My slightly unhinged grocery prep: Part 2
Parenting & Family

How to Meal Plan & Prep for an Unhinged Grocery Shopping Event

(Part 2)

Click here for Part 1: The Ultimate Guide to a Slightly Unhinged Grocery Shopping Plan

It’s been a full month since My Slightly Unhinged Grocery Plan took place and I have to say…I love it. And I’m committing to it for another month!

I’ve been asked to share my meal plan for the month, my actual shopping list, and what I prepped that first day after grocery shopping for the month. I am also happy to announce another convenience factor to my monthly plan. Read to the end to learn more!

Meal Plan & Prep

Meal Plan

There are lots of different ways to meal plan. I’ve always found using a meal matrix to be the easiest. You can use the type of food, cooking method, or ingredients to help plan out your meal matrix.

Meal Matrix Examples

“Type of food”: Examples:
Meatless Monday
Taco Tuesday
Fast Food Friday
Stir Fry Saturday

“Cooking Method” Examples:
Tuesday Air Fryer
Thursday Crockpot
Saturday Grill

“Ingredients” Examples:
Monday Chicken
Tuesday Beef
Thursday Fish
Friday Pasta

Once you decide which meal matrix will suit you, start to plug in your usual recipes. Don’t have 4 crock pot recipes to hold you over for a full month? Go ahead and use a quick search to see what looks good. This is a great way to try new recipes.

Just remember, be as detailed as possible in your search inquiries so you don’t get lost down the rabbit hole of recipes.

My personal meal matrix is a mashup of the different types described and I do keep it flexible.

I shared it in Part 1: My slightly unhinged grocery shopping plan, but I’ll share it again here.

Monday – Crockpot
Tuesday – Air Fryer
Wednesday – Pasta Dish
Thursday – Soup
Friday – Leftovers
Saturday – Takeout
Sunday – Pizza

Meal Planning Wiggle Room

For an example of how I keep it flexible, I’ll share with you our Friday night struggles. I teach dance from 5-6 pm on Fridays – smack dab in the dinner hour. My twins take the class with me and my son comes to the dance studio with us. I have listed that on Fridays we use up our leftovers, but a lot of times that turns into me and my husband eating leftovers while I pick up McDonald’s cheeseburgers for my kids. Why? Because Fridays are challenging and I’d rather have everyone fed than not fed.

Another way in which we’re flexible is through our Saturday dinners. Saturdays seem to be the day for every type of party invitation: birthdays, weddings, baby showers, you name it. So if we miraculously don’t have any party invitations, we will most likely get takeout. More often than not, we are not home for Saturday dinners and are eating at an event or someone else’s home.

Simplify Meal Planning

Do you have a day you struggle with because of kids’ activities or other obligations? Don’t try to fit a home-cooked meal in if it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s not worth the struggle. Keep it simple and do what works for your family or sanity – or both!

Before Planning Your Meals

The first thing you need to do before planning out your meals is print out a monthly calendar (use the free template below) and write in any events that conflict with your meals. This could be planned dinners with friends, a weekly class or study club, birthday parties, etc.

Free Downloadable Calendar Template:

On days you are eating outside of the house, write it down. On days you have back-to-back activities and only 30 minutes to get food on the table? Write it down! On days you have scheduled play dates and need to feed an extra couple of kids? Write it down!

Use these extra notes to help schedule which meals will work best on which days. Once you have all the extras taken care of, you can start plugging in your meal matrix meals.

Next stop, grocery list.

Grocery List for a Month

I keep a list on my phone with all my grocery staples. This includes things like milk, eggs, snacks, cereal, kids’ lunch items, etc. By having this already done, I don’t have to second guess and use my mental energy for the basics of my shopping list.

Now go through your fridge, freezer, and pantry and take a quick inventory. What do you already have from your staples on hand that will last you another month? Cross those off your grocery list.

To finish your list, go through your recipes day by day and add any ingredients that are not part of your usuals. Double-check so you don’t miss any important ingredients!

Ok, you’re ready to shop. (Or do it in the app, which is so much easier).

Here is my list from my first unhinged grocery order. I feel like this is going to be painful to type out, so I’m just going to go for it.

Meat:
Beef Lean Stew Meat – 1.5 lbs
Chicken Breasts – 5 lbs
Ground Beef – 2 lbs
Hot Dogs – 2 packs
Lunch Meat Turkey Breast – 1 pack
Lunch Meat Honey Ham – 1 pack
Pepperoni slices – 1 bag

Dairy/Refrigerated:
Eggs – 36 ct (plus more through delivery)
16 oz Blocks of cheese – 2
Cream cheese – 8 oz
Sour cream
Crescent rolls – 2

Produce:
Bananas – 1 bunch
Strawberries – 2 lbs (plus more later)
Clementines – 3 lbs
Sweet potatoes – 2
Mushrooms – 8 oz
Celery – 1
Carrots – 4 lbs
Brussels Sprouts – 1 lb
Potatoes – 5 lbs

Frozen:
Family-size cheese ravioli (frozen)
Fish sticks (frozen) – 1 box
Chicken Nuggets (frozen) – 1
Frozen corn – 1 bag
Frozen corn on the cobs – 1 bag

Pantry:
Old fashioned oats – 42 oz
Coffee – 30 oz
Chocolate chips – 1 bag
Pickles – 1 jar
Graham crackers – 2 boxes
Cheez its – 1 family-size box
Honey Nut Cheerios – 2 family-size boxes
Mini bagels – 1 bag
Corn muffin mix – 2
Cake mix – 1
Tortillas – 1
Taco seasoning – 1
Ranch dressing – 1
Soy sauce – 1
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1
Raw Honey – 1
Peanut Butter – 40 oz jar
Distilled white vinegar
All-purpose flour – 5 lbs
Baking soda
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Ground cinnamon
White Rice – 1 bag
Quinoa – 1 bag
Cannellini Beans – 2
Diced tomatoes – 1
Chickpeas – 1
Chili Beans – 1
Kidney Beans – 1
Black Beans – 4
Cream of chicken soup – 1
Cream of mushroom soup – 1
Granola bars – 1
Egg Noodles – 2 bags
Elbow Noodles – 1
Shells – 1
Spaghetti – 1
Ramen Package – 1
Dog Food

Adding It All Up

My order total was $243.09. I shorted myself on a few things that I needed to get more of and I also do an additional produce, milk, and egg delivery twice a month from Freshpicks, a local delivery co-op.

