Last year, I started a personal project called $40/week for homemade meals. I noticed that I was spending up to $800 on food each month because I was going out so frequently. I didn’t know anything about cooking, and at the start I boiled EVERYTHING. So, everything I cooked tasted terribly. I’ve since taken a Dietetics cooking class to learn tons of the basics and I’ve practiced endlessly to get better at it. Not only did I have to learn about how to function in the kitchen, I had to practice how to go grocery shopping and get more bang for my buck. I mainly shop at Trader Joe’s, Lucky, Target, and sometimes Whole Foods.When I go grocery shopping, I keep these tips in mind when I fill my shopping cart/basket.
TIP #1: Shop Around
Different Locations = Different Price. I try to shop organic when I can, but I know that I can’t always due to my budget. I also try to avoid Whole Foods as much as possible because they are SO expensive. I buy a select few items there that are worth it like their Organic EVOO or Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Ball, both of which are very affordable.
TIP #2: Shop On Different Days
I’ve learned that food prices change due to location but also certain days of the week! Wednesday tends to be the most expensive because that’s when most stores restock their food supply. Fridays can offer lower prices on many items. Keep an eye out for that and find the trends at the stores where you grocery shop.
TIP #3: Plan Your Meals
When you buy an item, try to think of 2-3 dishes you can use it in. That way you can maximize the use of your groceries. For example, broccoli can be served in a stir fry, a chopped salad, or as a roasted vegetable side dish.
TIP #4: Stick To Your Budget
Don’t get tempted by that candy bar or those trashy magazine at the check out stand. STICK TO YOUR BUDGET (+/- a couple of bucks). Use the calculator function on your phone to add it all up before you check out.
TIP #5: Buy Bulk Only When Necessary
Not everything should be purchased in bulk. There are certain things that should be purchased in bulk. Consider this, chicken breasts can be purchased in bulk. Once I get home, I cut them up into small pieces, individually wrap them, and freeze them. It can be more economically sensible especially if I purchase them when the price is lower than usual highs.
Here is what part of my regular pantry looks like.
Regular Pantry Items:
These do not have to be purchased each week. It’s more likely that you will buy these items once or twice a month (sometimes, even less frequently).
– 2 Lb 10 oz Quaker Oat Quick 1-minute Rolls Oats (Target: ~$4.50 )
– 360 Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Whole Foods Market: ~$14.99)
– Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (Whole Foods: $1.29)
– 1 lb of Whole Wheat Penne Pasta (Trader Joe’s: $1.39)
– Orange Muscat Vinegar (Trader Joe’s: $2.99) or Balsamic Vinegar!
– 2 lbs Whole Carrots (Fresh & Easy: $0.99)
– 1 Loaf Whole Wheat Bread (Target: $2.50)
– 6 Whole Wheat Bagels (Target: $1.99)
– 18 Large AA Grade Eggs (Anywhere: $1.50-$2.00)
– 4 Chicken Breast w/ Rib Meat (Fresh & Easy: $2.49/lb = $8.00-9.00 total)
– 2 lbs Lean Ground Turkey (Fresh & Easy: $5.98)
New Week’s Items:
These items should be purchased each week because they do not last longer than a week and should be consumed within this time. Generally, this is produce.
– 12 oz Bag of Baby Spinach (Trader Joe’s: $1.99)
– 8 oz Sun-Dried Tomatoes (Trader Joe’s: $1.99)
– 8 oz Dried Cranberries (Trader Joe’s: $1.99)
– 1.5 lbs Zucchini, 5 whole pieces (Trader Joe’s: $2.29)
– 8 oz Whole Crimini Mushrooms (Trader Joe’s: $1.69)
– 32 oz Mountain High Plain Yogurt (Target: $2.50)
– Frozen Blueberries (Trader Joe’s: $1.99)
– 1 Jar of Tomato Basil Marinara (Trader Joe’s: $1.99)
– 8 oz bag of Shredded Cheese (Target: $2.50)
Clearly, this does not add up to $40 because certain items extend for longer than a week. But it’s important to note that it’s great that things can be used for longer than a week by buying products with longer shelf life (like pasta) or by proper storage (like freezing chicken).
Stay tuned for future weekly posts with recipes and more ideas to spend only $40/ week on your homemade meals