How to save money and time at the grocery store and add variety to weekly meals
I find grocery shopping relaxing. I can happily spend hours wandering up and down the aisles.
However, what is not relaxing is reaching the checkout counter after two hours of grocery store
grazing and encountering a $350 grocery bill.
Overtime I have developed habits that help me to save money while eating more interesting
Shop once a week – I save time and money by limiting my trips to the grocery store. It is
inevitable that every time I run in for “just one thing”, I end up with ten items I “had to have”.
Make a list of that’s week’s dinner meals – The night before I do my weekly shopping, I sit at
my desk with a slim 8 x 5-inch notebook that goes with me to the grocery store.
On the top half of the page, I write 4 or 5 dinners I’d like to make in the coming week and on
the bottom half of the page I create a grocery list based on what I don’t already have in my
pantry and need to buy.
What about breakfast and lunch?
Unless there’s a specific dish I want to try, I’m casual about breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, I
keep yogurt, granola, eggs, and bread on hand.
For lunch, I love soups, salads, and sandwiches. I make one soup a week and then shop for
ingredients for salads and sandwiches.
How to create a week’s worth of dinner ideas?
Download and use your grocery store’s app – I use my grocery store app every week to see
what’s on sale and I download digital coupons before I head to the grocery store. Let sales on
meats and produce inspire the next step, finding meal ideas.
Subscribe to favorite food sites for seasonal recipes
There are many paid meal plan apps, such as “emeals” which allow you to choose from a
variety of curated meals. Then the app provides the recipe and a grocery list. Very convenient.
This is a great option for busy families, and you’ll save money by using common ingredients in
two or more meals.
If you have more time and enjoy cooking, subscribe to free (or in some cases paid) newsletters
from your favorite cooking sites. For instance, I’m currently enjoying southernliving.com,
eatingwell.com, and 177milkstreet.com (and mine! Suzanneelizabeths.com)
These websites expand your culinary horizons and encourage you to cook seasonally, which is
another way to save money at the grocery store.
Keep a pantry of staples - A pantry is essential to preparing meals on the fly.
In my case, it’s two shelves of canned beans, tomatoes, tuna, coconut milk, pumpkin, almond
milk and chicken stock in shelf-stable containers.
Rice, dried lentils, couscous, pastas
Butter, eggs, half and half or buttermilk.
Vinegars: apple cider, red wine, white wine or champagne vinegars, balsamic.
Oils: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, grapeseed, coconut, and sesame oil.
Condiments I use frequently: soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, teriyaki marinade, capers,
mayonnaise, mustard, tahini, white miso paste.
Nuts: walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, peanut butter.
Baking: all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, white sugar, brown
sugar, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips.
When a meat, poultry, or fish I use frequently goes on sale, I buy two extra packages and
freeze them (but remember to use them before they get freezer burn!)
Please remember, you don’t need to buy everything at once, build up your pantry over time by
buying a few extra ingredients each week.
Let ingredients do double duty – Create two meals with the same ingredients: The other day I
bought a butternut squash, cut it in half, cleaned out the seeds, rubbed it with a neutral oil
(grapeseed) sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted it, cut side down on a sheet pan, in a
400F oven until the flesh was easily pierced with a sharp knife (about 20-30 minutes depending
on the size of the squash).
Next, I filled one half of the squash with a mixture of crumbled sausage, 4 oz. sliced
mushrooms, ½ diced onion, and ¼ cup dried cranberries, all of which I had quickly sauteed in a
pan while the squash cooked. I sprinkled the stuffed squash with swiss cheese and put it under
the broiler for two minutes until the cheese melted and enjoyed the stuffed squash for dinner.
After dinner, I removed the meat of the other (now cooled) squash half from its skin, placed it
in a medium Dutch oven with the other half of the diced onion, one medium diced apple, and
4-5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Cook until the onion and apple are softened, season
with a pinch of fresh nutmeg, or cinnamon, or curry powder, then blend the soup with an
immersion blender until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a
dollop of plain yogurt.
Stick with your list – Always challenging as I roll by the cookies or chips on sale.
Stick to your shopping list, but also build in wiggle room for a special treat. In my case, that
means dark chocolate always finds a place in my shopping cart.