How to make a grocery list on a budget
“What are our assets?” (Wesley, Princess Bride 2011)
I find it helps to start a meal plan not by listing what you want to cook, but rather with what you already have in the house. It ensures that you waste less food and helps avoid the ‘hmm how can I use that cilantro up before it turns to brown goo in the fridge’ question. It can even help when you have a mental block on what to make.
I try to start every week with a meal plan and every meal plan with a What’s On Hand list. This makes sure I am using up stuff in a timely manner (again, why do they have to sell cilantro in such huge bunches?!?!) and it can really help me keep my costs down.
Before I started doing things this way I would together a meal plan, make the grocery list and head off to the store. I’d buy whatever I needed from the grocery list even if I wasn’t sure I needed it. The upside was I rarely had problems with missing ingredients, the downside was that I ended up with tons of food going to waste and multiple cans of chickpeas. At one point I must have had 10 cans of chickpeas in my cupboard. I’d see them on sale and get two cans because 'you can always use chickpeas!' and then come home to find out that I already had tons of them.
Now I do a quick inventory of what is in the fridge, what is in the freezer and what’s in the pantry. It has helped me keep my food budget under control. That gives me some flexibility to buy in bulk when there is a great sale, such as on chickpeas.