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Trying to go grocery shopping less

I notice my wife and I go grocery shopping 2-3 times a month and still having nothing really to show for it. We constantly go out for dinner and eat lunch at subway or somewhere similar. We are newly married and would just like to see what everyone else is using as a grocery list so we can go once or twice a month and have plenty of food. We usually shop at the base commissary so you can't really coupon there to hard. Thanks in advance!


  • IMO the key is to first plan out what you like to cook and eat, then work on buying the supplies so they will always be on hand for the month. Not that I always do that, but it works so well when I do!
  • Have a good pantry/fridge with staples:
    Canned tomatoes
    Tomato sauce & paste
    Condensed soups like cream of mushroom
    Canned beans - white and black
    Rice - white and brown and risotto
    Chicken stock
    Pasta - many types
    Pasta sauces - you can doctor them up very easily
    Eggs - TONS of stuff you can do with eggs! (eggs really last for weeks)
    Cheese - grated cheese in the fridge - a bag of cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan
    Potatoes & onions & garlic (fresh)
    Basic selection of dried herbs and spices:
    Italian blend
    Chili blend
    Herb de Provence
    Garlic Powder (NOT salt)
    Onion Powder (NOT salt)
    Olive oil
    A good pepper and salt grinder set

    In the freezer:
    Always have a whole chicken (you can roast it whole, cut it up in pieces for the grill, or make soup)
    Ground sirloin (burgers, meatloaf, pasta sauce, meatballs.....)
    Bread (it freezes really well)
    Frozen veg assortments (so crazy easy to pop in the microwave after a long day)

    Now --- top six things you must know how to do:

    Cut up a chicken into pieces
    Make chicken stock
    Make an omelette
    Make pastry
    Saute onions
    Roast a chicken

    If you can do these basic things, you can use those skills to make so many other things. If you can make stock, saute onions, cut up a chicken, you can make a chicken pie, or chicken soup. You can use the same skills to make beef stew, or a meatloaf. If you can make an omelette, you can make dinner or breakfast! If you can roast a chicken, you can entertain and have company, or have a wonderful weekend meal.

    With a good stocked pantry, you then only need to run to the grocery for fresh items like salad, veg, a nice fancy bakery bread, or milk.

    As far as shopping on a routine basis - you need to make a list of what you really like to have during the week. What are your work schedules like? Do you get home early enough to make a meal, or do you come home totally exhausted, late at night, and need something there for you to brainlessly eat so you can collapse? ---hey, it happens to most of us!! If that's the case, then you might want to take some time on the weekend to make some freezer meals that can easily go in the oven when you get home and be prepared with very little prep. Do some Google searches, there are a zillion ideas out there for you!

    I'm personally not into meal planning, but there are some couples who swear by it. I have no way of knowing on Sunday what I'm going to want to eat on Wednesday, so it doesn't work for us. But you might want to try it, it could work for you!

    You will come into your own with regard to cooking - it takes time when you are newly married to get into a routine, learn what you both like, what you both excel at in the kitchen, and what just doesn't work for you.

    Give it time - but do try to get into a routine of ONLY going out to eat once a week so you are not feeling deprived. Make your lunches the night before, do it together as a together thing, so you are not tempted by fast food.

    You will get there, but it does take planning and organization.

    Good luck!! :-)
  • I feel ya! I just moved into my first real apartment a couple months ago and I feel like I have nothing to show for $80 worth of groceries. I am not good at meal planning very far ahead so while I usually try one or two new dishes a month, they usually require special trips to the store for ingredients.

    Since I am unmarried and usually only feeding myself, I tend to eat a lot of breakfast foods for dinner like cereal or omelets. However, I like to keep a few staples around to make "fancier" things when I am feeling up to it or have guests. Pasta (and sauce), rice, chicken & fish, (frozen), and a few canned or frozen vegetables is usually all I need to whip up something worthy of being considered a meal. Try to keep things around that you know how to cook with. If you and/or your wife have a few "signature" dishes - those ingredients should always be in your kitchen!
  • SamanthaFabrisSamanthaFabris Farmington Hills, MI
    My husband and I try to cook more for dinner. It's just the two of us, and we try to cook enough that there's 4 servings so we can take the extras for lunch the next day to stop us from eating out at work (saves so much money!). We also try to do salads with dinner a lot, so there's more of the main course left over.

