How I Simplified Grocery Shopping and Cooking for our Family of 4

I used to be that mom that went to three different grocery stores to try and snag the best deals and healthiest options for our family. At the time I thought it was so convenient that Costco, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods were all in a mile’s radius of each other — and only a 20 minute drive from my house. Barf. I did this every week, you guys! What a crazy person. Thankfully, now I have learned to value my time and seek out convenience in everything I do. This doesn’t mean I started sacrificing our budget or our family’s health. Instead, I have found ways to benefit from the convinces available to me. I do this by shopping and cooking smarter. Here’s the breakdown of how I stick to a budget, make healthy meals for my family and grocery shop way less!

*Quick Note: I may earn a commission on recommendations at no additional cost to you.

Set the budget for the month

The best thing you can do to help you stay on track and avoid over-spending is to set a solid grocery budget for the month. Doing this has even helped us stay on a $100 per week grocery plan for our family of 5!

However, if you are not used to setting a budget for your grocery spending, here is the quick rundown of how to start:

  • Review your spending from last month to get a good idea of how much you spend on groceries
  • Set a budgeting limit based on this number
  • Track your spending – The Fun Sized Budget Bundle can help
  • Adjust your budget each month if necessary

Setting a budget can be so helpful in allowing you to stay on track financially and shop more intentionally.

Also, as you’ll see I set a few mini-budgets throughout the grocery shopping process as well. The first mini budget I set is for our bulk order. Click here to get all the budget printouts you need!

Shop your pantry first!

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get really familiar with your pantry and the foods you have on hand.

Before you start your grocery shopping for the month, do a quick scan of the leftover food you still have on hand. This way you can begin to gather ideas for what to purchase based on what you already have to work with.

More tips for shopping your pantry.

One time bulk buy

If you are in the habit of always bulk buying, or never bulk buying, I’m telling you one of the best ways to save money every month on your grocery budget is to strategically shop in bulk once a month.

Consider the items that you repeatedly buy throughout the month or the things that are usually the staple parts of your meals. For us this is things like:

  • Gluten free bread
  • Eggs (Costco has such affordable eggs!)
  • Ground turkey
  • Chicken
  • Salmon (We love taking advantage of their good seafood!)
  • Quick-grab kid snacks

The best part is, when you use Instacart, you don’t even need a Costco membership anymore!

I used to spend an hour or more booking it through the Costco aisles each week trying to get out of there as fast as I could while also trying to be intentional about how much I was spending.

Now, I can click through and order my staple items, clearly see the price before I purchase and I don’t have to leave my house!

How to save on bulk buying with Instacart

I was hesitant to pay for an Instacart yearly membership at first. While I was ready for the convenience of having someone shop Costco for me, I wasn’t sold on the cost.

However, at the time, we had a Costco membership. Our membership was around $100 per year and while we were buying enough to basically cover that cost per yearI realized I would rather pay the Instacart yearly membership fee!

Since the Instacart delivery fee is $10, I would be saving money with the yearly membership. Plus, you can try it for free before you commit!

Here are the quick pros and cons of an Instacart membership:

Cons

  • Item cost goes up
  • You pay a membership or delivery fee
  • You tip the person who shops for you

Pros

  • You don’t have to go to Costco
  • No Costco membership expense
  • Less likely to add unnecessary items to your cart
  • Get more time back in your day
  • I get to help someone side hustle for extra cash (and I will happily pay someone who was willing to save me time in my day!)

At the end of the day, an Instacart membership becomes worth it when you really want the convenience and time saving capabilities that it offers. Click here to get your first order FREE and save $10!

Why I am obsessed with the one bulk buy with Instacart method

I know you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, we get it.” But here’s the thing…I never used to get crazy excited about going grocery shopping.

Yet, when I open that front door to see the BULK of my groceries for the month sitting on my door step, it gives me a rush unlike any other.

  1. I didn’t have to leave my house
  2. I didn’t have to navigate the traffic of Costco
  3. I only tip once a month because I only need to order once (and I am happy to tip like crazy because of points 1 and 2)
Check out our family's plan for grocery shopping less, saving money and still eating healthy even when our schedule is busy!

