Planning Ahead Series {Part 1}: How I Meal Plan & Grocery Shop Just 2 Times a Month

Planning Ahead Series Part 1 Feature Image

I chose the country life. It’s true. I made the conscious decision to live outside the definition of urban life on purpose.

And in so choosing the country life, there are some lessons to be learned. One of which is today’s topic: Planning Ahead.

I was sort of forced into planning ahead when it came to meals and groceries, simply by the sheer distance between me and the store.

But I can honestly say that if I were ever to live within city limits again, I think I’d do my very best to maintain this system of planning our meals that I’ve perfected over the past few years.

Today, I’m sharing that system with you. So, whether you live an hour’s drive from the nearest grocery store or you have one just down the street from you, you too can benefit from this grand idea of planning ahead when it comes to meals and grocery shopping.

Welcome to my OCD, list-making, future planning world…

Why Shop Less?

For one, your time is money. It is precious. And while there is some additional front-end time invested in the planning aspect, I’m certain time is saved in the long run.

Time running back to the grocery store for the second time in the week because you forgot something you needed.

Time waiting in the checkout line during the busiest time of the day for the umpteenth time this month.

Time in the car running errands between stores. Again.

With this system, you are driving to the store two times a month. That’s it. Two out of your 30 days each and every month. That’s two times you are waiting in line at the checkout. That’s two times you are planning meals and going over a shopping list.

Just two.

Planning Ahead Master Grocery List

A second reason to consider this style of planning ahead for meals and shopping is all about the cost savings. Are you on a budget? Do you need to be?

For me, planning meals and reducing grocery trips was the number one factor in reigning in our household budget after our career shift.

If you aren’t keeping track of your spending at the moment, do me a favor. Just tally your grocery bill for the month. I bet you’ll be surprised. I know I was shocked when we first started a budget in our household. For whatever reason it just didn’t dawn on me that food and groceries would be one of our biggest expenses.  

For us, every additional trip to the store meant more money spent. Now, with this twice monthly shopping system, and no additional grocery runs throughout the month, I am immediately eliminating those extra impulse buys that get me every time I go to the store.

We plan our budget such that we have a set amount that we try to stay under for our monthly grocery bill. Having this cap on our grocery spending really helps me refrain from making an additional trip to the store. If we are getting near the end of the budget, I just work a bit harder to be creative with meals based on what we already have on hand instead of running to the store to grab something new.

And finally, if you are like me, you may not enjoy shopping all that much. I really, really don’t like to shop at all. And I so don’t love grocery shopping. Especially without Wildland Man tagging along. So doing something I don’t love and have a tendency to stress about less is definitely a plus for me.

Planning ahead is a stress-buster. Having meals determined ahead of time and knowing I have everything I need in the pantry and/or fridge or freezer to make that meal is a huge win against last-minute dinnertime angst.

Was that enough reasons to give it a try? I hope so…

How do you do it?

So now that I have you convinced to at least hear me out on this whole concept of twice monthly shopping, I can almost hear the questions coming through the computer screen…

“What about fresh produce? How do you manage to eat your fruits and vegetables if you are only going to the store once every couple of weeks?”

“What about dairy products? Or lunchmeat, bread, and eggs?”

“How on earth do you manage to only grocery shop two times a month and still eat real, healthy food?”

Planning Ahead Meal Planner and Notepad

Well, over the years of trial and error, here’s some tips I’ve learned along the way.

  • Fresh Produce: When it comes to the fresh produce, there are several factors at play. We grow what we can, so during the harvest of our garden we have fresh produce available to us. I also plan my meals around fresh produce. Week 1 of my 2-week meal plan always has the freshest fruit and vegetables. Week 2 tends to center around hardier produce that can last a bit longer, like iceberg lettuce, potatoes, other root vegetables, some citrus fruits and apples or pears. I fill in the gaps of Week 2’s meals with frozen produce as needed.
  • Freezer Inventory: The greatest aid in longer-length meal planning and grocery shopping is a freezer. You would be surprised at what all you can freeze. Of course, most meat freezes well. A lot of dairy products freeze fine. Produce, bread, and an array of broths, sauces, and soups can be frozen as well. If I have produce on the verge of going bad, I’ll cut it up and toss it in the freezer for the next meal plan. We often freeze leftovers for future use as quick meal options. In the past, I’ve even frozen several gallons of milk when I was able to pick them up on sale. (Just remember to use at least a cup of the gallon before freezing so the jug doesn’t crack with expansion.) I often have lunchmeat, sliced and shredded cheese, and various forms of bread waiting for me in the freezer as well.

