So, you’ve planned your meals and made a grocery list. You then went grocery shopping only to find that your grocery bill has gone up a bit. There is a simple reason for this. The good stuff costs more. Period. It’s unfortunate, but true… think about it: what are the cheapest items in the grocery store? Carbs and processed foods. Since processed foods are all but out and you’ll be needing decidedly fewer carbs, that pretty much leaves the more expensive stuff, produce and proteins.
Have no fear! There are a couple of things that you can do to help lower your costs. The first and maybe the most obvious is to check your stores flyer before you meal plan and shop the sale items. I’ll admit, I’m not particularly great at doing this, but I know people who are and you really can save money this way. If you don’t get one in the mail or have thrown it away, you can most likely look it up online.
The thing that I changed right away that made the greatest impact was changing where we shopped. I’m about to wax poetic (I love that phrase, btw) so get ready. The two BEST places to shop are farmer’s markets (duh) and Aldi’s. “What?! Aldi’s?! But I thought that they hardly carried anything there and/or had poor quality items!” Not so, my friend. Not so. Aldi’s is my jam and if you have one nearby, it should be yours, too. They may not have everything, but they carry a lot of produce at amazing prices. They also carry greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta, beans, nuts, almond milk, canned pumpkin, chia seeds and basically almost everything a fixer could need. I literally cut my produce bill in half after starting to shop there. I also appreciate that you have to bring your own bags, it’s really not that big of a deal and it feels good. Save the planet, people!
Of course, the most expensive food you’ll ever buy is the food you throw away, so save yourself some trouble, download the USDA's FoodKeeper App and never wonder again if something NEEDS to be thrown out or if you can still eat it. There are also some great tips on storing your food there. Use it!
Ok, so now that you’ve done all of your shopping let’s talk about meal prep. Meal prep is THE best thing that you can do for yourself. I know, sometimes it can be difficult to find the time, but I promise, if you set aside ONE hour (often even less than that) out of the week, it will pay off all week long. As my old calculus professor used to say, “I do this way because I like myself.” And no, that wasn’t a misprint. Gotta love that dude.
Since I usually shop over the weekend, I do my prepping on Sundays. I look through my week of meals and make a list of everything that I can prep ahead. If I need chopped chicken for anything during the week, I roast, chop and then divide into reds all of my chicken and stick them in the freezer. A red will fit into a snack-sized bag and if you stick it in the fridge the night before you need it, it’ll be completely thawed and ready to go for you. I wash and cut all of the fruit and veggies that I can. Obviously, there are certain things you don’t want to cut up ahead of time. Dice up some avocado and prepare to be grossed out the next day. Just sayin’. When I cut my produce, I dry them really well and then I either put them in Ziploc bags with a paper towel (keep an eye on that paper towel and change it when it’s looking wet) or I use these surprisingly awesome containers that my Grandma bought me. Thanks, Gram!!
You can certainly also make your dinners ahead if you want to. Many people do. I don’t. Mostly because I don’t want to spend an entire day prepping, but also because I like the idea of putting a fresh meal on the table (ya know, at least a few times a week!)