Here’s How Our Most Organized Team Member Meal Plans & Shops 3 Stores to Save Hundreds
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Hi there! I’m Amber, one of Collin’s sidekicks.
While I pride myself on being a very organized and meticulous person, meal planning and grocery shopping are literally the BIGGEST PAIN POINTS in my personal life.
I do make sure dinner is always on the table (in one way or another), but I feel like I am always struggling. I either end up making the same things every week, struggle to find the time to try new recipes, or get too lazy and end up ordering out when I have a full fridge. And now that I have a newborn, I’m really hoping I figure it out eventually.
Here are some simple ways I make my life easier when it comes to getting dinner on the table with minimal effort…
Plan groceries 2 weeks out at a time.
When I do meal plan, I try super hard to do two weeks at a time. Obviously, it does not always work out that way, but after lots of trial and error, I’ve found that this timeframe usually works best for my family. I have a solid list of meals that I know we love (and are easy to make), so I usually try to plan from my “approved meal list” – because let’s get real… I work full time, try to have a personal life, and take care of my family. I simply don’t have the time to cook up new recipes every night of the week, so I instead try to make new dishes on the weekends.
Shop for all grocery purchases on the same day.
Basically what I try to do is look at my planner and see what we have going on for the next two weeks. I’ll see how many nights we’ll need dinner at home, what nights we might need something quick, planned dinners out, etc. Then I start making my shopping list for ALDI, my local grocery store (Giant), and then Sam’s Club, and I work to hit them all on the same day.
I try to get the bulk of it all at once to cut down on trips, but little things come up that warrant an extra trip. What also helps to warrant an extra trip – my local grocery store has a Starbucks inside, so sometimes I am there more frequently than I should be. 😬
Buy quality for the products that matter most to you.
I LOVE shopping at ALDI since the store size is manageable and they’re so budget-friendly… BUT they usually don’t have a bunch of name brand stuff that I’m particular about, so I still go to my local grocery store for the things that I am a bit picky about.
For example, I’m kind of a meat snob (is that a thing?), so I always buy my lunch meat, chicken, and other proteins from my local grocer. Also, I really value my coffee, so I never cheap out on that — especially when it’s pumpkin spice season!
Another reason I split up my shopping is to save some money. I usually go to ALDI for all my basics, my local grocery store for all the products I can’t get at ALDI, and Sam’s Club for all the stuff I usually buy in bulk. On average, I spend about $350-450 a month on groceries, and this is for my sweet little family of three (although my baby is still just on milk and not eating food yet).
The crazy thing is I actually started tracking how much we spend on groceries, and when I don’t go to ALDI during the month, I’m spending closer to $500-$600 on groceries. 😱 So, although I hate grocery shopping, the savings of close to $200 a month to shop multiple stores is SO WORTH IT!
Make every Friday “Pizza Friday”.
Even though our weekly schedule can vary, Friday nights are always reserved for a pizza night. We either order out, cook a frozen pizza, or make our own pizzas on the grill. It just makes my life easier having one less day to plan for.
Try to meal prep on Sundays.
When Sunday rolls around, I try to do a little meal prep to make my life easier for the week ahead. This means cutting fruit and veggies and prepping reheatable meals in Tupperware containers for my husband’s lunch for the week.
But insider secret — this only happens on a perfect week. Unless my schedule on Sunday is completely free, I’ll forgo the meal prep only to repeat this vicious cycle another week.
You might be wondering where my husband is in all of this. Let me just say that I love my husband, but he cannot cook. He does make a banging grilled cheese sandwich and helps with grilling during the summer, so he’s still involved in the process now and then. But his main contribution to dinnertime? He does an awesome job of cleaning up dinner, which is a great tradeoff because I am a messy cook. 🤷
Embrace the slow cooker.
But the mess really doesn’t stop at just my cooking. I just had a baby about five weeks ago so my whole house at dinnertime can be a bit of a disaster — and I am lucky if I eat my food warm. I keep him in a baby carrier strapped to me in order to get anything done! Since my hubby is a big hunter, I’ll basically just have slow cooker meals for myself from October-November.
Befriend helpful kitchen tools.
Honestly, I don’t know where I would be without my slow cooker sometimes. The set it and forget it mentality makes cooking a breeze! Some of my other favorite kitchen tools are my USA pans (food seriously never sticks!), food chopper, meat chopper, and vacuum sealer. My favorite cookbooks include 100 Days of Real Food and the Magnolia Table Cookbook — seriously, who doesn’t love Joanna Gaines! I also use the Emily Ley Meal Planning Binder to help keep all things meal planning organized.
For me, the benefit of taking the time to plan out our weekly meals is having a sense of organization and preparedness. It also prevents us from eating out more than anticipated and tossing away wasted food (aka our hard-earned money!) in the trash can. I work for a money-saving website after all!
When in doubt, order Chick-fil-A 🍗.
I’m predicting the next few months will continue to be a bit chaotic, but I’m looking forward to getting back to a “normal” dinnertime — I value it so much! My husband and I both grew up in households where most nights we sat down at the dinner table, ate yummy food, and caught up on our days as a family. So, we’re trying really hard to replicate that, but it’s okay for the time being that it’s not picture perfect each night. Until then, pass that Chick-fil-A takeout bag my way. 😋