly): Usually one store, I'll pick the store that best fits my schedule and what I need. This is what's great about having a plan and being familiar with your local grocery stores. 

>> Week One >>


Muffins, multi grain bread, ziplock quart, nesquik, coffee beans, tortillas. $43.19 
Sorry I didn't time this one, that would have interfered with my sample eating. 
Budget $300 - $43.19 = $256.81

1st of the Month Shopping List: 

in the door, bought and bagged

in the door, bought and bagged

Pick n Save
in the door, bought and bagged

Aldi: $43.58
Walmart: $51.25
Pick n Save: $24.02
A lady at my husband's work raises pigs and we got fresh bacon, pork chops, and brats! $ 36.00
Total: $154.85
Remaining budget: $256.81 - $154.85 = $101.96

Rest of the Month: 

>> Week Two >> 


Shopping List

in the door, bought and bagged

Yes, we had pork chops two weeks in a row, we had to try the new pork chops out!
This week I went to Sendik's. I had a busy day planned, starting the day at my friends school. She is teacher and every other week I try to go and help her in the classroom. I don't do anything with the kids but think how cute 5 and 6 years old are; I help with paperwork, stapling, hanging stuff, copying paper...that kind of thing. I love going so much! Anyways...on my way home I pass a Sendik's so I went there instead to get these few items. 

Even though my regular stores are close to my house, I drive right pass Sendik's from her school.
Sendik's : $14.11
Remaining budget: $101.96 - $14.11 = $87.85

>>Week Three >>


Shopping List

in the door, bought and bagged

This week I went to Walmart, I over looked the fact that I was out of corn starch for Baked Ziti next week. Also, I needed shampoo and conditioner when I went on my first trip they were out, so I just had a note to check again if I went any other time this month. I could have just changed my menu but I really wanted it and I knew I could get shampoo and conditioner too. 

I post Monday - Sunday, but I shop Wednesday - Tuesday. On Sunday I glance at my meal plan for the next week make any adjustments that are needed, and I'll quickly check my pantry for supplies. Takes me about 5 minutes. Also, there is a second Walmart that is on my way home from dropping my husband at work. Remember I only have a car once a week, so on that day I drop him off and pick him up. 

Remaining budget: $87.85 - $21.16 = $66.69

Stopped at Menard's after church and picked up some Sprecher Grape Soda for a Easter treat to take to my husband's parents house for Easter Lunch, oh man that stuff is delicious!!! 

Remaining budget: $66.69 - $9.00 = $57.69

>> Week Four >>


Shopping List
Aldi and Walmart 

in the door, bought and bagged

in the door, bought and bagged

This week I went to Aldi's and Walmart. I had an errand to run by Aldi, so I went there first. Then our garage door was acting up so we thought we should replace the batteries, didn't think we should wait until next month, so I pickup a few other items from there. 

Aldi's $17.41
Walmart $18.35
Total: $35.76
Remaining budget: $57.69 - $35.76 = $21.93

So I ended the month with a balance of $21.93, awesome! I'll rolled this amount into next month, which is perfect because there were a number of things I needed from Costco for May. 

I hope I've helped you see how much time and money you can save by planning. 

>> Time Saver Tip >>

9. Put away food, organize 

When you get home from the store - portion bulk items into cooking portions and label. Then when you're ready to make them, you can just pull a portion out instead of the whole bulky bag. 
  • Make changes that work for your needs
  • 5lb Ground Beef 
    • Portion to 1lb servings
  • Pork chops - buy on sale or from Costco
    • Portion 3-4 per bag. Perfect amount for dinner and a leftover lunch for the hubby. 
  • Big bag of chicken tenders from Costco 
    • Portion to 6-7 tenders per freezer bag
      • Perfect for dinner - the night before I just pull from the freezer and defrost in the fridge. Perfect amount for dinner and a leftover lunch.  
      • If you marinate, the chicken is already in a bag!
  • I love the frozen organic green beans and corn from Costco, it's a huge bag. 
    • I portion 2 cups per freezer bag.  

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia
1. Ziplocks: Freezer if freezing / regular if not.
2. Scale if you have one, eyeball it, or measuring cups.
3. Labels.
4. Whatever.

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia
What I write on my label:
1. What's in the bag.
2. Date.
3. I also like to add EXP time, I cross
out the month of EXP so I can see at a glance.
Labels ~ Martha Stewart, printed at home
I added the EXP line.

Portion out the bags. 

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia
Try to get out as much air as you can, I
flatten it down to get out the air and better
for storage.

How to create a meal plan! Step by step guide from budget, to planning, to grocery shopping. The Graffitied Gardenia
Store it.
I love the quart size bags because they
fit so perfectly in my freezer tubs.
I have a chicken, pork/beef, vegetables,
fruit. They are shoe storage tubs
Target .95 cents each.
They work great! 

Being organized makes a huge difference in meal planning. Maybe in the future I'll do an end of the month snapshot of my weekly menus and budget with any other tips I come up with. 

Well that's it! 
That's what I do every month!
I hope I've inspired you with something. 

>> Future posts to come in June >>

Cute templates for my system
A tour of my fridge, freezer, pantry, and cupboards
Possible my cost comparison spreadsheet, this turned into a bigger task than expected

Do you have any shopping tips to share? Please put them in the comment section. 
Have a lovely day!!!

{you are beautiful and wonderful made}

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