Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Update: Buying in Bulk for THREE


Last winter I wrote a post on Buying in Bulk for Two to explain how I keep our groceries on a budget.

Now that we are a family of three, one of which will soon be joining us for family dinners through Baby Led Weaning, I wanted to write an updated post on how I shop in bulk for our family.

I keep the same basic ingredients in our pantry, fridge and freezer at all times. This way, it is easy for me to meal plan because I know exactly what I have on hand. When we run out of something, Hubs or myself add it to Wunderlist so we both get a notification that we are out of that ingredient. The next time one of us goes shopping, we know all the items we need.

We have a 6' long deep freeze, which is how I am able to shop and cook the way I do.

Here is the basic list of what I keep on hand (it has grown since last year but our budget has not changed, this is all about balancing how often I buy things and rationing what I prepare for our family). I do most of our shopping in bulk at Costco, but I have a separate list of canned or fresh/dried items that I buy at a local grocery because Costco doesn't offer the brand we like or a small enough quantity for our family to eat, etc.

The BULK List

  • chicken thighs (bone-in/skin-on) 
  • chicken breasts (boneless/skinless)
  • whole chicken
  • ground beef
  • ground turkey
  • Italian sausage
  • ribs
  • ribeye steaks (a special occasion purchase only)
  • pork chops
  • frozen shrimp
  • frozen tilapia filets
  • frozen broccoli
  • frozen corn
  • frozen peas
  • frozen stir-fry veggie mix
  • frozen kale or spinach
  • a fresh, in-season fruit or two (ex: I will buy apples AND bananas because bananas freeze well for smoothies)
  • frozen berries
  • frozen peaches
  • popsicles or an ice cream treat
  • frozen breakfast sandwiches
  • frozen chicken pot pies
  • Better than Bouillon 
  • milk
  • plain yogurt
  • eggs
  • butter
  • whole wheat bread
  • celery
  • marinara
  • block of parmesan cheese
  • Tazo Chai concentrate (I'm only human)
  • Lipton black tea bags
  • rolled oats
  • apple sauce
  • dried fruit/nuts mix
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • mixed nuts
  • tomato paste
  • diced tomatoes
  • diced tomatoes with chiles (Rotel)
  • canned beans (garbanzo, black and pinto)
  • whole wheat flour
  • granola
  • fiber bars (TMI: postpartum necessity)
  • quinoa
  • tortillas
  • chocolate chips
  • brown sugar
The Local List
  • In-season veggie (squash, peppers, corn [cob], etc) 
  • lemons
  • limes
  • dried pasta – I only buy when it is $10 for 10 packages of pasta, which is a few times per year.
  • cheese ends for sandwiches/snacking
  • potatoes
  • onions (red and white)
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs (when our garden is done for the year)
  • dried herbs/spices
  • **guilty pleasure food of choice** (typically Spaghettios. Like I said, only human) 
  • sugar
  • canned whole tomatoes
  • misc condiments (mayo, mustards, etc)
  • frozen cheese tortellini
  • all other baking basics (baking powder, etc)
OKAY! So now you see how I can meal plan with no restrictions. It seems like an enormous list (okay, it is) but once you stock up on these staples, you have basically everything you need to make thousands and thousands of recipes.

My suggestion is to start slowly. Add a few of these items into your weekly list until you've acquired everything. If you have been a long-time reader, you remember the Grocery Challenge 2012 where we didn't buy any groceries for 60 days (and lived!), so when we moved into our home we started totally fresh.

If you are just starting to meal plan, start by planning one meal per week based on the items you have that you WANT to get rid of. Eventually you won't have any of the old stuff left and your fridge/pantry/freezer will be stocked with all the new goodies.

With this list, our grocery bill stays at about $400/mo which includes paper products for our home (TP, paper towels, etc) as well as pet food, medicines, and random splurges.

Somehow every week even if I go in only need fruit and yogurt, (it happens very often and I can also go weeks without grocery shopping at all if I'm smart) I end up right around the $100 mark because Hubs needs razors that week, or we need TP and an office chair or Costco has fresh scallops I'm in the mood for. Things come up! This budget builds in padding for those little extras that surprise you. 

With this list and budget, I cook four meals per week. Hubs eats packed lunches three days per work week and I eat at home for lunch four days per work week. We go out for dinner once per week or order take out. The remaining meals are all leftovers. 

This summer we had a garden for the first time and I found it more stressful than anything to utilize the veggies we picked because I knew they would spoil!! Keeping canned beans and frozen veggies on hand eases my mind because I know I can sneak lots of veggies and protein into any meal without worrying about it spoiling before I can use it. 

Wondering where to start? Here are some of our FAVORITE recipes that I make pretty regularly using the ingredients listed above.
I have a two recipe boards on Pinterest that are filled with recipes mostly based on this shopping list you can find them on my Pinterest page as Recipes We'd Like To Try and Keeper Recipes

I hope this helps take the stress out of meal planning for someone! 


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