Over the years, I have gotten TONS of reader questions about food consumption and grocery shopping. Here are just a few: “Stacy, how do you keep enough food in the house?” “Help Stacy! I can’t figure out how much to buy!” “Stacy my family eats so much food that I am constantly running out!” Dear Stacy, I don’t want to over-buy and waste food, but I don’t want to run out either. “How do I buy enough food, but not too much?”
The struggle is real, y’all.
I’m no expert, but I love this topic. And as some of you know, I actually used to be a huge fan of once-a-month grocery shopping. I planned every single meal down to the serving. absolutely loved once-a-month shopping. I would send Barry to the store whenever we ran out of milk and bananas, because those were the only things we couldn’t make last a month. Then (THEN!) my kids started eating. I mean REALLY eating. Eating like I question whether or not they’ve got a tapeworm… (They don’t have one, but that seems like the only real explanation of how much food we eat in this house!) My people like to eat A LOT.
But I just couldn’t do once-a-month shopping trip anymore for 2 main reasons.
- It was was harder to keep track of all the food we were eating.
- I was overwhelmed at the massive quantity of food that I would be bringing into my house at one time. I know we’ve only got 6 people, but I just couldn’t handle all the food. You large-family mamas are awesome!
Instead of once-a-month shopping, I alternate between Aldi and Walmart and go shopping once a week. I also take a monthly trip to Sam’s club and buy some things at online retailers like Amazon. But my favorite is Walmart – because in case you haven’t heard… they have FREE online ordering with FREE grocery pickup. Have I told y’all about that yet? You just place your order and drive up and they put it in your car. It’s a total game-changer. But that’s off topic… back to the question at hand!
How do you buy enough food, but not too much?
Let me start by saying, I am more likely to buy too much of something that is going to keep like rice, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, frozen vegetables, etc. I tend to buy smaller amounts of things that are perishable like dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fresh meats. My first tip is simple…
Always meal plan.
I could say this until I’m blue in the face, or until the cows come home, or until…well, you get the picture. But planning your meals is the BEST way to ensure you know what to buy and don’t end up with too little OR too much. Remember: you don’t serve your meal plan! It’s there to serve you. It’s not the boss of you! It’s there to give you a road map of where to go and help keep you on track.
Make meals that call for fresh ingredients, first.
What do I mean by that? Look at your meal plan and arrange based on which meals use the freshest ingredients – like fresh produce or meat. I know how y’all feel having a fear that you’re going to buy too much and not use it. I hate wasting food! We eat a lot of produce – especially fruit and fresh salads. My family meal plan always includes salads because we all really like them. If Cobb Salad is on the menu, you’ll want to plan for that towards the start of the week, before the greens and vegetables get too wilted.
If you’re making chili and plan to use frozen beef, spices, canned tomatoes and beans, you could plan that toward the end of the week, because all of those ingredients will last for a while.
Be flexible; don’t be afraid to rearrange your meal plan.
Over the years I have learned that occasionally, I will need to tweak and rearrange my meal plan a bit. Say there is a week where your whole house gets sick and eats nothing but crackers for two days. That’s two days worth of meals you didn’t cook. Look at your meal plan and move around your menu for the week based on the ingredients in your fridge that you need to use up right away!
Maybe I am planning to make spaghetti and meatballs on Friday, but Friday morning, I realize that we still have lots of lettuce left over. I’ll change that up and make taco or cheeseburger salad instead to use up the fresh produce. Rearrange your meal plan so you can use up the excess of what you have.
Or let’s say you bought a bunch of carrots and a bunch of frozen peas. If meatloaf and peas are on the menu, but you realize you still have tons of carrots left over – change things up. Even though peas are on the meal plan as the side for dinner – use up the carrots! Give peas a chance. The peas won’t mind hanging out in the freezer another week.
When it gets down to the end of the budget money and you still need to eat, get creative!
Maybe you eat beans and rice for a few days! Eat what’s there. Hungry for a snack? Eat leftovers or a bowl of frozen veggies or beans and rice. I also love the Budget Bytes blog – it’s full of delicious and affordable recipes. I love that she shares the cost per serving for every recipe. This is definitely a great resource as you’re planning your weekly menu.
Always stock your freezer full of frozen fruit and veggies.
When you buy too much fresh produce, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And even easier to have produce that goes bad. But I buy bags and bags (and bags!) of frozen fruit and vegetables every time I go to the store. Its often more affordable And, I find that since the vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness , they are often tastier than fresh produce. And lastly, since they will last practically FOREVER in your freezer, so you can be sure you’ll always have them on hand. Also, having a pantry stocked with rice, pasta, beans, oats, canned goods, etc. is a huge help!
How do you buy enough food, but not too much?
How can you plan well so you don’t run out? There’s no special secret. It takes time to learn what works best for each family. But pay attention to how much your people eat in a week. I’ve learned so much by trial and error. And I think ultimately being able to have enough food, but not too much is all about having a meal plan, a stocked pantry and freezer, and rearranging your weekly menu to meet your needs.
What are your best tips for how to buy enough food, but not too much?