Friday, July 18, 2008

The once-a-month grocery list

As I have mentioned earlier, the key to shopping once a month is meal planning, a grocery list, calculator and a large grocery store. The meal planning keeps me focused on what I truly need to buy for one person, the grocery list makes sure I get all the items needed to prepare meals and my calculator tells me if I am overspending. The large grocery store benefits me with a wide selection of items and the power of bulk pricing without a membership fee.

While I discussed the necessity of keeping track of items that run low or run out using a magnetic pad on my refrigerator, I have not explicitly explained how my final grocery list is generated. When the items I decide I want to prepare for dinner are complete, I compare the required items for the recipe with my pantry and freezer. I am not perfectly organized in either area, but I have a good sense if I have a can of crushed tomatoes. However, I will have to check if it is the 15 ounce or 28 ounce size. This makes sure that the only items on my grocery list are the ones I either do not have or do not have enough of to create the meal.

I have small stock piles of various foodstuff including rice, beans, cans of tuna, cans of soup, various cans of tomato products, flour and other baking supplies. With the meal planning, my current stock and items that have or will run out, my grocery list is well populated. My grocery list to feed a single person for at least one month includes:
  • One or two fresh fruit items

  • Granola bars

  • Two or three vegetables including white onions

  • Assorted meat products (bacon, ground meat or meat pieces)

  • Meat substitutes (veggie crumble)

  • Cheese products (cheddar, mozzarella and American)

  • Dairy (milk, sour cream, yogurt, butter)

  • Eggs

  • Frozen juices (concentrate)

  • Four or five frozen entrees

  • Soda (two 2L bottles)

  • Distilled water (for the cats)

  • Baking supplies (leavening, sugar, salt, spices, flour)

  • Prepackaged fruit (canned, applesauce)

  • Soups (condensed)

  • Cereal (generic, bagged)

  • Condiments (mayo, ketchup, salad dressing)

  • Treats (pudding, cookies, ice cream or chips; only one or two of these selected)

  • Toilet paper

This list is not all inclusive especially for all the meals being prepared that month, but the basics of what I buy every month. I usually have enough of an item it is not critical I purchase it immediately. For example, I have two cans each of condensed cream of mushroom, celery and chicken, the base for many casseroles. Recently, I opened a can of condensed milk and put it on my to-buy list as I have only one in the house at a time. Few recipes I use call for this item.

For many people, the dairy items are fewer than what I consume. I drink at least four gallons of 1% milk, eat 32 ounces of yogurt, use 16 ounces of sour cream, slather on 3 pounds of butter and consume 3 pounds of cheese. However, these products, as delicious as they are, are also expensive. Select items you enjoy eating, but compromise on how often you eat them if your spending plan does not allow for all of them.

My grocery spending is about 4.5% of after-tax income. [The after-tax income takes into account the pretax contributions to my 401(k) and Flexible Spending Account.] This allotted amount is solely money I spend at the grocery store for food (excluding nonfood items and eating out). Ten months out of the year, I hit this number or below it. If I exceed this number, I subtract the amount from my eating out budget. It has been harder to hit this number recently, but I also have not been cooking from scratch as often as I had previously.


  1. I grocery shop once a month, too! Here are my tips and tricks:
    I think shopping once a month is fun!!

  2. Thank you so much for this list! I am a recent college grad living alone, and it's so hard to find a grocery list to only feed one person. I've also found it's good to have a bi-weekly list for things like milk, eggs, salad, etc., and a monthly list for things that won't go bad (or at least won't go bad as quickly).

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  4. I take out one day a month to window shop at three to four stores with my calculator in hand to peruse and price the items I need BEFORE I purchase. These are San Francisco-Bay area stores, so you will need to similar markets for your region. First stop, a warehouse market designed for small cafe and restaurant owners that have good prices on volume purchases on just about everything(e.g. Smart n Final). Second, low-end grocery chain markets for cat food, kitty litter, again, I look at the discount shelves first and volume purchases (Lucky's, Safeway). Third, Whole Foods or Bread Circus for East Coasters, for good buys on hormone free, organic, free-range poultry, meats; organic fruits and vegetables, specialty bulk-grains like spelt,granola, nuts. More analysis ensures I make the most of my nutrition and dollar. As a single lady on a not wasting foods, staying within a budget, keeping my variety interesting, striving for high levels of nutrition, eating fresh foods for freshness because of taste and satiety are ALL really important to me. I get bored easily with eating my own cooking, and like most people, can find myself lured away to take-out or cafes. I plan and prepare two days of meals in advance and stick with it. When I sense myself getting bored, I force myself to write up with something totally new with the ingredients I have on hand. I buy fresh produce twice a week. I hope these are helpful solutions for you!

  5. Low fat food at grocery stores with nutritional facts