Slightly unhinged grocery plan
Parenting & Family

The Ultimate Guide to a Slightly Unhinged Grocery Shopping Plan

Part 1

Recently, I was complaining to my sister about how much I hate grocery shopping.  I’ve complained to everyone who will listen how much I hate grocery shopping:  my husband, my mom, my kids, random school parents, I just HATE grocery shopping.  

Since having kids almost six years ago, I’ve never found a grocery shopping rhythm that suits our family.  Once in a while a routine will happen 2 weeks in a row and I think, ‘Okay.  We’re getting something going here.  Finally, I have a process I can work with.’  And then week 3 it pretty much blows up in my face. 

So back to complaining… After bouncing ideas off my sister, I decided I was going to do something radical.  I was going to meal plan and grocery shop for a full month.  I am a slightly unhinged individual. I know that now.

After thinking about how much would go into this, I decided on Walmart order pickup for this endeavor.  I am NOT a fan of Walmart pickup, but for this project, I weighed my pros and cons.  

Hopefully this reflection will help you create your own slightly unhinged (or, you know, amazing) grocery plan!

Pros and cons of local grocery stores

The usual stores I would shop around here are Super Target, Aldi, Woodmans, and Walmart.  

Target

Super Target is my personal preference for app usage, shopping experience, product quality, and overall not wanting to pluck my eyeballs out while grocery shopping. I would definitely use Target for this endeavor if they had some of their awesome grocery coupons and deals during this time, but, alas, no major deals right now. And they can get pricey quick.

Aldi

Aldi is great and would be my first pick for just groceries.  But if I was going to commit to a month’s worth of groceries, I can’t take a chance on Aldi not having certain things I needed.  Also, their eggs got really expensive and we go through a lot of eggs in our family.  At both Walmart and Woodmans, eggs are sold in bulk at a more affordable price.  

(If you’re reading this post and don’t understand this criticism, you obviously haven’t lived through the great egg-inflation of 2023.)

Woodmans

Woodmans is great because they have an app where I can make a grocery list and sort it by aisle, literally just walking through the store and checking items off my list in order.  However, Woodmans is much more expensive overall compared to Aldi and Walmart.  Major deal breaker for this trip. 

Walmart

I pretty much refuse to go into Walmart to shop.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a pleasant shopping experience at my Walmart.  So I naturally opt for order pickup.  The greatest benefit here is ordering through the app, knowing what’s in stock, keeping an eye on individual prices and total order price as you shop, and not doing the actual shopping yourself.  DUH.  

Now, Walmart has a few cons.  Order pickup wait times are extremely inconsistent.  Sometimes I wait 2 minutes and other times I’ve waited 45 minutes before leaving and coming back another day (seriously, the worst).  I justified it was worth it with the fact that I wouldn’t have to go grocery shopping for the next month. 

Another con is the plastic bags.  Is it just me?? Walmart, why do you need to put single items into bags?  One bag with just soy sauce?  R I D I C U L O U S.  My sustainable conscience is very guilty after Walmart order pickup and must make amends.  

Cat in plastic bags

My favorite sustainable grocery shopping option

I use Irv & Shelly’s Freshpicks (local to the Chicago area) which is a co-op delivery service.  Twice a week I get a shipment of fruits, vegetables, eggs (seriously, we always need more eggs), and milk from local farms.  I love this because I choose recurring orders that I don’t even have to think about.  And it does amend my guilty sustainable conscience slightly.  This is also preferable in my unhinged plan because produce goes bad fairly quickly.  It would be very difficult to stock up on fresh produce for a full month!

For more sustainable household tips, check these out:

Everything You Need for a More Sustainable Kitchen
Everything You Need for an Eco-Friendly Bathroom
10 Ridiculously Simple Things You Can Do to Live a More Sustainable Life TODAY
Save Money & Time with an Eco-Friendly Cleaning Routine
How to Pack a Zero Waste School Lunch
How to Make Simple Reusable Snack Bags

Ok, at this point I had decided to take the plunge into a month-long meal plan and grocery trip.  I had decided to use Walmart order pickup for this highly adventurous plan.  My next step was meal planning for a month. 

Meal planning

This part was actually not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I already have somewhat of a schedule of weekly dinner meals. It looks like this: 

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

In each of these categories, I have 4 or 5 standard meals I make.  For example, my crockpot standards consist of Chili, Beef Stroganoff, Shredded chicken for tacos or fajitas, and Chicken with potatoes.  So that’s a month’s worth of Monday meals right there.  

