Shopping Methods

Somehow, I made it to adult life with no cooking skills whatsoever. I am pretty good at toast, and brownies, and I can make a mean rice and tuna mix - but meals escape me. I pretty much lived on frozen dinners and Tuna Helper when I was on my own for a year and a half - and I ate out way too often. (I was fed occasional homecooked meals by dear friends, which I much appreciated.)

Enter husband, and suddenly I realize that he doesn't enjoy Lean Cuisine as much as I do! So I have set out to change my eating and cooking habits to benefit the entire family. Recently, we decided to split the tasks so that I would do the meal planning and shopping, and Paul does the cooking. This works out well because he gets off work at 3 (much earlier than me), and also he is less terrified of cooking than I am. Also, Paul works on Saturday mornings so I use that time to menu plan and then do my weekly shopping trip.

I recently discovered which has helped immensely in planning the menu! Previously, our meals had consisted of what we knew how to make: tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, hamburgers, and grilled chicken. However, now that I'm not doing the cooking and I have at my fingertips a quickly-searchable database of recipes, we are branching out with the meals we eat. I also like the feature of being able to do a shopping list based on the recipes I've selected. All I have to do is transfer the list to my PDA and off I am to the store! I must admit shopping for unfamiliar foods like this requires many phone calls to my mom. I am pretty ignorant about a lot of things - like what fresh parsley looks like, for example. Or that you can buy refrigerated pre-cooked noodles (who knew??). But in the end I'm able to get everything and we eat happy for a week.

This little story does have a point! Recently Crystal at Biblical Womanhood has featured a series of posts about Supermarket Savings. This series has been challenging me a lot about the amount of money I spend on food. To be honest, I just buy what looks good and don't worry about the price too much. But I know that is the wrong, wrong way to do it, especially if my goal is to pay our loans off early! I know that I can't get too ambitious with couponing, etc. because I just don't have the time with a full-time job, but it seems that there should be a happy medium of saving and still having evening time to spend with Hubby.

So I am curious how our other readers approach grocery shopping. Do you plan your menus first and then shop, or do you plan your menus based on the food that you have already bought? Do you plan your menus around sales? What's the most effective way for you to stay in budget when grocery shopping?

For further reading, I recommend Crystal's posts: part 1 (planning shopping trips), part 2 (example shopping trip), part 3 (meals), part 4 (tips), and part 5 (couponing for beginners).

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  1. Joanna said...
    I had much the same experience- my mom & sister took over cooking growing up, so I stayed out of the kitchen. Even during my senior year at Taylor, I relied way too much on the Grille for eating, and only experimented cooking occasionally- I settled for solely rice for dinner too often I'm sure.
    Well, since married life begun, cooking has totally become a newfound hobby. I could go on and on here, but now I think I'm going to blog about it this week sometime. :)

    The preview: 1) Last week we started a money saving plan by budgeting with cash, and only spending cash, including at the grocery store. We plan our meals and shopping list, and try to only go shopping once a week, and limit how much we eat out. 2) Saturday morning I got up early and cooked the equivalent of about 8 meals for us, and froze them, for use after work when we don't feel like cooking. These will last us a while.
    I've kept a photo record of some of my cooking adventures :)
    beth said...
    I definately plan the menu before going shopping. Helps to stay in budget, plus, otherwise I'd get home and have a bunch of candy. :-D

    Also, I don't plan 7 meals a week. Always have a left-over night (or two). And how many left over nights depends on what meals we're having. For example, Josh's favorite meals won't have as many leftovers, so I need to take that into account. :-)

    As far as sale-shopping and coupon-clipping, I've never gotten into that. 1)I've got better things to do with my time and 2)Wal-Mart doesn't have coupons. I used to split my shopping between Aldi's and Wal-mart. I'd go to Aldi's first and get what I could find and then get the rest and Wal-mart. THAT was cheap shopping! But annoying, too, with having to get a baby in and out of the car so many times in a shopping trip. Aldi's is too far away now, it wouldn't save me money with the gas I'd use.