Only buy what you need for a month

Here is a general rule for what you should be buying in bulk:

Buy only what you are going to be able to work through in a month!

For example, I can get a massive amount of rolled oats at Costco for $12 on Instacart. This would last us well over a month.

I could get an adequate amount of rolled oats that would last us a month (or at least a few weeks depending on how much we use), for $2 or so at Target.

Yes, the bulk purchase might be saving me money in the long run but my game is to stick to a healthy monthly budget and provide my family with healthy meals. Avoiding over-buying things in bulk is one of the best ways to help me stay on track with both of these things.

Your bulk budget

I like to try to stick to a $200 budget when it comes to buying in bulk. Things like toilet paper or cleaners will often raise this price, which is why I set a goal for $200. (For us this includes tipping our Instacart deliverer.)

If I start to go over this limit, I try to scan my Instacart order to see what I could remove that isn’t totally necessary.

A good rule of thumb for setting your bulk budget is to take 1/4 of your monthly budget and try to stick to that. If your monthly food budget is $600, aim to spend only $200 on bulk items.

Build meals around the bulk

Take a look at the things you purchased in bulk and get craft with some meals that you can make with these items.

Since you bought them in bulk, they will no doubt last you a while, therefore using them as a centerpiece of a meal can be incredibly helpful.

The more you do this, the more you will adapt to a “basic menu” that you can stick to. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Bread and eggs

We are pretty boring in the sense that we usually stick to staple meals throughout the month with the exception of dinner.

This is why we buy gluten free bread and eggs in bulk since every day I make myself a piece of toast and eggs and my husband, Tom preps himself scrambled eggs to take on his way to work.

I try to switch up the kids’s breakfasts between pancakes, waffles, cereal or parfaits. Since I switch up what they eat, I don’t buy their things in bulk.

Chicken

(I prefer using meals with shredded chicken instead of as a full breast. This usually allows us to get more meals out of less chicken.)

  • Teriyaki lettuce wraps
  • Chicken tacos
  • Veggie pasta with chicken

Frozen brocoli

  • Combine with chicken and veggie pasta
  • Add with rice and ground turkey
  • Use on the side of a quick-pick up rotisserie chicken (I love to plan for “slacker days” when I don’t feel like cooking but still want to eat kind of healthy)

Ground turkey

  • Sweetish meatballs
  • Broccoli and rice stir fry
  • Use in spaghetti

More meal prep ideas

Check out our family's plan for grocery shopping less, saving money and still eating healthy even when our schedule is busy!

Fill in the gaps

Once you make a basic plan for meals that you can make that center around your bulk buys, the next step is to fill in the gaps. In other words, make a plan to go to the store for the other items that you need.

At this point a wise idea is to shop weekly especially if you like having fresh produce on hand like we do.

During your weekly trips you can keep it simple since you’ve already gotten the big items you will need for your meals throughout the month.

If you are still hoping to save on time, keep in mind that Instacart is now working with Aldi! Even with the slightly raised prices, it’s still extremely affordable!

Based on the meals I planned above, here are some of the things I know I’ll need to get to fill in the gaps for at least one week.

  • Breakfast items for the kids
  • Quick-grab snacks
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Salsa stuff for tacos
  • Avocados for guac
  • Rice noodles for pasta
  • Rice
  • Spaghetti suace

Because I pre-planned based off my bulk order, my smaller shopping has been made easier and more affordable!

Always plan for leftovers

Another basic rule of thumb in our house is that when we make dinner we try to make enough to last an additional day or two.

When the kids are in sports and we are always running around, we like to make dinners easy and quick so we aren’t tempted to opt for fast food.

This means I try to plan cooking days for the days when we don’t have sports.

Sticking to this method of planning our monthly food and budget has been so helpful (and way easier than it used to be!) If you think you’re down for bulk buying off Instacart, you can try it out for free by clicking here.

Check out our family's plan for grocery shopping less, saving money and still eating healthy even when our schedule is busy!

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