First piece of advice: Always, always make a list. And stick to it. I'm not talking about a mental list on your way to the store. Stand in your kitchen when you make your list and go through your cupboards and fridge to see what you have and what you need.
(This is also a great time to throw out any past-its-prime food, bags of chips with only crumbs left, ketchup with less than a squeeze left in it, etc) And everyone knows not to go to the store when you're hungry, but also do not go when you're overly full. When you're full, nothing looks good and you may make some poor decisions cause the last thing you want to think about is another meal right then.
We do half of our shopping at the "regular" grocery store and half at Trader Joe's. We'll start with the "regular" grocery store. When I say "regular" grocery store I'm talking about Ralph's and before you say, "Ralph's is one of the most expensive stores!" I'll tell you, yes, I know. But, we live in an expensive area (we're the cheap apartments in that area, but the area is still expensive) so we don't have a lot of choice unless we want to drive across town for groceries, which we don't. Grocery shopping is not fun, we don't want to turn it into an all day excursion.
At Ralph's, we buy anything we can generic. We have found very few generic things that actually taste/work inferior to their brand name counterparts. In fact, I will only use generic creamer in my coffee, I just prefer it. Anything we don't buy generic, we try to stock up on when it's on sale. Also, make sure you sign up for club cards when they have them. It's easy, you don't have to carry around a lanyard full of those stupid little cards anymore it goes by your phone number, and they send you coupons in the mail. Like real coupons that you'll actually use cause it's based off your purchase history. Yeah yeah, Big Brother, blah blah. I'll let the store track what groceries I buy if it saves me money.
- Coffee ($7.99 at Trader Joe's about every 3 weeks)
- Creamer ($2.75 generic at Ralph's)
- Granola bar ($2.50 a box at Trader Joe's)
- On weekends, 1 packet of oatmeal instead of the granola bar ($2.50/box Trader Joe's)
- Trader Joe's wraps - They're in the cold section and I can't say enough good things about these. I have turned everyone I know onto them (about $4.00 each and I eat half of one each day for lunch, then my hubby and I split one for day 5)
- Mandarin orange slices (individual cups from Ralph's, 10 pack box/$10. That's $1 a day)
- Plain old filtered tap water in a reusable glass bottle (FREE!)
- On weekends we have Lean Cuisines (about $3.00 each x 4) I know they're not the healthiest thing, but I justify it by saying it's still healthier than fast food, so there)
- Boneless, skinless chicken breast (frozen bag at Trader Joe's $8.99) they're so big, we share 1
- Frozen veggies ($1 a bag at Ralph's)
- Boneless, thin cut pork chops ($5.00 for a pack of 5 at Trader Joe's, that's 2 meals for us)
- Tater tots ($3.00/bag at Trader Joe's about 4 meals)
- Applesauce (about $3.00 a jar, lasts about 6 meals)
- Trader Joe's chipotle flat iron steak. If you haven't had it, you're missing out. ($9.00 for 2 steaks, we share a steak so it's 2 meals for us)
- Mashed potatoes (frozen, $3.00 a bag at Trader Joe's about 4 meals worth)
- Bertolli frozen skillet meals ($7.99 per bag, Ralph's - a way to get shrimp dinner on the cheap)
- Frozen pizza Fridays (varying prices at Ralph's, but you can always find one on sale. I really like the California Pizza Kitchen, they're pretty close to "real" pizza) We used to go out for pizza on Fridays, this saves us so much and we still get pizza!
- We have salad every night (2 bags romaine blend $5.00, 1 bag croutons $2.50 each week)
- Salad dressing ($3.00 per bottle, lasts about 2 weeks)
- Crunchy curls from Trader Joe's are so good! You get like 30 of them per serving and they're $3.00/bag
- Veggie chips are also good ($3.00/bag)
- Hostess cupcakes or coffee cakes ($2.50/box at Ralph's)
- Bananas ($.19 ea trader Joe's)
- Navel Oranges ($4.00/bag at Trader Joe's)
Do you have any grocery habits/ideas you'd like to share? I would love some new ideas for cheap and easy meals!