How to Grocery Shop for a Month

How to Grocery Shop for a Month | www.fillingthejars.com | Doing only one main grocery shop each month can save you hours of time and a nice chunk of money. Click through to read my step-by-step method.

{A Step-by-Step Method to Help You Save Time and Money!}

If you’ve never tried it, and if you’re one of those who dread the grocery shopping chore, I encourage you to work toward doing only one main grocery shop every month. 

 

I absolutely love monthly grocery shopping! I find it doesn’t take much longer than one regular shopping trip, saving me hours of shopping time.

It also eliminates the budget-busting weekly trips that always seem to cost more than I had expected. Yes, I do usually do one mini-shop about 2-3 weeks into the month for milk and fresh produce, but fortunately my local store has those items near each other and then it’s a straight shot to the checkout line.

A little background: I live about 30 minutes from the nearest decent-sized grocery store. Going there weekly can kill an entire day and a lot of gas because somehow we always seem to make it a family shopping/going out to eat day. (NOT budget-friendly!) My local small store is nice but pricey and has a somewhat limited selection. My family is pretty small — there are usually three adult-size people living here, but sometimes four if my older son lives at home during his college work term. We have a normal American-size fridge, a few shelves that serve as a pantry, and a separate 14-cubic-foot freezer for storage.

 



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Planning

I’m a slow planner, so it takes me about an hour to do this part. I like to sit down the day or evening before I shop so that I don’t feel rushed.

First, have a running grocery list throughout the month for those odd things like spices, shampoo, etc. Keep it on the fridge, in your planner, or on your phone.

When you are finalizing your monthly menu plan (read about how to do that HERE) and printing out your recipes for the month, it’s the perfect time to create your shopping list. Write down what you need for dinners, and then work through lunches, snacks, and breakfasts. As I always advocate, keep it simple!

Remember that you will want a variety of produce so that you can use perishable things first and save longer-storing items for later in the month.

Rather than making one huge list, separate it into store-specific lists. Check your ads and decide on 1-2 stores. If you try to cherry-pick bargains at every store, you will spend all day shopping and exhaust yourself. I prefer to do most of my shopping at Aldi and then do a quick(ish) stop at a superstore for any items I can’t get at Aldi. By the way, if you’ve never visited Aldi because you never have cash, you’ll be interested to know they now accept credit cards and debit cards that don’t require a PIN to process!

Regarding lists, I hand-write my lists on paper. I use quarter-page-size pieces of scrap paper and write my list in two columns on each page. That way I can mark things off as I shop, write in prices, etc. I’ve tried shopping with a list on my phone and it just didn’t work. I spent too much time scrolling, I couldn’t make relevant notes, and I forgot things and had to backtrack through the store far too often.

Review shopping apps if you use them. Some current apps are Ibotta, Checkout51 (for a limited time, use this link and earn $5 when you sign up and upload your first receipt), Snap by Groupon, SavingStar, and ReceiptHog. There are also store-specific apps for places like Target, Meijer, Walmart.

Gather your coupons if you use those. I’ll be honest, I don’t even look at coupons now that Aldi is my main store. Yet another time-saver!

Estimate prices and check to make sure you are within your budget. Remember that you may need one more very small trip during the month for milk and produce.

Check the freezer and clean out the fridge. You don’t want to bring home a mountain of fresh food and then realize there are two weeks of leftovers taking up the fridge space or two loaves of bread still in the freezer.

Clear off your counters. You will need space for unpacking the groceries.

 

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Shopping Day

On a good shopping day, I can do this in about 3.5 hours including driving time. If some items are out of stock so that I have to revise my list or the whole family decides to go along and wants to visit more than 2 stores, it takes about 5-6 hours.

If you have very little ones, your trip may be easier if you can get a babysitter. You are going to have a big list and a full cart or two.

Plan an easy meal for dinner or throw something into the crockpot before you leave to shop. There’s nothing worse than having a house full of fresh food and being too exhausted to cook any of it.

Take a cooler and frozen ice packs. Summer heat and an enclosed vehicle can spoil your groceries quickly. Don’t take a chance. I usually take 2 large coolers on the warmest days.

Don’t forget water and snacks. Yes, I know you’re buying food, but do you really want to dig through all of the bags to find that one box of crackers or bag of almonds when you need a quick snack? Plus you will avoid the “I’m starving” dash through the drive-through. Ick.

Bring plenty of shopping bags. Reusable bags hold more food, are easier to carry, and you won’t have a huge pile of plastic bags to deal with later.

Drive a vehicle with enough space for your groceries. I usually drive a pickup truck and store all of my purchases in the back of the truck and the back seat, but I have made the monthly trip with a Pontiac Vibe. I made that trip alone and the car was packed, but it worked.

Grab 2 carts at your main store. Trust me on this. A month’s worth of groceries takes a lot of cart space.