    We've started doing a lot of crockpot recipes because they're easy and make multiple servings. Plus, your ingrediants go a lot further rather than buying a lot of packaged meals.

    I agree with @miller8786 having a lot of the basics that can be cooked multiple ways.
  • We've been using eMeals for the past year. They tell me what to cook and what to buy - we're not picky, so it's really easy!

  • There are tons of recipe and meal planning ideas online and on Pinterest. Don't pressure yourselves to go from no meal planning to having three meals a day planned out for the next month. I've started planning two to three meals/week and then make grocery lists based off of those recipes, plus whatever we typically eat for breakfasts and snacks (I usually have a smoothie, hubby has oatmeal and eggs). Once you get into the routine planning a couple meals, you can decide if you need to plan more meals or if that's a good number for you. There are lots of different ways to plan and prep meals, different systems/binders, etc. Don't be afraid to try something new and if one thing isn't working for you then try something else.
  • edited November 2013
    I'm with the others -- having a meal plan is really essential!

    We eat the same breakfast every day, and the same lunch (for DS; DH and I do intermittent fasting, which means we eat two meals in a day).

    We are paleo, and so we basically eat everything in a week. So we go shopping once a week. We hit 5 stops: food co-op, farmer's market, trader joes, and costco (where we also buy our gas).

    We get:

    Co-op --

    5 dozen eggs
    ground beef (local, grass fed)
    herbs (bulk herb section is awesome)
    juicing veggies/fruit (kale, cilantro, celery, lemons, ginger, green apples)
    sweet potatoes

    Trade Joes --

    2 lbs fish (cod)
    brussels sprouts
    roobois chai tea

    Farmer's market --

    organic, free range chickens
    squash (butter nut, acorn, spaghetti)
    local honey*
    steak or good cut of beef
    liver for pate

    Costco --

    4 six-lb bags frozen berries (organic)
    1 six-lb bag frozen broccoli/cauliflower blend (organic)
    coconut oil (organic)*
    olive oil (organic)*
    canned, stewed tomatoes (organic)*
    canned, tomato paste (organic)*
    nuts (walnut, almond, pistachio, pecan)*
    pumpkin seeds*
    wild-caught smoked salmon

    Ordered online: organic raw cacao powder, organic gelatin, supplements*

    * these are things that we don't get every week, but are part of the pantry.

    For breakfast, DS and I have eggs and green juice. DS has frozen veggies plus yogurt and his cod liver oil after his eggs/green juice course. DH has smoked salmon, steamed veggies, and some raw crackers (made with nuts, seeds, kale and herbs).

    For lunch, DS has liver pate, cut veggies and fruit, raw crackers.

    For snacks, we have options: pate and raw veggies/fruit/crackers; nuts and fruit; dinner left overs.

    For dinners, we have chicken (2x wk), fish (3x wk), or beef (2x wk). Then we just have various veg -- whatever we want from what we have around. This meal comes with a cup of home made bone broth, too.

    One of the beef meals is a tomato-meat sauce over spaghetti squash, usually with a side salad of some kind (warm salads in winter). The other beef meal is usually a steak. So, that one and all the others just have the veggies in a "wahtevee veggie we feel like" process. And twice a week, we have sweet potatoes (usually on a "fish and chips" night, and then on a chicken night as well).

    DH seems to be having a reaction to eggs, so he's been having salmon instead of eggs for breakfast, and sometimes liver pate as well.

  • I find it so much easier to just make the same thing every week. The shopping list is a no-brainer and I don't have to be to too creative when I get home from work. All these meals can be made in less than 30 minutes. My husband and I eat the same menu during the week and then mix it up on the weekend:

    For breakfast: oatmeal or greek yogurt with almonds and honey

    For lunch: Salami sandwich with sandwich thins, a baked sweet potato and celery with peanut butter

    Monday: Burrito Bowl: Quinoa or rice, a handful of greens or spinach, 1 can of black beans seasoned with cumin and smoked paprika, and a dollop of salsa if we have it or greek yogurt.

