I have a confession that may surprise you. I do the majority of my grocery shopping in one big trip each month. After formulating my monthly meal plan, I make a list of freezable and shelf-stable food items I will need, including meat, veggies, bread and canned goods. These items are purchased during my monthly trips, with quick weekly follow up trips to replenish fresh produce and dairy items only.
The general consensus among meal planners is that weekly shopping yields the best bargains, because we are able to take advantage of store sales, and plan our meals around them. But for me, this leaves too much room for complacency. There is always at least one week every month that is super-busy, leaving the possibility for sloppy (or non-existent) meal planning. These weeks will invariably mean more convenience foods and take-out. So even if I am on the ball for 3 out of 4 weeks, I would blow my budget on my busiest weeks.
With monthly shopping and meal planning, this trap is eliminated. I have my plan, and most of my components for every single meal. All I need is 30 minutes or so to run out and grab my perishables and I am good to go. Since I am spending less time in the store, I am spending less money too. Overall, monthly shopping has led to a more strict food budget, bigger time savings and healthier meals for my family.
If you’d like to learn more about my meal planning techniques – including how I organize my freezer, you can pick up a copy of my book Operation Dinner – How to Plan, Shop & Prep for Easy Family Meals. It includes my complete meal planning system with over 75 recipes, including shopping lists.