I printed out a blank calendar template and started plugging in my meals. (I still prefer pen and paper to digital calendars and lists!)  I did this just for dinners.  Our breakfasts basically rotate through oatmeal, peanut butter toast, and cereal.  Lunches consist of leftovers for me and my husband and bagels, sandwiches, snacks, and fruits/veggies for my kids. 

If you’re attempting this month-long grocery plan and don’t already have consistent meals in your arsenal, start there! Begin by creating a standard meal plan for the week (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc) and then list out all the dishes you and your family enjoy that could fit those categories. Get used to doing this first before jumping into a month of meals!

For an in-depth how-to guide for meal prepping, check out this post I love from The Kitchn!

Grocery Shopping (apps are a lifesaver)

Once I had all my meals set, I started making my list.  Because I was doing Walmart order pickup, I could add it right to my cart in the app.  This took a bit of time to make sure I didn’t miss any recipe ingredients.  I also had to include all the standard foods we eat day to day and anything we were running low on like spices, flour, and dog food.  

If you’re looking for more grocery store apps, this article shares 13 of the best reviewed grocery apps.

Prepping for the order

To prepare for my order, I had to make sure my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry were cleaned out and ready to get a massive influx of items.  The day of my order pickup, I made my family eat as many leftovers as possible.  I cleaned out and condensed my refrigerator and pantry, and made sure my counters were cleared.  

Do you regularly clean out your fridge, freezer, and pantry? Every Thursday is our garbage day so I take 5 minutes to do a quick sweep and dispose of anything that is past it’s prime.

Check out this post on How to Keep Your House Clean with Kids for more daily routines to implement.

Order Pickup

Order pickup wait times looked daunting when I first pulled in.  There were at least 10 cars waiting for orders.  But I knew this was a possibility so I came prepared. I put on a new audiobook, turned the seat warmers on, and relaxed for 20 minutes.  Yes, it took 20 minutes to get my order.  This could have been better but it also could have been much worse.  

When you do your own pickup orders, prepare for the worst and you might be slightly surprised. Come ready with music, a podcast, new book, magazine, knitting, whatever you do to kill some time in an enjoyable way. This helps the process.

Putting Groceries Away 

It’s important to add, I chose to do this order pickup after the kids were in bed.  Putting away a month’s worth of groceries is quite the process and would have taken much longer if I was distracted by my tiny humans.  

When I got home, my dear husband ran downstairs to help with the bags.  I told him I had put in a big order, but I don’t think he grasped how big this was until he saw all the groceries in the trunk. 

After 3 trips each, we got everything inside, up a flight of the stairs, and into the kitchen.  This exact moment was when I realized how ridiculous this situation was.  

Unhinged grocery plan

Groceries filled all my counters!  I had to take a few deep breaths, center myself, and get to work.  I set up zones as I unpacked:  refrigerator and freezer zone next to the fridge, pantry items on my cabinet, and produce on the stove.  

I worked through my zones, putting groceries away, all the while praising myself for clearing off my counters and minimizing my fridge and pantry before I brought home all this stuff.  

Pantry items

Meal Prep

I schedule meal prep every Sunday night for my kids’ lunches throughout the week. On top of that, I had some extra meal prep to do to take care of meals further along in the month so ingredients wouldn’t go to waste before then.  This consisted of browning some meat, chopping veggies, and freezing them for later.  Even though it was more work, bonus prep = less work later on.

I highly recommend splitting up the work.  I meal planned on Thursday, put my list in the app on Friday, picked up the order on Saturday, and meal prepped on Sunday.  If I had to do this all in one day I would have been completely overwhelmed and 100% would have given up halfway through. 

Is it worth it?  

I don’t know yet, but I think so. The whole system wasn’t too bad. The process took about an hour and a half from start to finish if I count meal planning, making a grocery list, order pickup, and putting items away.

If this works out, I will do it again.  I feel a sense of relief; a weight lifted off my shoulders.  I am done for the next month.  And if I forgot something or if something comes up?  I will try to use what I have first.  I will try to find a substitute in my very well-stocked kitchen. 

And if I can’t get by and still need to go grocery shopping?  I will do Target order pickup.  Super Target is my one true love and I can count on them for my random impulsive necessities.  

I promise I will update this post after the month is through with additional reflections and tips.  Make sure you subscribe so you can see how my slightly unhinged grocery plan works out!

Leave me a comment:  Would you try this?  Am I crazy?? 

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