Do you ever feel like grocery shopping is the most painful experience? My main issue is that I end up staring into the cast abyss of snacks, cookies, candy & ice cream, totally distracted from the task at hand. Over the past few years, I’ve taught myself how to shop smarter. This means: eating everything I buy, making healthier choices & not spending obscene amounts of money every week. Because saving money means you have a little extra in your budget for splurging on things like dinner out with your friends or a new pair of shoes!
Most people assume that the smartest way to grocery shop is by creating a long list of ingredients for each recipe you plan on making. Every once in a while, it’s fun to whip up a specific recipe, but it’s not always economical. Instead, I think it’s a lot easier, time efficient & thrifty to create a flexible grocery shopping list.
The Easiest Way to Grocery Shop
If you’re shopping for one person, a good goal is to have a budget of around $50 a week. And you can totally stay under budget and buy healthy stuff. You don’t need to live off of Cup O Noodles and Peanut Butter. The great part about this “open concept” is that you’re buying a bunch of stuff that gives you variety. I hate making one meal and having to live off of the leftovers for a week, it get’s totally boring and I usually cave and end up getting Postmates.
Where to Shop
There are tons of places you can shop for groceries, that’s not rocket science. BUT, did you know some places are actually cheaper than others?
Most people assume that Trader Joe’s is super expensive, but it’s not! I find that I spend less money when I shop here that at one of the larger grocery store chains. AND they have some of the best food finds. I’m addicted to their lightened up kale artichoke dip (which I use all week in chicken sandwiches, as a dip & on pizza). A lot of their foods are private label, but basically just name brand stuff that’s been repackaged… at a huge discount.
For instance, Trader Joe’s Pita Chips with Sea Salt are EXACTLY the same as Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips. I’m not kidding. Do a taste test and you’ll thank me. The best part is that Trader Joe’s are only $1.99 a bag and Stacy’s are $3.99! I love their pre-packed vegetables. They’re generally a lot cheaper than other stores and stay fresh longer.
If you don’t have a Costco membership, find a friend with one! You can actually add one person to your account for free! Or, just have your friend take you on a grocery shopping date – you guys can fill up on samples while you chat.
I am obsessed with their rotisserie chickens. I buy one almost every week and use it in a ton of recipes. They’re only $4.99, which is a great deal for the amount of food. I also love stocking up on fruits, vegetables, paper towels & eggs here. It’s way cheaper than any other grocery store.
Grocery Shopping Guide
Alright, so here’s the general breakdown of what I buy (for one person when Tony’s gone). If you’re living with more people, adjust the quantities accordingly.
- PROTEINS: I always buy 2 proteins a week. Depending on your cooking abilities, you can buy it already prepared or raw. I like to buy one of each. A few ideas: Rotisserie Chicken, Marinated Chicken or Beef, Tofu, Ground Turkey, Pre-Cut Stew Meat, Sausage or Fish Fillets.
- VEGETABLES: I always buy 3 vegetables a week. One is always salad. If you shop at Costco or Trader Joe’s, grab a bag of your favorite lettuce. Depending on the store you’re at, check to see whether it’s cheaper to get loose or pre-packaged lettuce. Then, I pick 2 other vegetables out that are easy to cook and go well with different styles. Some of my favorites: brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, onions and bell peppers.
- FRUITS: One of my tricks is to only pick 1 fresh fruit and 1 frozen fruit, that way nothing spoils. I like to grab fruits that go well with yogurt, oatmeal or are easy to throw in a smoothie. I usually opt for berries or melons. If you don’t end up eating it, cut it up and throw it into the freezer.
- SEASONINGS: I always, always, always buy garlic. You can also find frozen garlic cubes or garlic paste which are easy hacks. Depending on how well stocked your cupboard is, throw in new jar of seasoning. I use powdered garlic, powdered onion, onion flakes, all purpose seasoning & taco seasoning pretty frequently. As much as I love fresh herbs, they’re more expensive and go bad quickly.
- EGGS: I buy a half dozen eggs every week, or a carton of egg whites. They’re great for breakfast, a snack, or throwing into fried rice and pasta recipes.
- OATMEAL & GREEK YOGURT: If you buy oatmeal, a large canister of oats will last you a while. I generally buy a couple of greek yogurts and use my stock of oatmeal at home instead of granola, for overnight oats or a quick breakfast. If you buy plain greek yogurt, you can also use it in place of sour cream or cream in a lot of recipes.