    Tuesday: Butter Chicken - Pioneer woman's recipe

    Wednesday - Frozen fish with a frozen vegetable

    Thursday - We go out for happy hour at a local bar

    Friday - Frozen pizza

    On the weekends - we will make a larger breakfast with eggs, etc. Generally have sandwiches for lunch and then look at what we have in the fridge/freezer and figure out dinner.

    Once a quarter - I cook a pork shoulder in the slow cooker - just salt and pepper and then dump in a 2 liter of root beer. I then portion it into 1 lb segments and we use that for pulled pork tacos or sandwiches on the weekend.
  • All of the ladies in my family have learned to plan meals every week (or even a whole month) and shop for the supplies needed for specific recipes. It helps to do this, especially if you coupon and can plan your meals around the discounts you find.

    My absolute most favorite meal planning calendar (because it's so pretty) is by 1canoe2. It may require you to sit down for a half hour, but it's worth it when you consider your gas, time, and money saved down the road.

    I'm working on designing my own to add a row for snacks!
    Also, I like to freeze ingredients. Cook ground beef with seasoning and freeze it by the pound; chop your most used vegies and freeze by the 1cup serving. This not only reduces the amount of trips to the store, but it allows me to take advantage of coupons and spend LESS time prepping food on week nights.

    Cooking for two isn't very easy, but if you Google some freezer-friendly recipes, you will find some great stuff! Check out this post from Pioneer Woman!
  • aforceinsideaforceinside Kansas or Europe, depending on the day
    You might try having theme nights like every Monday is Italian (or mexican, chinese, etc.) night- try different recipes each week. Have another couple or two come over those themed nights and brings sides- veggies, rice, bread, salsa & guacamole, crab rangoons, etc.- (and wine, if you are so inclined). Suddenly your night is a little more fun but also well planned. You save some by not needing to cook everything and usually your friends just leave their leftovers with you- Chinese all week! whoop!!. Just remember to get their dishes back to them. ;)
  • hst0mhst0m Cincinnati
    I've tried the planning thing a couple of times and I'm not very good at it. I try to go to Sam's club every couple weeks and get a couple bulk things. I always have rice, noodles, chicken, bread (one for freezer & one out), and cereal as well as toilet paper & paper towels. Recently getting spaghetti sauce, ground beef, and some kind of frozen veggie in bulk.

    I use those bulk items as a base and then go to the regular store for more fill-ins (veggies, snacks, etc). Also, there are times that I'm out shopping and we're craving some kind of meal so I buy it in double (i.e. red beans and rice with sausage, buy two or three times the amount as normal and then store the rest for a later date). I generally only go shopping every Saturday morning (go early and get it over with) or every other week.

    I think one thing that is really helpful for me is making sure I have my breakfast and lunches already purchased or a leftover planned so that if we are going out a lot, it is just for dinner.
  • TomRobTomRob Cannon AFB
    Thanks for all your great suggestions. I think what I'm going to do is have a theme night every day of the week and leave saturday or sunday up to whatever is left in the fridge.
  • Great idea, TomRob. I just started "taco tuesday" last year and it has been easy & fun. I make my own seasoning and just keep the ingredients on my regular list. Then if I'm feeling fancy I can easily change up the monday night protein (fish, chicken, pork) and use the leftovers for fish tacos, chicken fajitas, carnitas, etc. I can also throw in a fun add-in if I remember (avocados, mexican cheese, fun salsa) but I know I'll always have ground beef, cheese & tortillas on hand on the weeks when i just need to get-it-on-the-table.
    Good luck!
  • MigonisHomeMigonisHome Manchester-by-the-Sea
    TomRob, I was sort of the same as you and always came home from the grocery store forgetting things so I made this grocery list / meal planning sheet printable that was divided by the areas of our grocery store so it was easier not to forget stuff. Hope this helps! Jen from Migonis Home
    Meal Planning Grocery Shopping.pdf
  • adiantumpedatumadiantumpedatum Gilbertsville, NY
    One thing to bear in mind-- these things take time to learn! Learning how to run an efficient kitchen is something that took me five or so years to really get down: the meal planning, the list-making, the staples. The biggest thing is figuring out what your "style" is-- are you constantly wanting to try new Thai dishes, buy exotic pantry items, buy loads of fresh produce? Those are the things most likely to send you running back to the store again and again. If you keep your meals varied but simple, you'll limit the number of different pantry items you need, go shopping less, and save money. For an example, I used to use twenty or so different ingredients in stir-fry sauces: mirin, soy sauce, sherry, rice vinegar, shoyu, peanut butter, hoisin sauce, etc. Then I found one stir-fry sauce I really really liked, kept the soy sauce, sherry, and peanut butter, ditched the rest (which I wasn't using in any other dishes anyway) and was happier. Hope this helps!
  • Everyone's right: it takes time and practice to get good at this!

