Grocery Saving Snippet: Menu Planning

Photo Credit to The Consumeristgrocery aisle

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 …..

2 thoughts on “Grocery Saving Snippet: Menu Planning

  1. I don’t normally make complete extra meals for the freezer. I find defrosting and reheating takes too long and the quality is usually not as good as when it was made fresh (soup and chili are the exceptions that work). I’ve often see people recommend freezing meals ahead for nights when you’re busy, but if it takes an hour to defrost in the microwave and more to reheat, then it isn’t really a quick solution. You really have to plan ahead and take them out to defrost – this isn’t an after work emergency solution. Instead I freeze meal components. When ground beef is on sale I buy 10-15 pounds and fry it all up and freeze in 10-15 bags. I unzip a bag and microwave it for 2 minutes and it’s ready to use. Think how many recipes do you have that start off with “brown a pound of ground beef”. If you already have this step done and have dealt with the greasy mess all at once, you have many nights of fast suppers. Think how fast you can make tacos or sloppy joes if the beef is all precooked. By the time the table is set it’s ready. When peppers go on sale I buy 2 dozen and slice and chop them all. I freeze the pieces on wax paper on cookie sheets and then dump them into freezer bags. In addition to saving money getting them on sale, you can easily grab a handful any night for a stirfry, spaghetti sauce, pizza, fajitas etc. I usually keep one fresh pepper in the crisper for salads, but frozen peppers are fine for any recipe where they’ll be cooked.

    Most nights at least one part of the meal is an intentional leftover from another night. When cooking rice, pasta, or any relatively unseasoned meat we always cook extra to use in another meal. Why waste electricity and time cooking the same item again a night or two later? Fried rice really should only be made with leftovers, fresh it too wet. Cooking an extra steak one night means beef stirfry or fajitas the next night takes no time. When we are cooking a whole chicken, we often cook 2 while we’re at it. If I’ve bothered to turn on the oven for an hour I might as well get several meals of meat out of that electricity. We use some of the leftovers for enchiladas, casseroles and sandwiches, and the rest is divided up into recipe ready portions in the freezer. With two chicken carcasses I can also make a large pot of soup or just stock for the freezer. If we’re pressed for time we put the carcasses in a plastic bag and freeze them and make the soup/stock later.

  2. Pingback: Menu Plan: June 17-23 |

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