I had to get more dog food. I knew this was going to happen because they were out of the largest bag when I placed the order so I had to opt for a smaller bag. I’m hoping the 30 or 40-lb bag is in stock this week so I don’t have to make another trip.

I make homemade bread at least twice a week and I just ran out of flour, which means the last week of the month I’m only making one loaf of bread and the kids are going to have to make do with oatmeal and cereal for an extra breakfast or two. What a hard life.

Adding it all up, I spent $365 on our groceries for the month! $243 for my big unhinged order, $100 for my biweekly produce, milk, and egg deliveries, and an extra $22 for dog food. This is less than $100 a week on groceries for my family of 5! I never felt deprived and I could definitely get a few more meals out of what was in my pantry and freezer without a problem. I followed my meal plan almost exactly except for one day when we ate leftovers instead of making more food.

Meal plan & prep for a month on a budget (family of 5)

The Meals I Made

  • Buttered chicken & mashed potatoes with carrots & mushrooms
  • Chicken nuggets and cheese ravioli with roasted vegetables
  • Spaghetti and broccoli aglio olio
  • Chili with cornbread
  • Chicken tacos with corn and black beans
  • Fish sticks and cheese ravioli with brussels sprouts
  • Creamy beefy shells (pasta) with broccoli
  • Ramen stir fry with beef & veggies
  • Beef stroganoff with egg noodles
  • Chicken nuggets, cheese ravioli, and mashed potatoes
  • Chicken noodle soup with homemade bread
  • Baked chicken, stuffing, and corn on the cob
  • Fish sticks, cheese ravioli, and roasted veggies
  • Black bean linguine with bell peppers
  • Pasta Fagioli soup

This is averaging 3-4 home-cooked meals per week, not including eating leftovers for an additional meal.

As you can see, I have a rotation of chicken nuggets/fish sticks with cheese ravioli. Usually, on Tuesdays we have “air fryer day” and my kids can pick any kid-friendly food we have and I make it with roasted veggies or mashed potatoes. (Have you ever had frozen cheese ravioli in the air fryer? The kids love it!) My husband and I usually eat Monday’s leftovers. Everyone is happy!

Meal Prep

As I talked about in Part 1, I executed my unhinged plan over 3 days.

  • Day 1: Shopping/placing order
  • Day 2: Picking up and putting away the order
  • Day 3: meal prep.

I usually reserve Sundays for meal prep days and take care of the kids’ lunches. This Sunday was a little more intense, but I didn’t have to do any additional meal prepping the following 3 Sundays! And even most of the kids’ lunch stuff was taken care of.

Here’s what I prepped on the day after I grocery-shopped:

Kids’ lunch items:
Pinwheels with ham & cheese
Mini bagels with cream cheese
Crescent rolls with cheese & pepperoni
Hawaiian rolls with ham, turkey & cheese
Washed and cut up carrots, cabbage, peppers, and fruit

All of the mains were popped into the freezer for me to pull out in the morning when I packed their lunches, while the fresh produce was stored in the refrigerator in jars.

Meal staples:
Chicken breasts in the crockpot – these made 2 separate meals, 1 for tacos and 1 for chicken noodle soup. When the chicken was done in the crockpot, I shredded it, let it cool, and divided it into 2 separate jars to freeze for when I would need it later in the month. I then froze whatever chicken breasts were left from my family pack that I wasn’t using that first week of meals.

Beef stroganoff – I browned the stew meat with spices and sliced up the mushrooms. Once the meat cooled, I packaged beef and mushrooms together in a freezer bag and froze them for later.

Soup base – I chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and separated them into a couple of different jars to put in the freezer. This makes a very easy soup or stir-fry base.

Roasted veggies for the week (kale, brussels sprouts, bok choi, and sweet potatoes). I added these to dinner randomly until we ran out of them.

Freezer after meal prep
My freezer after that Sunday meal prep ? Worth it, though!

Random meal prep notes

Halfway through week 2, I used half the ground beef in a pasta sauce and saved the other half for tacos. I planned to mix a can of black beans in with the beef to make it go further for the next taco night, but we ended up having leftovers that night instead. So I have another freezer meal ready to go!

Reflection

As I said in the beginning, I am committing to another month of this plan with one big convenient difference: I opted to try the Walmart+ for 30 days to get my order delivered for free.

I know the order pickup only took 20 minutes, which is not too bad, but with the Walmart+ free delivery, I don’t even have to leave the house. The groceries will be delivered to my front door. And I know this sounds lazy, but carrying all those groceries up one flight of stairs instead of 2 flights (from my garage) is making me like this option even more.

So now that you know how I planned meals, made my grocery list, and paid for this month of groceries, would you do it, too?! I’m honestly super curious to see who else is as unhinged as myself. Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly blog updates!

To refresh on part 1 of my slightly unhinged meal plan, click here.
Need help with zero-waste school lunches? This post has all you need!
Here’s a free calendar download you can use for 2023:

This one is a free weekly meal plan if you need something pretty to motivate you to plan those meals:

Monthly grocery plan Free downloads

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