When B and I moved in together, we faced one startling fact of the adult world: we were going to have to pay for our own food. In the past, I’d either lived with my parents and we’d eaten there most nights, or I was in college and my parents paid for my groceries (Thanks, Mom!). Alas, we knew the time had come that we had to be real grown-ups.

I decided that in order to make the most of our limited budget, I needed to commit to sticking to my grocery list each week. In college (with Mom and Dad’s credit card), I generally just perused the store and swiped anything that looked good. This meant that I made multiple trips to the store each week, because whatever willy-nilly recipe I decided to try, I had to go buy most of the ingredients. So, I started a routine in April that I’ve continued faithfully since–every week, before I shop, I plot out our meals for the week. I plunk myself down with a few cookbooks and my recipe box, then decide what we’ll eat each night of the week. I make my list as I go. Then, I add in all of our “basics” like deli meat, yogurt, spinach, apples, bananas, and (of course) Goldfish crackers.

I also divide up my list into two sections: “Sam’s” and “Grocery”. I learned the value of shopping in bulk from my Mom. We buy most of our fruits & vegetables, canned goods, and snack foods at Sam’s. It ends up saving us A LOT each year–as a matter of fact, the savings in croutons well pay for our Sam’s membership. (You can get a 2-lb. bag of croutons at Sam’s for under $4, whereas at the grocery store, you’d pay that amount for about 5 servings!)

Menu-planning has really helped me with this New Year’s resolution so far. This week alone, we had three new recipes: Black-Eyed Pea soup, Rosemary-Garlic Chicken, and Lemon-Garlic Tilapia. (The soup was definitely the favorite of the week, the chicken we deemed “just okay” and the lemon-garlic tilapia was way too easy to even call a recipe. Basically, I just took two frozen tilapia fillets, squirted them with lemon juice and sprinkled a little garlic salt on top, and baked ’em for 15 minutes.)

Black-eyed Pea Soup

Super-Easy Lemon-Garlic Tilapia