    But speaking of food - I've grown to love experimenting with new recipes! I'm cooking Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup in the crock pot right now and it smells sooooo gooooood! (Crock Pot meals are the BEST.) Omelettes are pretty good too, especially with how cheap and filling and easy and quick they are. Did I mention delicious? It's an easy way to go through a dozen eggs in our house.
    Beth said...
    I LOVE to cook, but I find there is still so much to learn--especially with a picky eater. (I love you, Stu! :-))

    I usually plan my menu around what's in the fridge or pantry that's about to go bad, and also what meats are on sale at Kroger. Usually I plan to serve the meat several nights that week, cooked in different ways. For example, I'll buy a 3lb frozen turkey breast for the whole week. The first night I'll cook the whole thing in the crock pot. The other nights I make recipes that call for cooked chicken or turkey, like turkey enchiladas or turkey salad. If I can't use all the meat in one week, I'll freeze the meat and cook with it later, usually the following week.

    I don't use coupons or anything, since I don't have time. I try to buy what's on sale based on the Kroger fliers, and I will buy the Kroger brand stuff instead of name brands. It makes such a difference to buy store brand items!

    I also leave one night to go out to eat, to have a date night with my hubby.
    Amy said...
    Hi Ashley - thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I'm always excited to hear from new readers :)

    A really great resource for recipes is They also have a monthly magazine and publish excellent cookbooks. There's monthly section called "cooking class" where they'll teach you step by step how to prepare a meal or learn a new cooking skill.

    We don't get many coupons around here. I mostly buy in bulk or "no name". I also do a little bulk cooking. If I do a batch of pasta sauce I'll double it and make several meals at once, for example.

    I try to plan a menu for the week and go shopping on Saturday. I find we spend less when I plan ahead this way and only visit the store once. I try to plan my menu around what I already have in the house, any good sales (especially meat) and have learned to never buy something I don't like, even if it's a really good sale!
    Karla said...
    Hi! There's a free magazine I get - I think it's once a season, but I forget. Anyhoo - sign up at It publishes GREAT, easy recipe ideas (salads, appetizers, meals, desserts). And once a year you get to pick a free gift (mine last year was an awesome calendar with a new recipe for each month).

    For instance, here are some of the recipes in the Fall issue: Easy Pleasing Meatloaf, Roast Pork and Apple Dinner in a Pan, Upside Down Apple Tart, Golden Crusted Pork Chops with Green Beans, One-Pan Chicken and Potato Bake, Fuss-Free Ravioli and Cheese Bake, Stove Top Classic One-Dish Chicken Bake, Quick Chicken Teriyaki, Easy Layered Taco Pie, Cookies 'n Cream Pudding, Harvest Salad To Go, Rustic Chocolate-Cinnamon Bread Pudding, ETC! Don't those sound so good?

    One of the last times I was at Nichole's house, I brought the magazines so she could look through 'em. We decided to try one of them for dinner, and it was really good. I like trying different things, so even if I don't have all the ingredients specified, I add something else or omit it altogether. Don't let a recipe daunt you - you don't have to have everything it calls for.

    I have a grocery budget - albeit one I don't always stick to! Anyhoo, sometimes I pick a couple new recipes to try during the week and buy accordingly, but more often than not I make my list based on the store circular and what's on sale and try to come up with some recipes that revolve around those items. I keep saying that I'll try at least one new recipe a week, but it doesn't always happen.

    Let me see, some of my/our favorite recipes are: stuffed shells, shepherd's pie, chicken casserole with biscuit topping, Mexican casserole, fetuccini carbonara (basically an alfredo-type dish with ham and peas - or whatever you want to add), pasta and scallops, homemade rice pilaf, potstickers...

    Lots of times I buy ground turkey on sale, and you can substitute it for ground beef and it tastes just as good. Also, try lasagna but use a different kind of pasta (say, rotini or ziti) and layer in some ground turkey and veggies with the cheese and sauce.

    I have lots of ideas, so let me know if you need any more suggestions!
    Karla said...
    My kittens aren't that young - they're four months old. But even the vet told me it can be hard to tell while they're still young. *shrugs* I dunno! I didn't think of looking myself because the shelter said they were both males. I'm not upset Rusty/Petra turned out to be a girl, but it was just one more instance of how this particular shelter seems to be rather negligent in some areas. I was considering volunteering there, but I've kind of been put off.

    I LOVE the name Autumn, and it's my favorite season - but it seems like pet names ending in a long "e" sound or short "a" sound are more conducive to calling it over. :)

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