You can get your very own Freezer Inventory sheet by clicking below:

Planning Ahead Freezer Inventory PDF Image

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  • Make Your Own: As I am shifting to a real food based diet, I’m learning just how easy it is to make all the things I would typically buy and store in the pantry myself. I often will make our own gluten-free bread, salad dressings, healthy snacks, and other condiments. As long as I have the ingredients on hand in the pantry, I can easily make my own recipes anytime I need them. And they are better for me, which is a plus.
  • Buy in Bulk: Make space in your pantry to buy dry goods and non-food items in bulk. I usually make a once a month trip to Sam’s Club to stock up on most household items and various pantry staples. I will also peruse Amazon or Walmart.com for nonperishables every now and again. Whenever I decide to purchase any items, I always try to buy a quantity that will last for at least a month, if not more. Whatever I can get online just reduces the amount of stuff I have to pick up on my twice-monthly trip to town.
  • Stock Up on Protein: Eggs will last a lot longer in your fridge than you might think. And if you get them fresh from the farmer they’ll last even longer, not having to endure any transit time to the grocery store. We buy our beef in bulk, and will often pick up large quantities of pork, chicken, and/or bacon when it goes on sale. One of our greatest investments after getting married was The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System, which absolutely makes a difference in how long freezer foods last without getting freezer burnt.

All right, so you’ve got the why and the how, now here’s where the rubber meets the road.

Over the next couple of weeks here at CWC, I’ll be sharing my personal resources that I use to help me manage my twice-monthly meal planning and grocery shopping. Be sure to check out these posts in the coming weeks:

I certainly hope you will find them helpful to you and utilize them to best suit your family’s needs and budget. I honestly can’t fathom going back to a place where I don’t meal plan and I love that I only make a pilgrimage to town two times a month for groceries.

Won’t you join in on the conversation by commenting at the bottom of the page?

  • How often do you go grocery shopping in a month? Would you like to go less?

  • Are you a meal planner? If not, what is holding you back from giving it a try?

  • Why are you interested in shopping less and/or meal planning? Do you have any tips of your own to share?

Be Still & Know…

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4 thoughts on “Planning Ahead Series {Part 1}: How I Meal Plan & Grocery Shop Just 2 Times a Month

  1. As you know, dear niece, I’ve had lots of experience with this. The most important item for me to remember is to have the largest cooler my vehicle will carry! It gives me more flexibility in what I purchase, and if I have a flat tire or a breakdown on the way home, my food has a better chance of survival. Since I shop even less than you do, I don’t plan meals and everything is fixed from scratch, so I keep a good supply of spices on hand (check expiration dates–I found one in my cabinet that was older than you! Betty Crocker I am not!), I buy almond milk because of its longer shelf life instead of cows milk (I’m over a hundred miles one way from fresh cows milk!) but I always have powdered milk on hand for recipes that aren’t compatible with the flavor of almond milk. I try to keep a good supply of basic foods on hand that I can mix in various ways. You are right on the money with the vacuum sealer and buying in bulk! A large package of chicken breasts, etc. are so handy when wrapped in cellophane and frozen individually then placed in a gallon freezer bag. Since my husband died I have eliminated the big freezer he used for volume meat (buffalo and wild game), but I am still very dependent upon my freezers. I keep a supply of homemade jerky on hand for unexpected opportunities like trail rides or my volunteer archaeology research work. Shopping online sounds good, but prompt delivery is questionable here in paradise. Thanks for the article!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your insights on this subject, I know you’ve perfected this system over the years! And your tips are all great ones…I absolutely forgot to mention the importance of a cooler in the vehicle when you don’t live close to town. I could not agree more! And Wildland Man is something of a spice connoisseur, so our spice cabinet is always well stocked ;). I also buy almond milk and keep dry milk on hand, they are perfect for recipes when I’m out of cow’s milk. I would love to do a better job of making my own jerky, that’s a great idea to keep on hand as well. And I totally understand your concern with online shopping where you live, you have to be picky about your purchases, perhaps just sticking to non-perishables like toilet paper and cleaning products to shorten your grocery list for town. Again, thanks for the tips, hopefully some of mine will be useful to you too! Be sure to print a freezer inventory sheet from this post if you need one. It’s super handy, I just keep mine on my freezer with a magnet and make adjustments to it as I add or remove items.

    1. Hi Cheryl–thanks so much for reading along! I hope this series does give you some insight. I should warn you, it’s a lot of trial and error and tweaking and revising of what works for you in changing circumstances! 😉 Either way, stay tuned… and be sure to grab the freebies I’ll be sharing with each post!

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