We’ve been excited to try once a month grocery shopping at Aldi. Aldi is currently our favorite grocery store, so deciding to take on the challenge of using our small $64 weekly grocery budget at our new favorite food stop was a no-brainer. Our first try at using a small budget was definitely a learning experience, and in the usual 4 Hats and Frugal fashion, we’re sharing what we learned, the good and bad, with you. Spoiler alert: we LOVED once a month grocery shopping at Aldi!
We also shared our master list of everything we purchased with our $256 budget ($64 times 4, to represent the 4 weeks in the month). These tips can work for any grocery store, not just Aldi.
Think of Meals Before You Shop
OK. This rule is completely against what I usually do when it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning. I never think about meals before I shop. I check what’s in the pantry and fridge, shop, then plan from what is in the house. Here’s why I changed that when I did the once a month shopping: there wasn’t much in the house to begin with! Since I planned to try once a month shopping, I made sure we used up as much as we could in the house to make space for the items I would be buying at Aldi. Instead of waiting until I got home to meal plan, I wrote a list of a few simple meals that I would be making for the month. I made sure to get the ingredients for those items while I was at the store. I wanted to make sure I was purchasing items that could be used for many different meals, instead of buying items I wasn’t sure I would use.
Add An Extra Week of Groceries
Adding an extra week of groceries will give you a cushion of having more food rather than less. You are allowing yourself more items to plan your meals around, which will make planning breakfasts and lunches so much easier. Yes, you do have to add on the extra week without adding more in your budget. But, guess what? You’ll make it happen. The best part about Aldi is that staple items tend to be affordable, so as long as you stock up more on those, you’ll be golden.
Yes, I said the thing you shouldn’t say to moms of little ones. If you can, shop alone and get your mission done. These once a month shopping trips may take you a couple of hours, even at Aldi, so you want to make sure you have peace of mind. Bonus: you can schedule a babysitter for 2 hours, once a month, because you will know when you’ll need the help. Another fun tip? Go once the kids are in bed.
Plan Your Prep Work
You will have to prep your groceries. This isn’t something you can get around when shopping for the month. You’ll have to chop, re-package, pre-cook, or organize a bunch of food all at one time. Bonus tip: think about what you will have to prep while packing up your groceries at Aldi. Is there something that you’ll have to chop that evening? Put it in a special bag. Will you have to re-package chicken and beef, but not your ground turkey? Place the chicken and beef in a bag together, away from the turkey (that can be thrown right in the freezer). Also, if you don’t have to prep an item right away, don’t. Wait until the week you actually need it to prep for it.
Have a Game Plan for Produce
This is the BIGGEST problem most people have with once a month shopping. They complain that produce goes bad quickly, so they can’t shop monthly. Here’s the deal: you still can shop monthly, even with certain produce expiring. Plan weekly meals around the items that will expire first, second, third and last. Avocados, fresh spinach and bagged salad tend to go bad quickly, so we plan the first week’s meals around those items. Potatoes, carrots and onions last for a long time, so we place the last week’s meals around those items. Bananas go bad before apples, so bananas get eaten first. Plan your meals around the expiration of produce, and you won’t have to worry about you not using up items before they go bad.
What We Really Learned
There were so many things we learned about our own family from this experience, and so much I learned about what is really important when doing a once a month shopping trip. I learned that some items we really didn’t need as much of. The apples were great to have on-hand, but I bought too many. We actually had a bag and a half left once the month was done. While we love eggs, I bought too many of those too. I could have saved some money by not buying a few dozen of them.
We eat a lot of cheese and chickpeas (or any other bean). I could have bought more of those and may have needed more. We don’t need as much milk as I thought. Granted, we don’t drink milk everyday already, so the 4 half-gallons of lactose-free and almond milk were the perfect amount for our family. I really thought we were going to be short on milk by mid-month. Surprise, surprise.
We got tired of chicken by week three, so the purchasing of beef sausage, fish, and chickpeas was a great idea. For some reason, when I shop weekly, we don’t get tired of chicken, but with this experience we did. Hmm.
I had less than 4 dollars left, so I should have bought flour, more sugar, or another staple to make sure I was covered. Luckily, we didn’t need any of those, but it would have been smart to use up all of the budget, just in case.
The boxed items were actually helpful. If you’ve read our $64 Grocery Budget post, you know that we try our hardest eat only real food, no processed items. I have to admit, the taco kits and the boxed mashed potatoes saved me a few of the nights. I could have made mashed potatoes from the bagged potatoes, but that would have used up some of the milk. So, you have to pick your battles.
The Master Grocery List
2-pack zucchini squash – 1.69
2-pack cucumbers – .99
2 bags spring mix salad – 1.99 each
6 bags flat leaf spinach – 1.79 each
4lbs green grapes – .99 a pound – 3.96
12lbs Granny Smith apples – .49 a pound – 5.97
3.4lbs bananas – .44 a pound – 1.50
3 2-packs green peppers – 1.19 each
3lbs yellow onions – 1.99
2 2lb bags carrots – 1.49 each
Celery – 1.39
3 avocados – .99 each
2lbs broccoli crowns – 2.58
5lbs baking potatoes – 2.49
2 bags frozen peas – .95 each
6 dozen large eggs – 2.75 each
3 packages feta crumbles – 1.79 each
2 half-gallons lactose-free milk – 2.79 each
2 half-gallons unsweetened almond milk – 2.29 each
3 containers plain 32oz yogurt – 1.89 each
2 blocks Monterey jack cheese – 1.89 each
4 blocks New York Sharp Cheddar – 1.89 each
2 Packets ground turkey – 3.29 each
2 Packets frozen tilapia filets – 5.39 each
5 pounds 73% ground beef – 14.40
4lb packet of chicken thighs – 4.62
4lb packet of chicken thighs – 4.63
Packet of chicken breasts – 7.39
Packet of chicken breasts – 6.67
6lbs whole chicken – 6.39
5 loaves 100% whole wheat bread – 1.39 each
2 packages beef smoked sausage – 2.19 each
3 2lb boxes of elbow macaroni – 1.45 each
3 bags egg noodles – 1.29 each
2 boxes linguine – .66 each
2 boxes mashed potatoes – 1.19 each
3 Taco Bell hard taco dinner kits – .99 each
2 bottles unsweetened applesauce – 1.89 each
4 28oz cans organic diced tomatoes – 1.49 each
4 cans tomato paste – .39 each
4 cans organic chickpeas – .79 each
4 cans condensed milk – 1.39 each
4 can evaporated milk – .79 each
Minced garlic – 1.99
Natural creamy peanut butter – 1.49
2 containers old fashioned oats – 2.39
Instant corn masa – 1.99
3-pack of yeast – .79
Brown sugar – 1.29
Iodized table salt – .39
Organic ketchup – 1.69
2 bottles organic agave syrup – 2.99 each
1 bottle pure maple syrup – 4.29
2 64oz bottles 100% apple juice – 1.49 each
2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix – .47 each
6-count microwave popcorn – 1.69
Multigrain oats cereal – 1.79
2 boxes crispy oats cereal – 1.69
4 cans whole kernel corn – .49 each
Guacamole tortilla chips – 1.69
Sweet potato chips – 1.99
Dishwasher detergent – 2.49
Looking for recipes to make that will use up these items? Here are a few I made:
“Creamy” Spinach Pesto Pasta (with no cream)
Need more ideas? Check out these 20 Cheap & Easy Weeknight Meals!