- CHARBOHYDRATES: Every once in a while, I do a no-carb (keto) diet, in which case I stock up on more vegetables. But normally, I always make sure to get some carbs. I think it’s good to pick up two options. Normally I go with a sweet potato or a potato & then a box of rice, quinoa or pasta.
- DAIRY: If you drink coffee, you may be used to doing creamer. If you can switch over to milk, almond milk or coconut milk, you’ll save a little money! I buy unsweetened almond milk because I can use it in my coffee, smoothies, overnight oats & even in some recipes as a milk substitute. I also buy one pack of cheese that I can put into salads, pasta, or eggs. Or I even use cheese as a quick snack. I like to pick out a new type every week to keep things interesting.
- SNACK: I pick out one snack option for the week, just in case I’m running late or need a quick refuel. Instead of chips & cookies, I try to opt for nuts, beef jerky, dried fruit (no sugar added) or even individual servings of popcorn.
- TREAT: You read that right. I think it’s important to buy one small treat for myself every week. Whether it’s a bottle of wine or sweet treat, it’s important to add something fun to your shopping cart. One of my favorite’s is Halo Top Ice Cream, because the entire pint is under 300 calories but totally hits the spot.
How Does it Work?
The best part about this formula is that you get to be creative & mix and match ingredients. For me, it’s the easiest way not to get sick of cooking / the foods I buy. Like I said, if I were to buy the ingredients to make one massive recipe, I’d probably spend about the same amount and be totally sick of it by day 3 of leftovers.
Here’s my sample shopping list from last week:
ONE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN + 1 PACK OF JENNY O TACO SEASONED GROUND TURKEY
A SINGLE HEAD OF BUTTER LETTUCE + 1 BAG OF MUSHROOMS + 1 BAG OF RICED CAULIFLOWER
ONE BAG OF FROZEN PINEAPPLE + 1 PACKAGE OF FRESH BERRIES
2 PACKS OF 0% PLAIN GREEK YOGURT
1 CONTAINER OF EGG WHITES
1 SWEET POTATO + 1 BOX OF WHOLE GRAIN PASTA
UNSWEETENED ALMOND MILK + 1 BAG OF MOZZARELLA
1 BAG OF TURKEY JERKY
What I Cooked
Rotisserie Chicken with Mushrooms & Pasta
Slice up a few pieces of Rotisserie Chicken (store the rest in an airtight container). Boil about a half cup of pasta. In a sauce pan, sauté a handful of mushrooms & some garlic with a little olive oil or non-stick cooking spray. Combine your Pasta, Mushrooms & Rotisserie Chicken in the pasta pan. Add a tablespoon of butter and season. Top with a little Mozzarella Cheese.
Taco Lettuce Wraps & Salad
Cook your taco meat. I like to add a little extra taco seasoning if I have it in my pantry. I also like to add a few chopped mushrooms and about a half cup of cauliflower rice while my meat is cooking. This adds vegetables & makes your meat last longer.
Serve in butter lettuce or on top of chopped lettuce as a salad. I like to eat the lettuce cups for dinner and pack the leftovers for salads. Add a little cheese and hot sauce for extra flavor!
Rotisserie Chicken with Mashed Cauliflower
Heat up a few slices of Rotisserie Chicken.
To make the Mashed Cauliflower: Sauté one cup of riced cauliflower in a little butter for about 3 minutes. Add water and boil for about 5-7 minutes or until tender. Save about 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the rest. Mash or puree the cauliflower, adding a little bit of the cooking water at a time until you get your desired consistency. Season with salt & pepper. You can also add a little dried garlic or onion powder for flavor.
Rotisserie Chicken + Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Mushrooms
Heat up a few slices of Rotisserie Chicken
Cut your sweet potatoes into 1/4″ cubes. Toss in a little olive oil and your desired seasoning, salt & pepper. Roast at 450 F for about 15 minutes, then stir in your mushrooms. Cook for another 15 minutes.
Rotisserie Chicken Salad
If you have any leftover Rotisserie Chicken, shred it and use it for lunch salads. Throw in a little cheese & leftover vegetables. Top with your favorite dressing or a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Berries & Cream Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are just oats soaked overnight! They absorb the liquid and turn into a pudding like consistency. You can use tupperware or a mason jar. Combine 1/2 cup of oats and 1/2 cup of almond milk. Then stir in a handful of berries. You can also add 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt to make it more filling.
Greek Yogurt & “Granola”
For a quick breakfast, add 1/4 cup of oatmeal and a handful of berries to your greek yogurt. For an extra treat, add a tablespoon of peanut butter!
If you have any other leftover meat or vegetables, you can sauté them in a little olive oil & serve with pasta. Get creative!
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