Meal Planning on a Budget: Our Costco-Aldi Strategy

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Meal Planning on a Budget: Our Costco-Aldi Strategy



In the whirlwind of life’s changes and challenges, my husband and I have embarked on a new venture: investing in Airbnb properties. To navigate this journey efficiently, we’ve turned towards meticulous budgeting and meal planning. Our goal? To streamline our expenses and meal routines without compromising on the joy of family meals. Today, I’m excited to share two life-changing hacks that have revolutionized our approach to shopping and cooking, making our life a tad easier and definitely more organized.

The Costco-Aldi Strategy:

With a firm budget of $600 a month for our grocery shopping ($450 for Costco and $150 for Aldi), we decided to take a proactive approach to meal planning. Sundays have become our sacred planning day, where we outline our meals for the week. This isn’t just about saving money; it’s about gaining time back and planning for the unknown. We LOVE Costco, and also, I hate hate hate running out of TP and toothpaste! Don’t ask me where this obsession came from, but it is a major pet peeve of mine. Also, if you’ve ever shopped at Costco, then you know there is always that moment when you get your receipt and look back at the cart, wondering what cost so much! This way, we can make the most of our groceries for the month, and for the fresh and random things, we like going to Aldi.

Hack #1: Instacart List Magic

When creating my shopping list, I go to the Instacart App. By creating a shopping list on the app, we get an upfront tally of our expenses. This brilliant hack ensures we stay under budget every single time. It’s like having a financial advisor for your grocery shopping—knowing exactly what you’ll spend before you spend it. Also, we all know that Instacart is a bit more expensive for the luxury of getting to stay in your PJs AND grocery shop at the same time. So, you will always be under! This last Costco run, we allotted $450 and came out having spent $419! A literal first for us knowing around what the bill was going to be. Also, it’s been about 4 days since our Costco trip, and we have yet to go to Aldi.

Hack #1.5: Farmers Market

At the Airbnb that we are renovating in Chesterton, Indiana, we found a farmers market a couple of blocks away. It offers lettuce, bananas, and peppers (poblano, bell peppers, etc.) for extremely good prices. I don’t think any of my family who has gone there has spent more than $6 on produce. If you guys want me to, I can write a post about it. Just tell me in the comments or email me.

Hack #2: ChatGPT, The Meal Planning Genius

The real game-changer, however, has been incorporating ChatGPT into our meal planning process. This AI marvel helps us design well-rounded meals tailored to our family’s preferences. I think my favorite feature is when you are getting down to the last bit of groceries and it feels like you just have random things left before you go grocery shopping again, you can ask ChatGPT to find a meal with those ingredients, and bam, you’ve not only not wasted food but you’ve stretched out your groceries…and budget! Bonus tip: It will organize your shopping list by grocery section (if you ask nicely). It felt like we breezed through that store and came home happy with both meal prep meals and pre-made meals!

Our Menu (ish) for the Week:

  • Stove-pot one skillet Ground Turkey, Zucchini, and Rice Hash
  • Air fryer Salmon and Veggies
  • Crockpot Chicken Tacos
  • Oven Roasted Herb chicken with Vegetables and potatoes

(***I say -ish because my Husband eats like a bird so sometimes one meal will last a week. Also, I don’t have any breakfast or lunch items because we mostly eat oatmeal or Cereal for Breakfast and Bagged Salad or Leftovers for lunch.***)

Life Happens

Our meticulously planned weekends, however, are not immune to life’s unpredictabilities. Take this weekend, for instance: our 20-month-old came down with a fever, leading to an unexpected midnight adventure to the emergency room. Such moments remind us that while planning is crucial, flexibility is key. So, instead of cooking or doing laundry, I get to cuddle with my little guy and watch Disney movies, not a bad trade. So we heated up the Mac and cheese in the oven with green beans and cut up the rotisserie chicken for one meal and made one of the quiches for another meal. I was so grateful we had these just in case.

Real-Time Learning and Sharing

It’s important to note that our journey is real-time. We’re navigating through major life changes, and with that, learning new ways to stay organized. Yes, our living room often resembles a toy battlefield, and yes, laundry can sometimes feel like an insurmountable mountain. But it’s in these chaotic moments that we find joy and learn lessons worth sharing.


As we continue to explore and refine our strategies for budgeting and meal planning, we invite you to join us on this journey. Our hacks may not be perfect, but they are real, evolving with our experiences. Whether you’re cuddling with a sick toddler or celebrating a small victory like a well researched grocery list, remember: it’s about making life a little easier, one meal at a time.



I'm Elena, the driving spirit behind Savor Paradise, where the Culinary Travel Lifestyle meets unique Airbnb experiences. Join me in a flavorful journey, discovering exceptional recipes and hidden Airbnb gems, as we embrace the adventure of culinary travel.

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