Friday, January 02, 2009

Can I tell you a secret?

I have found the secret to consistantly lowering your grocery bill. I know that there are many who would sell you this secret and well, I've bought many of them over the years, BUT none really saved me much on a consistant basis. Most involved clipping coupons or shopping at different stores for different deals or even worse, buying things that aren't good for you or that your family won't eat. In the long run, I'd end up running to the store for things that we actually wanted to eat or getting REALLY tired of clipping coupons, then not even using them.

So, what am I getting at? For the past 18 weeks, we've been using my 5 Week Menu List and have consistantly lowered our grocery bill by over $250 a month. Amazing! We've been using it 5 weeks on and 1 week off, then repeating it again. Not only has it consistantly saved us money, but it's made sure that each of our favorites gets eaten every 5 weeks no matter what.

Here's how it works...

1.Make a Master Grocery List. This is your list of every favorite meal that you have as a family. Start with your dinner list and work your way through lunch, breakfasts, snacks, and desserts. Yes, it's going to take a while but IT'S worth it! I promise! Go through your favorite recipe books, favorite food websites, ask your husband and kids what they'd like to see on the list. The bigger the list, the better at this point.

2.Print out or make some sort of menu planner. Assign a catagory for Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, and Dessert for every day of the week. You'll need around 5-6 weeks of them. I bought one from Cindy Rushton but you can make your own just as easy. I think has them for free.

3. Start filling in your menu plans.

Now, I do a rotation on Breakfast meals. Every Monday is Pancake day, Tuesday is toast, bagel, english muffin day, Wed is oat day (oatmeal, granola, bars, breakfast cookies, etc.) Thursday is cereal (we leave early that day), Friday is muffin day, Saturday is eggs and bacon, Sunday is smoothie day.

Skip lunch until dinner is planned. I like to incorporate leftovers into this meal.

Dinners, look at the different meals that you've written down. Try to separate them into catagories. Maybe mexican on Mondays and Pasta on Tuesdays. Or chicken on Weds and Hamburger on Thursdays. YOU PICK the theme. I incorporated some nationality themes and some around our favorite meats. I have a "homestyle" Sunday on my list that has things like meatloaf and mashed potatoes or fried chicken and fried squash.

Once you have dinner planned, go back and do lunch. If you have a Ham planned one day that week, try adding a soup with ham for lunch the next day. If you have roasted chicken one day, try chicken quesadillas or chicken salad sometime in that week.

Don't forget to plan your snacks and desserts! You know that you eat them, you might as well plan for them. They don't have to be fancy. Sometimes just carrots and ranch dressing will hold off the hungries while dinner is being cooked just as well as rice crispie treats or homemade cookies.LOL I try to incorporate easy snacks and some harder ones throughout the week depending on our schedule that day. Desserts can be an easy brownie recipe or some icecream or it can be something like popsicles or fudgesicles. I mix it up and only allow the more expensive dessert once a week and make easy/cheap desserts the rest of the time.

4.Now, you have your meal plans, what's next? Easy, now to list EVERYTHING needed to make each day's recipes. You will want a separate list for each week. LIST EVERYTHING EVEN IF YOU ALREADY HAVE IT RIGHT NOW! If you make your pancakes from scratch, list flour, salt, baking powder, eggs, oil, milk, etc...You want to make sure that it's in your pantry when you need it, even if it's 18 weeks from now. It's going to be a long list but here's the secret, you won't need all of it each time.

Now, you're done! Take your Week 1 list and Menu out. Put the Menu on your fridge and the list in your hand. Go through your pantry and fridge and cross off everything that you already have. What's left is what you need to buy for that week.

This week, when I crossed off everything that I had in my pantry and fridge, I had less than 20 items to buy for the week. I bought some of those in bulk so that I wouldn't need to buy them for the next few weeks and my total grocery bill today was $81.00. I still need to buy bread from the bread outlet and honey at the farmer's market but after that I'll have everything for the week. Pretty neat!

