One of the biggest areas families can save money is on food. Many times, life gets busy and before you know it, dinner time is fast upon you. Without a real plan, you decide to order a pizza, head to the drive thru or to have a nice mid-week dinner at a restaurant. Maybe this happens a few times a week. Add in the cost of eating out every day for lunch and the forgotten groceries that are wasting away in the fridge, and the money spent on food can really sneak up on you!
A simple plan for the week’s meals and a list can really go a long way when you’re trying to save on groceries. It will also help you avoid spending money eating out.
The first thing I do every week when making our meal plan is to get out the grocery sale ad from our local store. I like to use the flyer from the mail, but you can also pull it up on your mobile or tablet using the Flipp app. Knowing what’s on sale and what’s in season is the first step in making a meal plan that will save you money at the checkout. You can get a good idea of what’s in season by visiting the Sustainable Table Seasonal Food Guide.
Next, I go through my pantry and freezer to see what I have already. Have some ground beef in the freezer and know that bell peppers are in season? Stuffed peppers are an easy meal that won’t cost you much! A good way to keep track of your pantry and freezer stash is to keep a list on paper or on your phone. That way, you don’t have to keep opening doors to check what you have.
Now, the fun part! Get your favorite cookbooks out and pull it all together. Now that you know what’s on sale and what you have, you can start making your meal plan. Here’s what ours looks like this week:
Sunday: Chicken Tikka Masala, creamed eggplant, Saffron rice
Monday: Pasta with Italian sausage in marinara
Tuesday: Chopped salad
Thursday: Bison burgers and french fries
Friday: Date Night
We always make enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day and we usually have a leftovers night during the week. We like to keep Saturdays open in case we need to finish off leftover meals or we have a family event to go to. To make things easier for ourselves, we’ll cook some things ahead. For instance, since we are grilling chicken and eggplant on Sunday, we go ahead and grill the Italian sausage for the next day’s meal also. Now on Monday, we just have to cook pasta and heat up our sausage in the marinara sauce.
If you like going to warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, you can make your meal plan for two or more weeks at once. Know what is worth buying in bulk and what freezes well.
While you’re creating your meal plan, write out your grocery list. Make sure you account for breakfast and snacks. When you get to the grocery store, use your list and don’t buy anything else! If you do this right, you can cut your grocery cost down significantly. Our trip to the grocery store for the week only cost us $52 for a family of two plus baby. That includes all the meat for our meals.
So here it is in a nutshell:
1. Shop in season and use the sale flyer
2. Shop your pantry and freezer
3. Make a realistic meal plan from #1 &2
4. Make a shopping list and stick to it!
What are some things you do to save on groceries? I’d love to hear from you!