Monday, May 14, 2012

The BIG Haul: Shopping for a 4 Month Meal Plan

That's right...for once I've was productive on a weekend. I worked most of the afternoon Thursday and Friday and prepped the grocery list and coupon binder for this quarter's BIG shopping trip. And oh boy was it big! Like 3 shopping carts big!! kind of like this, but with one extra cart. Plus...groceries, not just pumpkins. Yes...these are the pumpkins from last year's Pumpkin Massacre. I forgot to take a picture at the store. Give me a break. Use your imagination people.
Last time we did a big plan like this I hoped to be able to provide for meals for about two months. Well...that was on January 29th. We ended up making it 3 1/2 months instead! I lost two tomatoes, a cucumber and a green pepper due to spoilage, the rest made it through. So I wasted about $2. Not too shabby. We also restocked on the dairy and a few produce items during that time. Subtracting out what I spent on a cereal restock trip, we spent an additional $100 on food items during that time. (I got some really good deals that cereal and paid about $1 per box. I couldn't resist the extra trip, but I'm not counting it since we didn't eat it.) This put our overall per meal cost at $1.25. And in case anyone is wondering, we are still WalMart free.

I figured that, since I planned for 2 months and got 3 1/2, I would go ahead and plan for 4 months based on what I had learned. It's a bit of a risky journey, but I'm kind of excited to see how things turn out. I'm going to try a few new things along the way (preparing meals ahead of time for freezing as well as freezing any large batch leftovers when possible for duplicated meals) and I'm trying a boatload of new recipes.

Just a little disclaimer here...a reminder to everyone that we have more space than most for our food items. We have an indoor side-by-side refrigerator/freezer as well as a full sized deep freeze and side-by-side in the garage. Don't attempt this with one fridge/freezer or even a fridge and deep freeze. Trust me. We're packed to the gills around here.

I did things a little differently this time and I'm hoping that it will turn out well. I have been marking recipes using Pinterest and I also gather recipes from Sparkrecipes. I grabbed a bunch of those as well as some home standards and put together the list of recipes I wanted to make.

Once I had my list, I went through each recipe and figured out what ingredients I would need. I just typed them into Word as I went. Once I finished, I sorted them A-Z and paired everything together to get a tally of what I needed.

After that it was off to my favorite part (this is laden with sarcasm)...inventory. I have combined my inventory/coupon binder lists to make things easier. But...again...I did things differently. I took my A-Z list and went item by item, checking things off. Surprisingly, I already had a good majority of the items...minus meat, dairy and produce. I do still have a pile of hamburger left from the November run so that helped out a bit, but it was counteracted by the fact that we blew through all of the chicken that I had. We needed 40 lbs!

With my reduced list in hand, I marked up the coupon binder, highlighting the items we needed. This trip was highly different from my previous runs when I have tailored my recipe plan to the items that I had on hand plus those that were on sale. Luckily, the chicken was on sale, but for the most part I had reasonable prices on everything else. There were a few things we picked up where I paid more than I wanted to and a couple of items were priced so horribly that they were left for later.

This one is from my original series on meal planning and doesn't show the combined inventory/coupon binder, but you get the idea.
It was a crazy haul. It took us over two hours to finish up the list and we ended up with two overflowing carts. Once we processed through checkout we ended up with three fairly full carts. We also ended up with: a GOB of produce, 4 gallons of milk, 6 lbs. of shrimp, 4 lbs. of flank steak, 10 lbs. of pork chops, 10 lbs. of NY steak, and our whopping 40 lb. of chicken. The total was higher than I had planned, but I also hadn't originally planned on that much freaking poultry.

Cart #1 - The meat & cheese cart. Anyone need some chicken?
After we got home, I separated the meats and bagged them. They are stored nicely in the freezer (which by the way is packed).

I don't know...I think we might need more...
I took my list and highlighted each recipe based on how soon the produce would become a problem. Pink for use ASAP, yellow for moderate risk of spoilage, green for mild risk and blue for no fresh produce needed.

I then arranged all of the recipes on the calendar, allowing one "leftovers" day each week as well as blocking out the days where we will be on vacation.

Turns out that I over-calculated. It works out okay since I arranged the calendar based on the expiration of the produce and dairy that I have already purchased. But...instead of getting 4 months that would get us by until around mid-September, my meal plan has us making it until October 15th before we'll need to shop again! This doesn't account for any remnants that I can make into additional meals or the frozen leftovers that I gather along the way.

All in all, we ended up with $700 in food to cover 127 different dishes, not including breakfasts and lunches. Without accounting for any of the frozen leftovers or the remnant meals, this works out to under $2 per meal! That means that our weekly food budget will remain around $40.

I have printed the menu plan calendars and have hung them in the kitchen. I'm hoping to stick to things as closely as possible. I will be taking pictures of our meals daily. I'll be sharing our weekly meals during each Summary Sunday as well as posting the recipes to the blog. (Tonight's meal was Greek Turkey Burgers. They were quite yummy.) Hopefully it will be a good time for everyone. Just don't give me too hard of a time if this doesn't go as planned.

I plan on watching the ads during this period as well. Based on what I learned this time, I'm going to keep my eyes out for the really good deals on nonperishable or freezable things we use a lot of (like chicken...which I got at the lowest price of the year - yay!). If I see something that I know is a low price that doesn't come along very often, then I'll be stocking up as I go in order to plan for next time.

Fingers crossed people! The meal plan!


  1. Very impressive. You should be my mentor. ;)

  2. Good luck! It's a massive undertaking. I used to do Once a Month cooking, but it actually ended up stretching to about three months (yay!). Man, I miss our chest freezer.

  3. Erin - check back with me in 5 months and see if you think I should still be your mentor.

    Jen - Without the big freezer this would be impossible. However, it would be more possible if at some point I emptied and defrosted it...


Other Posts You Might LIke

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
01 09 10 11 12
Blogging tips