Right around the time a more expensive chain bought out our favorite affordable grocery store nearby, an Aldi opened 20 minutes away. I gradually transitioned to shopping only at Aldi, and doing it every other week. With the driving distance, it doesn't make sense to me to take a chunk out of every weekend.
This means some sacrifices. Aldi doesn't have everything. They don't have the name-brand of pasta sauce we love. I can't pin any recipe and buy the ingredients for it. I have to bag our own groceries.
I go shopping at Aldi every other weekend with the goal of spending under $200 for everything except pet supplies and a small handful of personal care items and and cleaning supplies we get through Grove Collaborative (that order is about $15 every month or every other month). In between Aldi trips we often have to stop to stock up on bread, milk, eggs and the occasional item Aldi doesn't have. We buy diapers, wipes, trash bags, dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, and our food of course.
Here's how I do it:
1. First of all, I use a three whiteboard system. There's the current meal rotation's whiteboard that lists all the meals we have available. Once I make it, I wipe it off. Throughout the meal rotation if we run out of any pantry staples, I'll write those down in the corner of the same whiteboard.
2. A few days before my shopping trip, I take inventory of what we have on hand. What meals did I plan for the last two-week meal rotation that we didn't use? I write those meals down on whiteboard #2 and then pick away over the next few days at adding other meals to the list. I have a master meal list of all the dinners I make that I pull from. I have my husband choose a few. I pick a good mix of really easy frozen-food based meals and quick homemade meals and I look at our schedule to influence the ease of the meals I plan. I admit, we aren't the healthiest eaters, but feeding a toddler has made me more conscious of it. I always try to include a veggie in our dinners and most meals, our one-year-old eats what we eat. I try to include meals that I'm okay feeding our baby. Some meals, like frozen pizza, require some improvising to have a dinner he can eat. I always keep some veggie burgers, beans, rice, cheese and other things he can eat on hand.
Most of the dinners we have turn into leftovers for lunches, but I also add some lunch things to the list to fill in the gaps, like lunchmeat. I also plan more meals than what we need just in case I forgot an ingredient for one meal, the meat is freezer burned, or some other mishap.
I also try and throw some new meals in every once in a while. I'll browse blogs and Pinterest but I won't consider the meal unless I can adapt it to make it an all-Aldi meal. One notable exception is my white chicken chili, which calls for mild green chiles. I'll stock up and buy several jars every few months.
3. As I make the meal list on a small magnetic whiteboard, I use another magnetic whiteboard and write out the ingredients I need for each meal. Right before I leave for the store, I take the needed items from #1 and put them on whiteboard #3.
Here's what whiteboard #3 looked like when I took it to the store last time:
4. At the store with my shopping bags in tow, I fill up a cart to the top more often than not. Bagging up the groceries and putting them in the car seems to take forever, but that's the price I pay for saving at least $75 a week by not shopping at our standard grocery stores.
5. I pick what we are eating for dinner the night before from the list on the whiteboard because I freeze all the meat I buy. The night before, I'll transfer the frozen meat to the fridge and move the ingredients I need from our chest freezer to our upstairs freezer.