Tag Archives: Groceries

Taking a Food Inventory

Taking a food inventory

A food inventory is ALWAYS my first step in meal planning. Before looking at Pinterest. Before looking at my Meal Categories binder. Before thinking of any meals.

“That will take forever!!!” you are probably thinking.

BUT. If you are consistently doing this method and using up your inventory, this doesn’t take long AND you are saving money by using what you already have. A stocked freezer or pantry is nice in theory, but food is money.

So, moving on to the method.

Inventory Planning Meals


1. Inventory your pantry.

Write down anything you have that is useful for a family meal.  No, not the half bag of chips or the 1/2 cup of rice.  I’m talking canned goods, 1/2 or almost full boxes of rice, enough potatoes for your whole family. These are all components that can be used to make a complete meal.

2. Inventory your refrigerator

Same rule as above. Only usable items. This also helps you see what you can quickly throw together for a snack or meal to use up before grocery shopping. 1 nectarine and 1 plum? Great, cut it up for your kids’ snack this afternoon. Use it up! Food. Is. Money.

3. Inventory your freezer

I count freezer meals I’ve prepped in this one as well.  When I freezer prep, it’s because I’ve made a double batch of something or saved some leftovers. These meals are usually used up within a month.  Sometimes I have extra meat because it was an insanely great ad price.


Look at your list of ingredients and mentally put them together to make a meal. For example, I have rice, tortilla, chicken in the freezer, and Rotel.  All I need is some sour cream and cheddar cheese and I can make enchiladas.  Another example: red sauce and spaghetti noodles. All I need is some ground beef, or we could have a meatless spaghetti. Add these ingredients to the list on the inventory sheet.

Sometimes you will be able to make a full meal without buying anything additional. The key is to look for meals that only need 1-2 ingredients. This way, you are using up what you have and your grocery list is going to be short.

Download your FREE copy of the Inventory sheet I use and check out how I shop for these ingredients and plan my remaining meals: Ad Shopping.



How I Shop The Ads

How I Shop The Ads

I have 3 main goals when I look through the ads.

  1. Find ingredients that I need for the meals I came up with from my inventory sheet.
  2. Check for staples we always have around the house that may be on sale. Things like salsa, bread, certain produce my kids love, etc.
  3. Look for great deals that can contribute to a meal. This might be meat at a great price, produce on sale that we will eat as a side, or other components like rice and tortillas.

Other tips:

I almost always “settle” for an ad item. What I mean by this is instead of eating broccoli as a side, we will have asparagus because it’s on sale cheaper than the broccoli.

Don’t buy an item just because it’s on sale. Buy it if it’s cheaper than the store brand and you actually NEED it or will USE IT for a meal.

Color code the stores as you make your list. You will be able to see which store has the best deals at a glance, then decide if it’s worth going to that store.


If there are only 2-3 items in an ad that you need, will use, and is cheaper than store brand, it’s not worth going to the store. I only go to the store if there is a significant amount of sale items.

If you’re new to ad shopping, I suggest starting a price sheet just to start seeing what good prices are. This opened my eyes a ton to seeing what is actually a great sale price. You can read about how I did that here.

Download my Ad Shopping sheet below!

_Ad Shopping

Mid-Month Meal & Grocery Planning

My goal going into part-time work was to cut our grocery bill in half. On You Need A Budget, I noticed it was the 3rd highest spending category so I changed the way I shopped for groceries.  At the beginning of September, I detailed how I only spent $151 for two weeks.  Here, I will lay out my mid-month planning and shopping.

The first thing I did before planning meals for the remainder of the month was take inventory of the ingredients we already have.  I list all the things in the freezer, pantry/cupboards, and fridge – items that can be part of a meal.   You may already do this in your head, but it’s much easier to see the meals you can make once it’s all written out.

I studied the list and checked to see what I could use together to make a meal – frozen taco meat, tortillas, taco shells, garden tomatoes – all I needed was some lettuce and sour cream for tacos.   Same thing with hamburgers – I had frozen buns, ground beef, and french fries. Hot dog pizzas – I had pizza sauce, frozen hot dog buns, and mozzarella. All I needed was the pepperonis.  Chili – I have every single ingredient and hadn’t even planned on it!

Next, make a list of ingredients needed to complete each meal, as well as items for snacks or refills (dish soap, syrup, etc.).

I had already done my price sheet so I checked that to see where the cheapest price was for each item. If it wasn’t on sale, I quickly searched online Walmart and Hyvee. I was ordering online anyway, so I just added it to my cart at whichever store was cheaper.

Last, I hit up Fresh Thyme for cheap produce and picked up my orders at Hyvee and Walmart! Grand total was $182.89.  I wanted to be around $150, but purchased meat this time. A few convenience items also brought the price up.

Meat: chicken legs, chicken breasts, turkey sausage, deli turkey, deli ham

Produce: 2 baby carrots, lettuce, avocado, canteloupe, 2 salad bags, grapes, oranges, apples, 2 prepared salads, pears, 3 bags frozen vegetables, bananas

Convenience: PBJ Uncrustables, frozen pancakes, taquitos, juice boxes, Larabars, 20-pack of snack crackers, 8 fruit cups, frozen veggie noodles

Diary, etc.: Eggs, 2 packages sliced cheese, string cheese, cheese singles, stick butter, soft butter, sour cream, 5 yogurt Flips, Go-gurt

Refills: syrup, gum, dish soap

Other: 2 loaves of bread, pita crackers, nacho cheese, 3 bags chips, raisins, chocolate chips, canned fruit, chocolate pretzels, oatmeal, almonds, cinnamon

2 Weeks of Produce

When I tell people I shop for 2 weeks, there is almost always a question about the products. Do I have enough for a 2nd week? Do I have to go back to get fresh? How do I make it last 2 weeks?

