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For the past three years I’ve been grocery shopping for just me and my pre-teen. Groceries have always been the toughest category for me to stay on budget. Sometimes I’m pretty close, sometimes I’m way off. I decided I need a better system. I need a better grocery list.
You see, I quite like going to the store and going up and down every aisle. I come up with so many ideas for dinners and meals. It is a great way to spark my creativity. Unfortunately, it is also probably the reason why I am constantly over budget.
This week I decided to do something different…and it worked!
Starting Off with a Meal Plan
The first thing I did before this weeks grocery trip is to write down a dinner plan. If you need some ideas, check out my post with 5 cheap and easy meal ideas for under $5.
I’ve meal planned off and on so I know how to do it but this week I wanted to incorporate my meal plan into my grocery list. I dedicated the right side of my paper to my meal plan and wrote out my meal ideas for each day of the week.
Because there are only two of us, I probably meal plan a little differently than most families. I only worry about dinners. Lunch is always leftovers for me and a combo of leftovers and snacks for her. Breakfast is cereal or a bagel usually. Sometimes I’ll make egg sandwiches.
Here is what this looked like in reality today. Don’t worry, I have a pretty one you can print in the resource library!
Price Checking Groceries OnLine
I wrote down my meal plan on the right then wrote down everything I thought I needed on the left. Easy peasey right?
Well, in order to help ensure I stayed on budget, I went online to my stores online ordering system. I have been meaning to try this service, but for today, thought it would be great to get an idea of how much my grocery list was going to cost.
I’m pretty impressed with how well this turned out. After logging into my local Smart & Final portal, I searched for each item I needed and added them to my cart.
Meat is harder to estimate with this method because, at least for me, I knew I was getting one package but wasn’t sure how much that would weigh. So I guessed.
I adjusted things in my cart until my total was fairly close to my budget of $75. My store has actual prices on their website, some stores “mark it up”. If you do give this method a try, it may take some trial and error but you should be OK if your online cart total is pretty close to your budget.
Checking for Coupons
When I added Tide Pod’s to my cart, the website let me know there was a coupon for $2.00 available. Almost all of the other items in my cart were produce and meat but I felt like $2.00 was good enough for me to check if I could print a coupon.
Very quickly I ran a search for Tide Pods Coupons. The manufacturer’s website had the same $2.00 coupon available for me to print. So I did. I’m not a big couponer but if I know about one and it doesn’t take too long to print it, I go for it.
Considerations for Shopping the Circular
I forgot to mention that I did check the circular for what was on sale. This week, chicken breast was on sale but I still have five in the freezer so I opted not to buy them. Avocados and mangos were also on sale and treats that my daughter and I both love so I added those in.
Going Grocery Shopping with a List
Wow! I feel like this was a speed shopping trip. I challenged myself to not get anything that wasn’t explicitly on my list.
Knowing exactly what I needed and how many made this shopping trip very quick. Normally a trip to the store can take an hour or more for me but I feel like I was in and out in 20 minutes.
The side benefit was, I didn’t have a bunch of unnecessary groceries to unload at home. I only had three bags which is really weird for me.
Results of Using My Grocery List to Shop for Two
Woot! Totally under budget. Beef flap meat was out of stock so I’ll probably wind up right on budget. My total was $63.50. My weekly budget is $75.00.
Keep in mind that I had some things at home. I think that is normal right? Let’s break down my meal plan vs what I bought.
Breakfast & Lunch
Breakfast and lunches in my house are pretty easy and both my daughter and I usually fend for ourselves. For breakfast, I make sure we always have eggs, milk, butter, bagels and cream cheese. We also usually have egg muffins and sausage available.
Lunches for me are almost always leftovers. Plus, my work provides lunch on Wednesdays which is awesome. Sometimes they have leftover for Thursday as well.
My pre-teen packs her own lunch which is usually some combination of chips / snacks, fruit and leftovers. This week she didn’t need much because we just stocked up last week.
This week, the only items I needed to buy for the breakfast and lunch categories were lettuce and Veggie Sticks for my daughter’s lunch.
Dinner Plan for Two on a Budget
Saturday – Salmon and Roast Potatoes
- Salmon (NEED)
- Potato (have)
Sunday – Tofu Stirfry
- Tofu Teriyaki (have)
- Broccoli (have)
Monday – Chicken Breast and Mashed Potato
- Marinated Chicken Breast (have)
- Russet Potato (have)
Tuesday – Pasta Bake
- Farfalle Pasta (NEED)
- Can of Spaghetti Sauce (have)
- Cheese (NEED)
Wednesday – Carne Asada, Grilled Onions, Grilled Corn
- Carne Asada (NEED)
- Onions (NEED)
- Corn (NEED)
Thursday – Chicken Drumsticks with Rice-A-Roni
- Chicken Drumsticks (NEED)
- Rice-A-Roni (have)
Friday – Lasagna
- Frozen Lasagna (NEED)
Last Minute Tips for Making Your Own Weekly Grocery List for Two
- All of these same tactics can apply to any size grocery list, your budget may need to be adjusted.
- If you are having trouble sticking to your grocery budget, make your list and pre-shop online to be sure you are on target.
- Look at sale flyers to help make decisions and meal plan.
- Always meal plan. It is easy to switch days but having a plan makes eating out less tempting!
Free Printable Weekly Grocery List
Get your .PDF copy of the weekly grocery list by signing up for our newsletter using the form below. There are tons of other budget forms, savings trackers, debt trackers and more in there as well!
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A little about me: I’m a single, working mom who knows what it is like to be deep in debt. There was a time in my life where I was even caught in the vicious payday loan cycle just to stay afloat. Now, I’m debt free and saving for a home. I love educating others and want to share the ideas and strategies that allowed me to pay off debt and continue to live within my means.
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