    Here's what I do. I keep a nice leather journal in my backpack (I make sure it's nice so I don't lose it, forget it, or go without it). I'll divide a page into two columns. In the first column, I make a list of meals I'd like to make* or my family has requested. In the other column, I list the items for that meal that I need to get in order to make it. At the bottom of the page, I list items that I need to restock the pantry with, or basics that we need often.

    Not to complicate things, but if it's just the two of you it's worth including some good freezer bags to your shopping list. If you're easily bored with leftovers, it's time to learn how to include freezer cooking in your repertoire so that you're not throwing leftovers away and you can warm them up a couple weeks later when you have a busy night.

    *I do try to include one new recipe at least every other week or so (and sometimes more often), just to keep things interesting. If it goes over well, we try it again another day. If not, I scrap the idea. This is a good way to try out seasonal produce that's on sale. YMMV.
  • Women's Day Magazine has a monthly menu plan - with recipes! They're great about making "planned leftovers" where you cook 2x the meat on one night and re-use it another night to save time (and save leftovers).
  • mama4mama4 wisconsin
    I will say good for you! I wish I would have stopped some of the eating out and been more thrifty when I was younger. I've tried lots of things and this is what currently works. Keep in mind I have kids and they also eat quite a bit. A trip to mcdonalds is over $50. I only go shopping once a week. On the same day every week. I try to mostly only buy what I need. I don't like storing lots of food in the pantry or fridge. I make a plan for the week using my local grocery stores ad for what is on sale. I do not like stores like SAMs the huge quantity and sizes are terrible to store. Each week I feed my family 2-3 cheap meals that are always cheap and they keep costs down. Two of these are spaghetti and quesadillas. I love cooking and value healthy eating but really I also want to save and live simply. I do like aldi or trader Joes too. The other meals I try to make from scratch and have built up twenty or so favorites that we use depending on what meat/veggies are on sale. I do try to have a few convenience items as just in case. Like I'm running late or dinner is a flop. This way I'm not forced to eat take out.
  • EvelinaEvelina Hamilton, ON, Canada
    My husband and I only go grocery shopping once a week - on Sunday night. It's a pretty stern rule in our house. We sit down and make a rough list of dinners for the next week. We don't assign exact days for those dinners, we just plan to have each one sometime that week. We have about 10 or so meals that we are pro at making and that are fairly simple/fast. Then, off of that list, we write down the ingredients that we are missing to make that week's dinners. We fill in the gap with breakfast options (bread (which we freeze), oatmeal packets, yogurt, berries for smoothies) and lunch options (I like bringing a can of soup with me to work). Also, we often try to make our dinners so there is enough for leftovers to take as a lunch the next day. Husband loves pizza so we usually order that once a week for pick-up. We allow ourselves (it's just the two of us) $130 for ALL food purchases (groceries, take-out, coffee, etc) but we are usually around the $100 mark.
    Sorry about all the rambling.
    Summary: plan ahead and stick to that plan!!
  • mwoodsmwoods Minnesota
    I wrote a three part series to saving money on groceries at
    The first post is about over-all saving tactics:
    The second is about coupons:
    And the third is about tips for saving in the store:

    I hope these help you!
  • My friend has had good luck using I want to try them but they aren't in my area! The food gets delivered to them so they are forced to make it every night rather than go out to eat and waste money. My friend sent me a promo code you could use for $30 off. 65336e
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