Here are the fruits and vegetables I have left from my September 1st grocery trip. (The white basket has items from our garden.) Still plenty to make it through the week!

Here are my tips on how to make produce last 2 weeks:

Buy Frozen

Frozen vegetables and fruit have just as many nutrients as fresh because they’re picked at peak ripeness and frozen within a few hours.  I always have both frozen fruit and veggies in our freezer for week 2 or as a backup incase a vegetable goes bad or the kids eat more fruit than I had anticipated.

Know What To Use First

Eat and cook with the produce that will get rotten quicker, and save the others for week 2. For example, asparagus first, carrots the 2nd week. Grapes and peaches for snack first, apples and oranges for snack the 2nd week.

Buy Only What You Know You Will Use

This is something I had to get better at. I would walk by the vegetables and grab broccoli, asparagus, and brussels sprouts and think “We might need these for a meal some night.” and then they would get bad because I didn’t actually need them.  Always plan your meals ahead and make your grocery list from that. Stick to the list!!

You Don’t Need A Huge Variety

I used to buy strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples….aaaalll the fruit – because my kids LOVE fruit. It makes up about 75% of their snacks. But having so much variety meant that it couldn’t all get eaten before it went bad. Now what I do is buy a small variety of fruit the first 2 weeks, and buy different fruits for the last 2 weeks of the month.

2 weeks + Family of 5 Eaters = $151 Grocery Bill

When I switched to working part-time, I revisited our budget several times to see where we could cut back. One category that was always extremely high was the grocery bill. At an average of $800/month, groceries was the third highest spending category – just after mortgage and daycare.

I’ve always wanted to use the ads, compare prices, and use coupons or money-saving apps. I’d never taken the time to do those things, and I thought I knew what a good price was. I assumed shopping at Walmart gave me the lowest prices, but after using a price sheet I realized I was wrong!

If you’ve read how I create and use my price sheet, this is where I show it to you in action!

STEP 1: Shop your cupboards. Take inventory of what you already have. I knew I had about 8lb hamburger, a pork shoulder, and 2 packages of chicken to use for meals. These were past sale purchases that I knew I would utilize in the future.

STEP 2: Plan your meals. For 2 weeks, I plan 8-10 meals, which allows for a couple leftover nights,1-2 nights of dining out, and 1-2 “Clean out the fridge/freezer” nights, if needed.  I found that getting groceries weekly resulted in a lot of wasted food.

STEP 3: Ad prices go on the price sheet. Find which store has the lowest price and make a store list. I shop from 4 stores – 2 are pickup, 2 I have to go in.


STEP 4: For the remaining items, I searched online Hyvee and Walmart to see who had the lowest price. I order online and pickup at both of those stores.

STEP 5: Go shopping and be proud of all the money you just saved!!

Using A Price Sheet To Save Money On Your Next Grocery Trip

If you’re like me, grocery shopping looks like this:

  1. Plan the meals.
  2. Make the grocery list.
  3. Go to the store. Most likely with 1-4 children.
  4. Throw the groceries in the cart like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep.
  5. Pick the shortest checkout line, which ends up being the longest wait. (Every. Time.)
  6. Load the groceries in the car while telling kids no less than 5 times to get buckled.
  7. Unload the groceries.
  8. Eat the Subway you picked up because there’s no way you’re making supper after all of that.

So WHY ON EARTH would you want to add yet another step to the madness of grocery shopping?!

I’m here to tell you that you could be savings HUNDREDS of dollars over time by creating this simple list.  I say that from experience, and I’ll show you how I did it in just 2 easy steps.

Step 1: Create a table (5 columns) on your program of choice (I used Word.).  Label the columns item, store, price, price/unit.  You may want to make separate tables for each category: produce, meat, dairy, household products, etc.

Step 2: Get out your weekly ads.  Log only the items you use (don’t get too crazy logging the entire ad).  Even if I’m not buying a product this time, I still log it if I’m going to buy it eventually because I will want to compare prices over time.  All items in RED are the current week’s ad price.


BONUS STEP: If you want to get really detailed, you can go back after shopping to log items purchased at regular prices.  I try to do this for things I have never bought on sale so I can see across stores, who has the best price.

You will soon start to notice if an ad price is really a good price when you compare over time.  I did this for three weeks and when I saw bacon was on sale for $1.99, I practically ran to the store to buy a few packs because the lowest price I’d seen so far was $3.99.

Here are some examples of the same item on sale. I chose to buy shredded cheese and strawberries at Supersaver because they were the lower prices.

Another thing your price sheet will do for you is help you decide what items you may want to stock up on (so many things can be frozen!).  In the first example, I saw buns and BBQ sauce were super cheap. I didn’t need them this month, but I bought them to freeze and save for when I do.

This may seem like it takes a long time, but once you get rolling it becomes easier! I would love to hear from those of you that do this. Any tips or tricks?