One of the best ways to save money on groceries is with Menu Planning. Menu planning before you get to the store allows you to serve simple, healthy and much more affordable meals.
To begin menu planning you can use a regular piece of paper or try a printable from one of these sites:
Look at your calendar for the week and plan your menu according to the plans for the week. Make a notation next to each day as to what is on the schedule for that day. For those days you can plan to have leftovers, throw a meal in the slow cooker or even plan a quick and easy meal. Remember to have quick, healthy snacks on the menu too.
Plan your menu according to your grocery budget for the week too. If you had an unexpected expense come up that is going to cut into your grocery budget, you might not need to plan expensive meals. Try meatless meals or using less expensive meats.
Plan your menu for at least one week. Make sure you include all ingredients needed for each meal on your list. Think about the cost of preparing each meal and the time it takes before assigning it to a day on the menu. A general rule is to never try more than one new recipe a week. This will also lessen your stress level in the kitchen.
Many people like to plan their menu for a month and shop for that month. This is a great idea, but I would still have to go into the stores for produce, bread, milk and other dairy. Planning for a month would also increase my stress levels, not to mention I get my grocery budget weekly, from each check. A more realistic idea is to plan for one or two extra meals each trip. These meals could be breakfast, lunch or dinners, but would need to be able to be kept on shelf for a long period or frozen. This would help you have extra on hand in case plans are changed or cancelled. If you don’t use the items, in several weeks you will have enough extra food built up that you would have a week where you can skip your shopping, except for produce, milk etc. This would be great right before a vacation.
Planning your menu around what is in season and what is on sale will save you even more money at the store. Why have roast this week if the price is sky high and you can get Ground Chuck on sale for a great price.
Don’t be afraid to repeat your favorite menu items or even your budget friendly menu items. If your family likes it and it doesn’t go to waste, then don’t be afraid to serve it again.
Making meals that work together will also save money. You can roast a chicken or two and then de-bone the chicken. Use the chicken in different meals and then use the bones to make broth for soup in your slow cooker. If you are having to buy a special ingredient for one item on your menu, plan to have something else to use the item up before it goes bad. I do this quite a bit with potatoes.
Remember to inventory what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer before menu planning. It is quite possible you have a few items in their already for some meals. This is great if the sale ads are less than desirable that week.
Plan meals to have leftovers. Have a night where you eat to clean out the leftovers in the refrigerator. This is a great way for the cook to have a break and help reduce waste in your refrigerator.
Life can happen and you may get off track, just pick up where you left off the next day. It’s okay to have Ramen Noodles, macaroni, canned soup or even take out once in a while. Just don’t blow your budget by doing so.
If you are serious about saving on groceries, make sure to give menu planning a try. It’s a great way to save your sanity, keep costs low and is quite flexible. You can change the days around if something comes up and changes your plans. Your grocery budget will benefit because you will be buying only the items needed for meals.
Remember: Homemade is always better.
Do you menu plan? What are some of your favorite tips? Have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment or email me at practicingfrugal at gmail dot com.
Making a habit out of living frugal …..