The beauty of this method is that no meal ever gets old. You only see it once every 5-6 weeks! Another great thing about this, is that it eliminates impulse buying. When will you use it? You know that every meal is covered, so if you buy it, it'll go to waste.

This program is awesome and completely free. Feel free to copy my menu plan listed under "5 week menu" on my sidebar if you need inspiration, I don't mind.LOL

All I can say is that this works.



Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great idea, Lisa! You have me motivated to give this a try. How do I see your menu plan? I would love the inspiration. Thank you!
Melanie in CA
(from the SHS list)
email address:

Stephanie said...

This is awesome! It's so common sense easy, but it's nice to have steps to follow. We're like you in that we have dietary requirements that don't let us just eat whatever is on sale or is cheapest. I've started getting a menu mailer for a few months to help with some of our allergies, and then I'm going to take them and make up a plan like yours. Love it. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa in Jax said...

Thanks Melanie! My menu plan is on the right side of my blog under Labels. It's the very first one called "5 Week Menu."


Thanks! Yes, it's hard to follow most plans just because of the diet issues. This has been the only way I've been able to reduce our bill. I'm glad that I could help.

De'Etta @ Choosing Joy said...

Lisa - you've made my day!

I must confess that I am not a coupon shopper. I've tried it and we didn't save $....we have certain foods we won't eat regardless of price and some that are "must haves". I've told others that we eat organic/natural for the same or less than we did before the switch...and most say "no way" - but reading your post I's because I do what you've mentioned.....I don't write it all out but it's what we've been doing since so much of what I buy is bought from a truck monthly or a produce co-op weekly. I rarely go to a grocery store and when I do its for specific items....A couple of years ago I began sitting everyone down once a month to list the dinner menus - and discovered what you have. I don't do lunches (always left overs and sandwhiches around here) or breakfast. I should add breakfast - that would save me a big chunk as we've gotten into eating more cereal than I like (by the case from co-op but still a place that I realize we could cut back).

We do this monthly - but 5 - 6 weeks would be good...and I wonder if my monthly cooking software would help with this. I'll ask Linda to comment as I know she uses the software. LOL

I'm going to check out your menu and I'm going to write mine all out again.....I have been winging it....with the same principles but I like having it organized. LOL

Thanks for this post.

Donna said...

This is great, Lisa. I've never planned menus more than 2 weeks out. Hmmmm...but to do something like this that can be reused!

I'm heading over to see how you did your plan. Then I need to think about how I can include the freezer cooking I love to do. Thanks for sharing this!

Lisa in Jax said...


YES! See, we have the same food issues and it's hard to follow any plan that requires discount food or coupons for certain products. This has been a real budget saver for us and that isn't even the reason I started doing it! I started it so that I could spend less time on shopping and more time homeschooling the kids.

I'm glad I could

Lisa in Jax said...


This works WONDERFULLY with freezer cooking! I only use homemade chicken broth in all my recipes and then I plan out the cooked chicken throughout the five weeks. This way, I only cook and debone chicken once every 5-6 weeks. I also do this for brisket and pulled pork. Cook once and enjoy the rest of the rotation.

Good Stuff!

Cynthia said...

One of these days I'll get around to making a menu! Glad you've been able to lower your grocery bill so much. GOOD JOB!

Dorothy said...

Yes, menu planning definitly works! It's a discipline, like many others which I slip from sometimes, though! LOL!

Wild Homeschool Family said...

Yes breaking it down into steps like this makes this plan same do-able. I'll seriously consider trying this.

angel bug baby said...

Hi Lisa! I just wanted you to know that I've tested this plan and it does work!! We've reduced our grocery bill by about $100 per WEEK! I have written a little about it on my blog (giving you the credit of course), and I've got several personal friends who are giving it a try. Thank you so much for sharing this plan with us!!

Texarkana, TX

Lisa in Jax said...

That's wonderful Amy! I'm just about to post my 5 week rotation for summer this week too. I'm glad that I could help!