Back when we first got married, we were living in New Jersey. We lived almost an hour from the base, so I started making a menu plan and shopping once a month. It was easier to go to the commissary once a month than go weekly, and the commissary was then (and still is) a better bargain. The only bad part about the monthly shopping when we were first married was the three flights of stairs I had to climb taking the groceries up to our apartment. I turned what was supposed to be the linen closet into a pantry and we put a small chest freezer in the dining room.
This monthly shopping is something I've continued throughout our being married even at times when we lived on base or the commissary was just around the corner. I usually spend a couple of hours going through my favorite cookbooks and recipe sites online and create the menu. I create my grocery list from this and go shopping. It takes a couple of hours to shop and put things away, but I like knowing I have everything I need (save some fresh fruit and vegetables) for at least a month's worth of dinners.
This is the menu plan I made for this month. (click on the menu for a bigger picture so you can read it)
It has 35 different dinner ideas on it and really this plan will probably last us at least six weeks. We don't eat at home on Sundays and I didn't plan for quick meals like hamburgers, hotdogs, or brats when we're late from work or nights I have class and don't have time to cook.
One thing if you try this you have to look out for is sticker shock. When they finish scanning everything and you get your total, it seems like so much. It really is a lot, but when you figure for our family, we feed three adults three meals a day (we take leftovers for lunches), it really is not a lot. The total for today was $365. There are a couple of things I'll have to pick up at the regular grocery store because they do not carry them at the commissary. If you take $365 and divide it by only the 35 meals planned, it is $10.50 per meal. Remember, this feeds three adults with 1-2 servings leftover. It is certainly cheaper than eating out.
If you make a menu plan, leave me a note and let me know how you do your plan.
365:# means the recipe comes from Rachael Ray's 365 cookbook, C Ill comes from Cook's Illustrated.