Lowering Your Grocery Bill: How to Plan a Month of Meals

June 8 2009, 9:21 AM

For years I struggled at the grocery store. I'd ring up $75 worth of food and later stare disappointedly at my fridge. I didn't know what to do with the remaining chicken from the four-pack of chicken breasts that were on sale. My lettuce would always wilt early, and I would chuck huge bundles into the trash after using it to garnish one sandwich. I'd be left eating Cheez-Its for three days before heading back to the grocery store and trying it all over again.

I've finally started to get it together, keeping basic staples for salads and sandwiches on hand, as well as finding a few recipes a week I enjoy and can make ahead. (I've learned tupperware is the single cook's best friend.) I've reduced my grocery bill to $40-$50 a week, which includes items like dish soap, paper towels, etc.

So when a friend sent me a link to the website Cook for Good, I was impressed. Not only does it provide a shopping list that will create meals for a month, it offers a green option for those who want to shop organically.

Using the planned menu, the costs range from $25-$37 a week, which averages about $1.20 per person per meal.

What I like most is that the shopping list breaks down into a calendar of how to use the ingredients over a given week. And the meals are more than just "another turkey sandwich," a frequent limitation of my own system be. A sample Cook for Good lunch is a pizza with mustard greens and sweet onions. Each meal's cost is shown (breakfasts are often under 30 cents) as well as its protein value.

While I like to have a little more creative freedom, this plan is helpful in pointing out cheap ways to combine staples, as well as providing a functional shopping list for those looking to build a good pantry and diverse refrigerator. Also, be sure to check back with Cook for Good, which is regularly updated with seasonal options.