How I Menu Plan and Build a Grocery List - Part Two
If you didn't catch part one of this two part post make sure you check it out!
Now that you've got your menu plan figured out it's time to build a grocery list! I know some people have a running tally on their fridge or some scratch paper to know what they need but I never remember that list so I needed something I wouldn't forget. Oh, and did you know there are people who actually can make a list in their head and stick to it? Plus remember everything that is on it? Shocked. I am not one of those.
We use Evernote for our grocery list. Micah introduced me to this app and it has been so incredibly helpful for us! I can download the app on all my devices, all his devices, plus our computers, and they all sync together! No more adding things to a list while at home and forgetting it there. I can make my list no matter where I am.
So, on to business! This is my method but I highly encourage you to find a way that works for you! Maybe you have no desire to hit several stores. Maybe you want your groceries delivered. Whatever it is - make a list, have a budget, and do your darndest to stick to it (we are still working on this one!).
1. KNOW YOUR BUDGET!
Sorry to yell but if you don't have a working budget I'm just going to tell you to head on over to Money Saving Mom and read her series about grocery budgets. I know for a fact that our grocery budget is where we leak the most money (what's one box of crackers?) but it's also the place that we first really buckled down in order to control the rest of our spending. It's so, so, so easy to think that an extra bag of chocolate chips or two more bags of cheese when they are on sale isn't going to break the bank but after a while those little purchases add up and can really throw a wrench in all your financial plans!
So, if you've never sat down to make a monthly budget I highly encourage it. Look at past months and how much you usually spend and see if you can cut that by even just a little bit if you need to do so. If you are totally comfy with the amount you are spending then you are good to go!
2. Create your note
Each week when I'm ready to start the list I make a new note in the "grocery" notebook in Evernote. This way all of my grocery lists are in one place and aren't cluttering up Micah's work notes or our packing lists, or whatever else we decide to use Evernote for these days!
I title the note Grocery [Date] so I know which note is the most recent. Just my little thing ;)
3. Plan your stores
We almost always go to Sam's Club, Walmart, and Target. I dream of the day we get an Aldi. Hopefully someday soon but I'll just keep wishing until then. Occasionally I throw in an extra grocery store if they have an awesome deal or two.
I list out the stores in the order we plan to shop to keep things organized.
4. List out your essentials and "always need" items first
I know that every single week we need milk, some produce of varying kinds, and usually a cheese brick (mmm, cheese) and those all go under Sam's unless there is an awesome sale somewhere. The type of produce varies by the season (obviously) so right now we are pretty much stuck with carrots, bananas and oranges but thankfully the kids don't mind.
There are other items that I might not need EVERY week but are on a fairly regular rotation: romaine hearts, eggs, cucumber, flour, butter, and a few others come to mind. I make sure I check the status of these as well as the menu plan to see if they are needed.
5. Add items needed for menu items
Here is where having a tech hubby and multiple devices comes in super handy ;) I pull up my menu on one device (remember how I use Google calendar?) and Evernote on the other so I can see them side by side. If I'm doing this at the desk I've got Evernote on one monitor and the calendar on the other. Yay for duel monitors! But you can easily flip back and forth as well if you don't have two devices or monitors.
I'll go through each meal and make sure I know what ingredients I need. Since I mostly menu plan via what I already have in the house this should be easy. I'll add items as needed to the store I plan to buy them at. Sometimes if I'm super organized I'll list them in the order they are placed in the store. I can't always be this awesome, though.
6. Re-check your budget!
Here's that budget again! As I add items to my list I will add a price beside it. I always round up to the next dollar - no matter what. Even if an item is $5.18 I will list $6 on my list. I want to make sure I compensate for any price changes that may happen and this helps add in a little cushion for those impulse buys that we still don't always have under control. I'd rather buffer the budget and spend less than budget tightly and risk over spending.
Once I've listed the price for each item (most stores offer their inventory + prices online now!) I add up the total for each store and place it next to the store name so I can easily see how much I'm planning on spending.
Over budget? Some weeks what I think is a reasonable meal plan turns up too many ingredients for the budget. So I go back and tweak. Or I put off items that can wait another week. Or I swap items from one store to another. There are many times when I plan on buying something at Sam's because it's a better unit price but the cost of buying it in bulk is eating up too big of a chunk of money. So I'll get it in a smaller package at a different store that week. Yes, I'm probably paying a little more per ounce but if it means I keep the spending under control and don't have to sacrifice other items then it's worth it!
So that's pretty much my method. I go back and forth several times between the menu and list some weeks in order to make things work together and other weeks it works beautifully the first time. Those are magical weeks.