Develop tunnel vision. You don’t have time, room in the cart or vehicle, or money to wander the store and make random purchases. Exception: always do a quick check for drastically marked-down produce, meats & bread. Otherwise, stick to your list.

Double-check dates on dairy items. You want milk with the longest expiration date.

Keep cold items cold. Repack the bags if necessary to make sure all of the cold items get into the cooler. (Another benefit of shopping at Aldi — I can pack my groceries my own way.)

 

After the Shopping Trip

You’re not quite done yet. It usually takes me about an hour to get everything unpacked and properly stored.

Let the family unload those groceries! They bring the bags to you, you unpack and store, and it’s all good.

Freeze your extra bread and any unprocessed meats that you will not be using within a couple of days.

If you are going hardcore and refuse to visit a store at all during the month, you can also freeze milk. Open it first and pour out about a cup before freezing. I’ve done this, and it worked okay for my family because we don’t really drink much milk and I buy full-fat milk which doesn’t separate too badly in the freezer. But it might not fly well for picky milk drinkers or nonfat milk.

Tips for keeping produce fresh:
Hometalk: Non-toxic fruit cleaning
List.ly: How to Store Food to Keep it Fresh

Now, make yourself a refreshing beverage and relax!


Related post: Quick Food Prep Routine for a Week of Easier Meals


If you’re not so sure about monthly shopping, try a two-week trip. Once you get used to how it works, you’ll realize that monthly shopping only takes a few extra minutes during one trip to save you time and money later! The more often you shop, the more impulse purchases you make. On average, monthly shopping saves my family about $75/month. Nice. 🙂

Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them or provide more details.

How to Grocery Shop for a Month | www.fillingthejars.com | Doing only one main grocery shop each month can save you hours of time and a nice chunk of money. Click through to read my step-by-step method.

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14 thoughts on “How to Grocery Shop for a Month

  1. I usually go to the grocery store with hopes that things will last us FOREVER, but in all honesty I’m back there in about two weeks. Sometimes, I feel like I’m at the grocery store daily. We can be forgetful, especially when we forget our list at home. That happens often. UGH!
    Planning/menu planning is the best when it comes to a big grocery trip.
    Great tips!
    XO

    • One thing my family had to learn was that ALL the food had to last the WHOLE month. It was a switch in thinking, but after about two months we all got the hang of it. There are still times I forget to put items ON the list, which is just as bad as leaving the list at home. 😉

  2. We tend to shop every two weeks; we tried monthly but we always ran out of things way to fast. We’re still at the store at least once a week for milk (my husband and boys drink a crazy amount of milk!)…. but I am always intrigued with the idea of once a month shopping. I just can’t figure out how to keep my kids from gobbling up everything the first week or so… seems like their appetites are always the biggest when we have the most food in the house to choose from…

    • Hi Joanne! I will admit to some strategic storing of groceries. 😉 Not everything is out in plain sight. But after a couple of months of once a month shopping and me REALLY NOT going to the store because the crackers or whatever were gone, we all started to figure it out. And we didn’t starve. 🙂 Milk? That’s trickier. We’re not really fans of the stuff, and honestly that makes everything a little easier. If my guys did drink a lot of it, I would probably go back to freezing it so that I could buy enough for at least two weeks.

  3. momssmallvictories says:

    I would like to start monthly grocery shopping. I thought about seeing if BJ’s Wholesale Club had good deals on organic meats so I could buy that monthly. I will have to see how it goes, I tend to spend a lot of time on weekly menu planning, cooking and grocery shopping even though I thought I had streamlined the process well by using Plan to Eat. I always like to see how others do it. Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday Linkup. Pinned to our linkup board.

    • Hi Tanya! Thanks for the Pin! Sometimes when I’m shopping, I see organic meats marked down. I don’t shop at wholesale clubs, but it would be interesting to hear if you find the meats you are looking for and can buy them once a month there.

  4. Great post, would like to try this one day. Right now it’s daily small trips to the store after work for me, which leads to buying unnecessary items. Great tips, thanks for posting.

    • Hi Melanie! I know what you mean on the daily trips. I started getting into that habit when I passed the local store every day after work and wasn’t menu planning. Yikes! Things got crazy for a while. Once a month shopping has become a budget and sanity saver for sure!

  5. These are such great tips!! I really need to get into the habit of doing this!! They just put the first grocery store in my small town and it feels like we go every day!!

    • Oh, I know how that daily “quick stop” can become such a habit — especially in a small town where you want to support local businesses! But now when I listen to my coworkers mention having to pick up one or two things after work every day (and we all know it’s never just one or two things), I think about how glad I am that I can just go straight home. 🙂 It’s awesome — almost better than saving money!

      Let me know if you end up trying shopping for a month and how it goes for you!

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