As homemakers, we have a love-hate relationship with meal planning. We know how essential it is to make sure our family is fed healthy meals. Planning ahead allows us to make sure we aren’t flying by the seat of our pants. Meal planning is by far the best way to make your grocery budget stretch to its maximum potential. I like to take meal planning to the next level because I hate it so much. I love how it saves us money and I have a plan in place but I hate the decision fatigue deciding what to cook and when and then what I need to buy.
That is why meal planning in bulk is my new plan. It is how I can have the best of both worlds. While it does take some extra time up front it saves me so much more time and money later. And when you’re living frugally this is a major advantage. For me, meal planning in bulk is generally a 6-week meal plan that ends up lasting us 8 weeks. In the past 6 months, I have started shopping every 2 months instead of monthly. It has been working out so well!
I find that when I go to the grocery store on a weekly basis or even monthly basis that I spend so much more money. The more frequently I go the more money I spend. Therefore, I need to go less often. Since I hate the process of meal planning the less often that I need to feel that stress the better. Shopping in bulk is a lifesaver!
But how do I do it? I get asked that a lot.
Frequently Asked Questions
What about milk, eggs, and bread?
What about fresh fruit and veggies?
Doesn’t your food or bad before you can use it?
Let’s clear up these frequently asked questions first.
I do have to make a trip at the end of the first month and start of the second month to get more milk, bread, lunch meat, and potatoes. I do however buy enough milk and eggs for the month and no, they do not go bad. Nor do I freeze them. My kids eat drink a lot of milk!
I strategically plan all of my meals that need fresh ingredients for the beginning of the meal plan. Then once they are used up we do not have again until I go shopping next. This works for us. We do not have a lot of extra cash to always have fresh fruit and veggies on hand, so we enjoy them in the beginning of the month and then we eat canned fruit for the remainder. The only time this is different is in the summer when we go berry picking.
Meal Planning in Bulk
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of how I actually accomplish this!
This is by far the BEST way to plan such a large amount of meals. I have used other online meal planning services and they stunk. Sorry, but it’s true. The site’s were buggy. The shopping list was never correct. I couldn’t add other things to the shopping list before printing. Importing meals was a nightmare. They were always a headache and we ended the subscription.
Plan to Eat is so user-friendly. Importing your own recipes is a breeze. I imported over 120 recipes in one nap time sitting. Talk about a breeze. You can type in your family favorites, import from your Pinterest boards or any other website that you have saved recipes on.
Then all you have to do is simply drag and drop the meals from one side of the web page into your calendar. So easy! You can easily move them around. You can plan for every meal and snacks. Now here comes the best part ever. Are you ready?! It then automatically creates your shopping list for you. Say what?! Yes! There is no other work for you other than planning the menu. It cuts meal planning time in half. I am in love with this system. It also breaks your list into different stores that you buy your items from. There are certain things that I am going to get Wegmans, Aldi, and BJs. After you add them to your favorite store, they will always be saved there. Then the list prints broken up into your different stores. How amazing is that?
Oh and another amazing feature is the fact that it saves everything you do. All of your past meal plans are easily accessible so that you can simply repeat them instead replanning.
After you’re done, you can print the calendar view of your meals and put them on your fridge. So convenient!
I cannot stress how revolutionary this website has been to my meal planning!
It is cost effective when you think about what your time is worth and worth every penny.
I understand that not everyone is going to be able to purchase a subscription to a site like Plan to Eat. We didn’t do it for 6 years. But when I saw how much time I was using up meal planning, I knew I needed a fast more effective way to do this.
The days before Plan to Eat, I had to be very organized if I wanted to meal plan and shop in bulk. In order to make this kind of shopping work, you have to be intentional about everything.
I would have a running list on my phone note app of all of the meals that we eat. Anything new that I tried and we enjoyed I would then add it to our list of meals.
I also sat down one afternoon and typed out a spreadsheet shopping list of all of the ingredients that we would need for each of those meals, all of the staple ingredients we needed, all of the paper products we use, and all of the toiletries we used.
I could then print off this shopping list, have a blank sheet of paper, my list of meals and I would write out all of the dates for the month on one side and then start adding in meals to each date. Then I would go to my shopping list and mark how many of the said items I would need.
Already having the meal list and shopping prewritten helps streamline the manual process when you don’t have a subscription service. Half the work is already done for you each month.
Being organized is KEY when it comes to meal planning in bulk.
You have to know what you have on hand in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. If you are not organized then you risk the chance of buying items that you already have.
Keeping a running inventory of everything you have on hand is a simple way of keeping track. I simply print out these free printable that I found on Pinterest and keep them on a clipboard in my kitchen. This is where I keep our menu for the month as well. Keeping everything together is also very helpful.
When it is finally time to go shopping, I make sure to schedule my shopping day on a day that my husband can either stay home with the children or we all go together. He will go and help me if I don’t feel like spending all morning out shopping. He can usually take half the list and help shop. But that is rare, I typically go alone.
It does take 2-3 hours to shop in bulk. You have to be strategic in how you go about it. Have enough time, bring your lists. I always start at Aldi; if there is something that they don’t have I will then add it to my Wegmans shopping list so that way I won’t have to make another trip. Because then I’ll just spend more money, remember? Tip: Make sure to have enough bags for everything that you are buying from Aldi. This is why you need a good chunk of time to shop. Bagging your own groceries takes forever. Just think of all the time you are saving later on!
I then go to the more expensive grocery store. I like to go from one store to the next to just get everything all done in one outing.
Putting the Groceries Away
having a pantry, extra fridge and freezer are really what makes meal planning and shopping in bulk achievable. Without them, you can’t hold all of the food you are buying.
When I get home the whole family helps unload the car. yes, even the toddler! Then we separate the food into piles that need to go down to the pantry and what can stay upstairs.
Once everything is in the pantry, I will rotate the foods so we are always using the older stuff first. I also add everything new to my pantry inventory list.
While this may seem like a lot of work, it is so worth it! I only have to spend about 3 hours meal planning and shopping for 2 whole months worth of food. I love that!! I really dislike meal planning and grocery shopping so this way of shopping saves my sanity, saves me time and saves our family. so. much. money. if you are looking for a way to save on your grocery budget, then I highly recommend meal planning first and foremost and then learn how to shop in bulk. Start small, maybe you can only store one months worth of food. I think once you see how effective this method is you will slowly start finding ways to stretch what you have to make it so that you only have to go through this process once every 2 months.
I’ll warn you, though, once you start it will be hard to go back to weekly shopping!
Your turn! Do you meal plan? Do you shop in bulk? How often do you get groceries? Have you tried an online subscription service to help you with meal planning?
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