Growing up, my parents were extremely conservative with their money. It wasn’t that they didn’t have much, it was just that they lived by Dave Ramsey’s mantra: “Live like no one does today so you can live like no one does tomorrow.” Translation: Save your money now so you can have fun with it later when all your friends are still working because they didn’t save.
Sure, our dining room didn’t have a table in it for years (or anything else for that matter — my folks didn’t feel a table was a priority at the time). But my parents were always very cognizant of the money they spent and how they spent it. One of the ways they saved was by grocery shopping infrequently. And by infrequently, I mean that my mom would go to the grocery store once a month.
Once a month, y’all.
On that monthly shopping day, my mom would go to the local BJ’s-type club store, stock up on the things she planned to need for the month, and somehow (miraculously) stash it away at home and ration it so that it *actually* did last the whole month.
Impressive as that was, as a kid I was not a fan of this practice. This type of shopping regiment meant that all the good things went first. You could always count on the chips and cookies being devoured within a week… tops.
It also meant that things like milk and bread were frozen, so if you noticed the milk was almost empty or a loaf of bread had only a handful of slices left, it was your responsibility to get the replacement from the freezer and start the thawing process.
Should you forget and the bread or milk would run out prior to the thawing of the frozen items, cereal would be eaten dry and there would be no sandwiches or bread and butter that day.
Fast forward to my adulthood, and I find myself doing the same thing as my mom. Kind of. The only difference between her and me is that I go grocery shopping every two weeks (mainly because my husband and son are garbage compactors with never-ending appetites).
I realized early on that going to the grocery store on a daily/weekly/several times per week basis was dangerous. Not only did I walk out spending WAYYY more than planned (sometimes you just need those five pints of Halo Top ice cream, amiright?), I also walked out with foods that were not part of my ongoing diet goals (chips, a Snickers bar, etc.).
So, I started doing what Mom did. I pulled out a calendar, started meal planning, and then, because I had a meal plan on paper, I made a list of all the items I would need for the next two weeks’ meals.
Of course, the list also included other household necessities, like toilet paper, ketchup, cleaning products, and 572 boxes of cereal (because my family REALLY likes cereal).
What happened was amazing. I not only felt prepared for dinner prep each day, I cut my monthly grocery bill by about 25%. Also, my kids stopped asking me, “What’s for dinner?” on a three-times-a-day basis, because guess what? It’s on the calendar.
Now, you may be wondering, what about veggies and fruits? How do you feed your family fresh veggies and fruits if you only shop every two weeks? Wouldn’t they go bad?!
Before you get all judgy, yes, I do feed my family fresh fruits and veggies — most of the time. I plan for the consumption of those at the beginning of the two weeks, then I plan dinner recipes that may not need as many fresh veggies (read: I use frozen or canned vegetables) toward the end of the two weeks. Since my kids like to snack on fruits and veggies, I run out quickly. Luckily, I live across the street from an amazing farm store, so that’s super easy to visit. BUT to stretch it just a few more days, I often freeze grapes, strawberries, bananas, etc., and have the kiddos snack on them. It’s quite festive!
I know what you’re thinking: “That is WAY too much planning — I don’t have time for that.” Sister, let me tell you, you don’t have time not to do that. Trust me, meal planning and bulk grocery shopping are the keys to having more time in your busy, busy life.
Granted, you may look like you’re taking those groceries home to a house of 15 children when you’re checking out at Market Basket. But it really does feel quite good to get all those groceries home and stocked away, knowing you won’t have to go again for another 13 days.
So, kudos to Mom, who knew exactly what she was doing when she meal planned her heart out and grocery shopped like a pro even when we kids complained. If it weren’t for her, I might still be running to Target every other night for a gallon of milk and coming home $60 poorer… with no gallon of milk.