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)
- 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.