Balling on a Budget

Over the past four months, Rich and I have been settling into a routine at home. On one hand, we’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle and on the other hand, we are trying to stay on a budget. Grocery shopping is something that we have become very good at! Usually, I do the meal planning and he does the shopping. This week, I had off on Monday for President’s Day so I did both. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to share our process!


Step 1: I always clean out the fridge and freezer. This helps make room for new food, keep things organized, helps us realize what’s already in our fridge and get rid of food that has gone bad. (this is becoming less and less as we get better at planning)


Step Two: Take inventory. We like to stock up on items when we see a sale and also sometimes do not use everything we have on hand in a week. This week, I took note that we had some Tofu in the fridge, some Orzo in the cupboard (I wanted to make soup and did not want to spend the money on noodles) and some Tilapia in the freezer.


Step Three: Study up! Every week we scan the weekly ads to see what’s on sale, taking special note to items that we know we need. This week, we based our shopping around going to the grocery store with flank steak on sale for $4.99/lb. (what a steal!) Also, I keep a lot of recipes that I want to try. Last week Rich picked up a recipe from the grocery store for Jambalya after trying a sample, so I had that recipe on hand to make for Fat Tuesday.


Step Four: Meal plan! I always write down what we will have for dinner first, then lunch next because I usually use leftovers. Next is breakfast and lunch, which is usually the same thing all week. Planning ahead is key so we know exactly what to budget for, both in our schedule and in our grocery shopping. This week I took note that we will be going out for a Birthday dinner on Saturday and that on Wednesday and Friday we could not eat meat because of Lent.


Step Five: Make the list. This is the most tedious step mainly because of my OCD tendencies. First, I write out the list based on the recipes I will be making and the items we need. Usually I’ll write the essentials first (milk, eggs, creamer, fruit for snacks) followed by the items we need for recipes. I always try to double dip with recipes, meaning this week I needed Thyme for the Jambalya recipe and the soup recipe I was making for our lunches. Thyme is expensive, so I wanted to be able to utilize it as much as possible.

Also, I estimate the costs of each item on the left hand side of the paper. This gives me a ballpark estimate to see if we will be in budget. This week, we had $67 to spend and I was dead on. This was not accounting for tax, so I knew at the store I would have to extra careful and sale shop!


Step Six: Shop! This is usually the part where Rich takes the lead. He is better at taking his time and handling the crowds but today I decided to tackle the task on my own. While at the store, I wrote the actual cost of each item down as I went and took a minute to tally up my costs at the end of each section. Yes, this is a little extra time consuming but it works! Also, I always round up to account for tax.


Above is how my list looked when I left the store, it’s tedious but it definitely worked!!!


Step Seven: Try not to jump up and down at the check-out. Yesterday, the cashier was very impressed when I handed him $67 without hesitation. “How did you know?” he asked as I handed him my cash without counting it. I told him that I knew how much I had to spend and was keeping track the entire time. Apparently this is not normal behavior.


Step Eight: Unpack and organize! Usually, this is where I take over. I put the groceries away and usually spend Sunday nights doing some big meal prep. Lately that has meant making a big batch of soup for lunch, hard boiling eggs for breakfast and making one or two meals to have on hand during the week. This week I made hard boiled eggs, Minestrone soup for lunch and Jambalya for tonight’s dinner. Usually on Mondays, neither of us like to cook so I like to get it out of the way and have something to simply heat up.

So there you have it! Hopefully by sharing our process you will find some things that work for you!


16 responses to “Balling on a Budget

  1. Love this! So awesome! I need to get better about this, too. This site has some great resources and links (people who have already created spreadsheets and methods, if you’re looking to maintain your own list and planning on your computer, rather than writing out–just use one of theirs!).
    Do the stores you shop at have manager specials? (Things that are about to expire or go past their freshness date, like dairy, meat, and produce.) I know that fresh thyme is almost always on manager special at our stores 🙂

    Here’s a recipe we loved using polenta, but the uncooked kind (it’s in the baking aisle, in a canister; nice because it won’t go bad and you should have it on hand for awhile); I got it from Cooking Light originally, but found this one online:

    I know you weren’t asking for tips or comments; hope you don’t mind 🙂

  2. I love this post. I have to try it. We spend a lot on groceries and i want to maintine a budget so that i consume what I buy. Thank You for the tips.
    As i write i go trough my stack of folders to see what i can buy.



  3. I wish I could plan as well as you do. I try to meal plan but something ALWAYS comes up. We usually try to stick the essentials when shopping but sometimes we throw in a few extras ;-P lol Thanks for sharing this, it’s awesome especially for budgeting purposes.

  4. These are all great tips – thanks for sharing! I’ve started to get much better at planning out meals and making (and sticking to!) a list when I grocery shop. It’s made a *HUGE* difference in how much I spend!

    • It’s a huge difference!!! If I have a list to focus on I don’t buy as much crap! Plus doing math keeps me distracted from marketing, which is something I always fall for! 🙂

  5. This is such a great idea! I need to be better about meal planning and congrats on doing it on a budget! 🙂

  6. My husband and I are so terrible and grocery shopping. We need to get in the habit of cleaning out the fridge and taking inventory for what we have before we go out. We are constantly buying stuff we already have.

  7. Love it KLR! This is almost scarily similar to what we do, except I usually forget to list lunch stuff and wind up with frozen lunches (need to work on that part). I try to have an idea of how items are used in recipes too, so I can do impromptu substitutions at the store (i.e. this week I found half-off ground chicken was on manager’s special so we made chicken burgers instead of turkey burgers). We also grow herbs and veggies – which are awesome to have on hand.

    Have you tried make-ahead-meals? There was an article in a magazine about precooking components of meals (i.e. rice, chicken, veggies, etc.) then using them as “building blocks” to make meals. I did this last fall and we are still able to bust out a “block meal” every now and again (homemade, healthy AND convenient).

    Love you!

    • Yay! I love it! We usually make rice at the beginning of the week and have some type of protein to cook quickly (chicken, tofu, fish, flank steak, pork chops) and a bag’o’veggies and you’re ready to go!

      Good idea about the herbs! I totally wish we had a yard! We’re thinking about planting a real garden at Rich’s parents’ house. We’ll see.


  8. Pingback: Meal Plan 10/21-10/27 | livehalffull

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