Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping

I always get into talking about food with my friends and family members.  Does that surprise anyone?  I have my own blog and I am passionate about healthy ingredients.  A lot of people don’t think about what they’re putting in their mouth.  My philosophy is: if it comes in a bag or a box, it’s not real food.  Go ahead and read some of the labels you have in your house.  Anything you can’t pronounce?  Anything you have no idea what the meaning is and you have to look up?  I’m not saying my pantry is void of boxes and bags, but I’ve read the labels and they are as pure as they come.  I can’t tell people enough how important eating organic is and knowing what you put in your body.  Have you seen this video?  You should definitely check it out.

You are what you eat.

SO… I’ve decided to do a post about what I buy at the grocery store every week and how I organize my life to give my family of four the most healthy meals every day.  It’s not as hard as people think it is!

When me and my husband were living alone, people were baffled that I spent $60-80 a week on groceries.  I don’t see how that can be so amazing.  It was only the two of us.  All the food I bought was organic or considered “health food” (i.e. gluten free).  We were living in Jersey City right across the water from the Big Apple and I was shopping at a seemingly expensive store.  However, because I planned out my meals and what we needed every week, I was always able to walk into the store and not spend too much money.

My budget for a family of 4 isn’t much different- I spend $120-180 on groceries a week.  There are some weeks I spend $80 and some that I spend over $200, but normally $120-180 is the range.  It all depends what I need- maybe I need some expensive cuts of beef or a lot of veggies one week.  Or maybe I ran out of a bunch of spices.  Or maybe last week, we only went through three of my planned meals instead of 6 and I have a bunch leftover to cook for this week.  It all depends on what happened in the week before.  I spend that much money on breakfast and lunch for 2 people for 6-7 days and dinner for 4 people for 6-7 days every week (my parents only eat breakfast/lunch on the weekends).

Saturday or Sunday is usually the day I sit down and organize my week.  I am in charge of meals and meal planning in the house.  There are 2 other people who are usually home to assist me in prep, or to cook the meal if I am not home in time, but that is rare.  I am 99% of the time home with enough time to cook dinner.  This week, I actually already know that I have a pretty crazy schedule for work and I don’t want to stress about getting home in time for dinner.  I want to come home, relax, work out, walk the dog- whatever.  I don’t want to spend my personal time cooking.  I’ve planned a bunch of crock pot meals for the week and they are all brand new- so I don’t know how they’ll turn out.  So today (Sunday), I am sitting at my kitchen table and I wrote down every day of the week with a meal next to it.  My list looks like this:

  • Sunday- butternut squash pasta (this is actually a leftover meal from last week, so I already have all the ingredients)
  • Monday- leftover taco casserole (something I made for a party over the weekend and there are a lot of leftovers to eat!)
  • Tuesday- slow cooker honey garlic chicken
  • Wednesday- melt in your mouth pot roast
  • Thursday- leftovers (or buffalo chicken pasta)
  • Friday- bacon wrapped beef tenderloin, green beans
  • Saturday- BBQ chicken, brussels

I have two leftover meals from last week, which will help slash my budget for the week.  I also built in a day to eat leftovers (if there are any), but I also have a back-up meal.  Leftovers also make great lunches!

I also have 5 large chicken breasts already thawed in the fridge that I will cut in half and marinate, then grill for lunches for me and my husband.  I also had to add some extra ingredients on my list to cover our breakfast meals.  This is what my list looks like:

  • 16 oz baby red potatoes
  • 16 oz green beans x2
  • Rosemary
  • Brussels
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 zucchini
  • Avocados
  • 1 gluten free frozen pizza
  • Cold cuts (for Dad)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Chicken thighs
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 3-4 pound beef tenderloin
  • 3 pound chuck roast
  • Sausages
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Almond/coconut milk
  • Eggs
  • Bread (for Dad)

I don’t put a lot of quantities for items when I can buy more than one, such as avocados.  And that also depends on the price.  Sometimes they are 2 for $5 or 1 for $2.  For meat, I usually know how much I need in quantities because I have made the recipe before.  If it is a new recipe, I always make sure I include the quantity so I don’t get too much or too little.  All my fruit and veggies are organic and all my meat is organic/grass-fed/the best you can get.

I also organize my list based on how I walk through the store.  In the Shop Rite I go to, I walk right into the organic section and do most of my shopping, then continue on to the outside back of the store to the meat, then all the way to the other end to buy other ingredients such as milk, eggs, then out to check out.  I almost never go down the aisles unless I need canned tomatoes, spices, or some odd ingredient.  The Shop Rite I go to actually moved all the gluten free frozen items by the organic food as well as some of the bagged ingredients I get, such as tapioca starch.  I literally just walk around the outside of the store and out.  It’s quite lovely.

You’ll notice I don’t have any snacks or dessert items on my list.  We’re all adults in my house and I really try to keep everyone from snacking (including myself) so I just don’t buy those items.  If you have small children, I would buy organic fruits and vegetables for snacks or bagged ingredients you can trust.  But remember- real is better.  When I buy ice cream, I even buy organic.

This is what our cart looked like this week:


We were bad and grabbed some apple cider.  We also didn’t like the cuts of beef tenderloin they had, so we switched it to pork tenderloin.

Doesn’t look like too much, right?  It really isn’t.  This week, we spent $130 on groceries that will last us the whole week and possibly into next week.  I feel like that is definitely do-able.  I enjoy going to the grocery store every week because I have a plan.  I don’t go up and down every aisle grabbing random things that look good or “we have to try this.”  I take advantage of the “Can-Can” sales and load up my cart with cans during those weeks so I really don’t have to buy them at other times in the year and I save a lot of money.

Don’t be afraid of food shopping!  You should enjoy it and get excited about the meals you’re creating in the coming week.  Food is fuel for your body and you have to give it good building blocks!  Enjoy and have fun!


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