How I Grocery Shop Once a Month

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How I grocery shop once a month
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How I Grocery Shop Once a Month

I came across a post recently on my budget software website. I thought it was very interesting and I wanted to try it. I tried grocery shopping monthly a long time ago, but this one sounded completely different. Well, I started doing it this way in June 2020 and I really love shopping this way.  I wanted to start this before I retire from my regular job as that is the amount of money I would need for groceries. It may end up being less dependent on when my adult children are home. I changed mine just a little bit different than the YNAB post to suit my needs.

Meal Planning and Primary Grocery Trip

I do my meal planning and one primary grocery trip per month. That means:

  • Fewer trips to the store
  • No grocery budget surprises
  • Fewer leftovers that get thrown out
  • Less stress — The plan that I will always know what is for dinner and will know when to thaw something out.  (I am not always good at thawing stuff out ahead of time).

I will be going into a store for an additional trip to pick up some produce (because as you know produce will not last for an entire month), but I am not going to consider that as “grocery shopping” as it will require no planning and will not take much time at all. It may take me a little longer than most people because I live in a country town versus a bigger town where there are grocery stores around. But, recently that has changed because our local Dollar General now offers fruits and vegetables plus some other items that it did not carry before.

Are you interested in making your meal planning and grocery shopping more efficient? Come on in and we will find out together.

Why I Made the Decision to Start Grocery Shopping Less

It all started when I first read the YNAB post. I was thinking about when and how I will retire and what needs to take place. I have early retired now, so I no longer have a job that just pays for the groceries like when I first wrote this post.  The grocery money now comes from my husband’s check. 

The other reason I decided on How to Grocery Shop Once a Month is I thought there has to be a better way for me to do groceries. I do not shop in the stores much I always do pick-up when I can. I have been doing this for a few years now when it started popping up (prior to COVID). My hope is continually getting better at planning the meals for the month and use up all we have bought. I am sure I will learn a few things as I keep at it.

How It Works

I plan meals for every day of the week. I am allowing one day per week for take-out or meals not eaten at home, but I schedule that in.  It doesn’t mean we will get take out every single week, but it is there if we decide to. I start on the first of the month to start planning my monthly menu. I use an app for other things on my to-do list so I added this to my list as a reminder to plan my meals for the next month. Then, I start building a monthly list of meals that my family wants to eat for the next month.

I now use a Google Calendar to write down all my menus. The best part about this I can enter Tacos and schedule to have them pop up again in 3, 6, or 8 weeks.  Sometimes, I end up with more than one menu item on a day, but this way it is real easy to move around.

Make the Grocery List

I shop at Walmart, Meijer, Kroger and Aldi for the most part. I create my shopping list by having both sites up at the same time. This is important because I check to see which price is better and since COVID-19 I have to see which store has the item I want. I also have a printable I post on my refrigerator when we run out of things. Sometimes I will go ahead and add it to the grocery app when I am thinking about it.  If you didn’t know Walmart now has an option to save it for later now.  I really like this feature.

Order Online

Once I’ve got my grocery items entered, I check the list to make sure I have added everything I would want. I go through my menus and things we ran out of to make sure that is everything. I go through what we eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and beverages. I, also think of our paper items that we would possibly need. I will also get the fruit and vegetables that we will probably eat for the next couple of weeks. Before I place my order, I make sure the price is where I need it to be. If I am over I go through to see what I can remove. There is always next time, right?

Pick Up Groceries

On the first or second Friday of the month, I will pick up our groceries.  I do not like to do groceries the same week as payday week, so sometimes it changes when paychecks change weeks. If you have delivery available you could go that route also. I also order at walmart.com or amazon.com for things as well. The day I go pick up groceries we usually have something simple to make for dinner. I just found out that GFS (Gordon Food Service) now offers curbside pick-up now, so that will be another go-to to get groceries as well.  They are in a different town than I do my regular shopping, so it will have to be planned for a different day.

Quick Replenishing Grocery Shop

Once our fridge and freezer are full, we plan on going to a local market or two a couple of times during the month for fresh produce, eggs, bread, and dairy plus other things we may have run out of that is a must-have.  These stops do not take as long to prepare a list for like the primary grocery shopping day.

In our grocery budget I set-up in YNAB, a category group called Groceries. I don’t always spend the maximum every month on the items below. Then, I have 4 category lines:

  1. Walmart Online: $70/month
  2. Monthly Walmart or Meijer Grocery Shop: $300-$350/month
  3. Monthly Kroger or Aldi Grocery Shop: $100/month
  4. Grocery replenishing (for quick market trips): $75/month

These all end up totaling about $300 – 600 per month, depending what we need that month.  It also depends on our activities as well. You can reorganize the above items in any way you like.  You could also add other types of stores you would like to use.

Benefits of Once/Month Grocery Shopping

I don’t love grocery stores, and I don’t love grocery shopping. I’m not a person who loves to stay there all day and browse through the aisles. That is why I now do grocery pick-up for the most part.

For me, there are three huge benefits to grocery shopping once a month:

Flexibility

I can easily swap one meal for another in my meal plan because I have so many choices! If the weather is nice and we want to grill, I can swap burgers or hot dogs and know I have everything we need.

Control Over Grocery Spending

When you grocery shop online, you see exactly how much your total will be. If things get a little crazy in your online cart, you can easily remove an item or rethink a meal to drop the total cost.

Time

I spent quite a bit of time the first time I did this new way of shopping to meal plan, order, and pop into the other markets for extras that we run out of. The last couple of months went a lot easier since I had done it before.  I still will make adjustments from time to time. I am sure many people might spend that much time each week on groceries and meal planning. Here’s how I have broken it down per month (as of right now):

  • 2-3 hours: meal planning and ordering groceries
  • 1 hour: picking up my orders from Walmart, Meijer or Kroger
  • 30-45 minutes: replenishing groceries we need for the remainder of the month.

Our Setup

My goal when I first started this new plan was to spend about $500/month for my family of four on groceries. Now, it fluctuates as my daughter doesn’t live here anymore and my son isn’t always here as he works nights. Sometimes, my daughter and her boyfriend or my son’s friends are over which will include that in the plan also. We eat a variety of different foods that we will eat over the month.

I plan to end up with the fridge, and/or freezer empty, and our shelves to be nearly bare. On the upside, I hope we decrease what we throw away in regards to produce or stale/expired food and to virtually eliminate our food waste for our family. I am hoping this setup will make grocery shopping smoother and tastier. We did manage to get everything into the fridge and freezer without buying too much. It is hard to estimate that you will have room for everything you have purchased.

I know that reducing your grocery budget will be a slow process. The people of YNAB love to talk about how you spend your money is truly unique to your family! I agree with them on that! It all depends on the number of people you’re feeding, the area you live in, your eating habits, etc. All of those things will factor into your grocery budget.

How do you grocery shop? Do you shop weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly? I would love to hear how you grocery shop!

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