For many years, I’ve taken huge monthly grocery shopping trips. These once a month excursions really helped me streamline the shopping process. It worked well for our family for many years.
But, life is changing. And, the monthly shopping trip is no longer a good fit for us.
So starting in August, I’m going to make the switch to a weekly grocery shopping method. As I deal with all the logistics right now to prepare for this shift, it all feels a little overwhelming. So I wanted to walk through whys behind this change, and spend some time diving into the logistics of making it happen.
For over a decade, we’ve lived on this beautiful ranch. We didn’t really travel much. Or have plans of leaving.
But, that’s no longer the case. God has called us to the ministry, and we are on deputation to serve at Missionary Acres. Whenever possible, we load up the cars and head to another church on Sundays, sharing our ministry with a new congregation.
We aren’t yet gone every week. But, we are leaving the house a whole lot more often than we used to, which means I’m not always cooking every meal at home. We’re increasing the amount of portable food options.
Additionally, as my husband and I change our eating habits, we desire to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables to the family. When you do your shopping only once a month, this is extremely hard to do. The majority of fresh produce just doesn’t last that long.
Finally, our kids are growing. They’re eating more. And finding places to store a month’s worth of food is causing our kitchen to burst at the seams. It feels like we go from over-packed to empty over the course of the month. And that makes staying organized nearly impossible.
So, as I discussed these changes with the family, we knew something needed to change.
And the monthly shopping trip had to go.
Trying to get out of the “have to buy everything now for the whole month” mindset has been a challenge. I’m definitely more comfortable buying enough food to fill the back of the Suburban than I am buying it in smaller quantities.
I don’t particularly like grocery shopping, and the idea of going more often isn’t one that thrills me. It always drains me. But, I don’t know if that’s because I spend so long in the stores buying SO MUCH FOOD, or if it’s just shopping with several kids. It will be interesting to see if it takes less energy to buy fewer things.
Regardless, I know this will be a positive change for the family. It will just take time for me to adjust mentally.
Sticking with the Annual Meal Plan
Our annual meal plan has been key to saving time and money in the kitchen. As we were trying to figure out how to tackle all these life changes, we conteplated getting rid of the plan. But, none of us wanted to.
It’s so amazing to have everyone know what’s on the menu for each meal of the day. Even my four-year-old can tell you what we’re supposed to eat for breakfast on Jayme’s day, or lunch on Simon’s day. They just get it.
So, we decided to tweak the shopping, not the plan. In fact, a few weeks ago we created our seventh annual meal plan.
This plan will continue to be the backbone to our master shopping list. It will help minimize the “what are we going to eat” questions, and help me not waste so much time thinking about meals.
And it’ll provide some much needed rhythm and familiarity for our kids during this ever changing season of life.
Making the Master Shopping List
The idea of creating a weekly shopping list was overwhelming. I literally had no idea how to start.
So, I did what I’ve done for years. I used Excel to create a master shopping list.
Once again, I created it as if I were going to be shopping monthly. This way I made sure I had every ingredient and pantry staple on the list. I didn’t want to forget anything.
When I had my list complete, along with store to purchase it at and estimated price, I began to make changes.
I copied my worksheet four times, leaving me with five tabs down at the bottom. At first, these were all identical.
Then, I started tweaking. I wrote the weekly meal plan (so our breakfast, lunch, and snack options and the one meal in each dinner theme that we’d eat that particular week) on each copy of the sheet. I also renamed them – Week 1 Shopping List, Week 2 Shopping List, and so on.
When the prep work was done, it was time to get down to business. I went through the master shopping list and deleted the things that weren’t needed for week 1. Anything we didn’t need that week, I just got rid of on the Week 1 Shopping List worksheet.
I also started adjusting quantities. Instead of buying a month’s worth of spaghetti sauce, for instance, I just needed a week’s worth. It’s definitely strange to see such small numbers.
I did this for each of the weeks. Then I started tweaking.
Staying on Budget
Since we’re working hard to lower expenses, I have a big goal to cut our grocery expenses too. My goal is to be between $200-225 each week for the 11 of us.
So, I started looking at the items I had on the list. Some weeks were really light. Some were really heavy.
I started moving items around. I knew I could purchase items a week or two ahead of when I needed them, as long as they were frozen or shelf-stable foods.
Then, I kept adjusting, working to hit my target price range for each week.
Sometimes this meant buying staples twice a month instead of each week. Other times I broke down a larger item that I’d previously buy once a month into smaller packages that I could buy each week.
Other Benefits I’m Anticipating to Weekly Grocery Shopping
Lowering our grocery budget isn’t the only benefit I’m anticipating by making the switch away from monthly grocery shopping. I think I’ll notice:
- Less food waste – I’ll be able to more accurately purchase for the upcoming week which will result in less food going bad and getting tossed to the chickens
- More flexibility – As I mentioned earlier, we are traveling more. In August, we have three back-to-back weekend trips. Some are short. Some are going to be three days away from home. By shopping weekly, I can divert some regular grocery money to car friendly foods when needed, and stick to the basics when we’re home.
- Paying Less – Since we couldn’t store enough milk, produce, and eggs to last the month, we always wound up making extra trips to the store. These often had to be done at the local expensive grocery shop to avoid another trip to town. By not having to rely on our small town’s only option, we’ll save money on those restocks.
- Eating More Healthily – Our bodies need more fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m so excited to be able to purchase those more frequently. We always stuck with apples, oranges, and canned/frozen options after the first week of the month, and those get blah after awhile. Picking up fresh produce on each weekly grocery shopping trip is something I’m looking forward to!
- No More Overflowing Cupboards – Seriously…In the last year or so I’ve had to increase the amount of food I purchase to ensure our growing kids get enough. But, we don’t have the storage space for all of this at once. Going to once a week will help keep the cupboards stocked more evenly, so they aren’t going from overflowing to empty over the course of the month. I’m so excited to not stub my toe on a box of food that’s sitting on the floor because there’s no space for it anywhere else.
- My Extrovert Daughter will Be Excited! – I’m an introvert. But, not all of my kids are. One in particular, loves shopping. It’s like she sucks the energy off of everyone else in the stores and she just comes alive in a new way. She’s so excited about this switch, since we’ll be shopping more often. In fact, we decided to make her day each week our primary shopping day. Of course, if we have appointments or something, that’ll change, but she’s just thrilled.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change Things Up
Just because you’ve done something a certain way for a decade (or however long) doesn’t mean that’s how you always have to do it. Be willing to change when necessary.
One season of life doesn’t dictate how the rest of our lives has to go.
I’m nervous about this switch, but I’m confident it will be a good change for our family once we’re used to it.
How Do You Grocery Shop?
I’d love to hear – how do you do your shopping? Are you a weekly shopper or a monthly one? Or do you have a different shopping schedule?
If you’ve ever switched from monthly to weekly grocery shopping, do you have any words of wisdom to share with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.