One of the most difficult parts of sticking to a budget while food shopping is meal planning. This one action alone can save you money and time at the grocery store. There are numerous different ways to do this and I’ll highlight a few below, along with my thoughts. How many times have you walked into a store and just let it guide your choices? I’ve done this so many times and watched money fly out of my wallet!
Since C and I started to live together, it’s been incredibly vital that we are on the same page regarding what’s planned for the week in terms of activities, food and obligations.
Our Sunday ritual has been to sit down over breakfast and discuss the upcoming week, review the whiteboard calendar in the kitchen and then decide what dinners and snacks we want for the week. During this time we’ll look at the pantry, snack cart and fridge/freezer to see what we should use up first. After we have an idea of what we want, we look at the calendar to ensure the meals make sense. If it’s a busy week, we need to make more meals that take 15 minutes or less. If it’ll be nicer out and we have some time, we’ll try to include as many grill options.
Once we have our plan, I list out each meal on an index card and then right out the ingredients we need. Then we cross out what we have and I write the list out in order of how we’ll shop which helps us stick to plan as much as possible. I like to think this method mashes up the different styles below in a way that works best for us. This sounds like it takes forever, but I promise this whole activity is done by the time we finish breakfast. Once meal planning is done, we go to the store and get it over with!
Pro tip: Eating before shopping ensures you don’t leave the store with way more than you went in for. When C and I have gone in hungry, we’ve ended up spending double what we normally do and end up having to run out numerous times during the week. OUCH!
Why should you meal plan?
It can save you time and money! It doesn’t take much effort, but it can ensure that you get all of your ingredients in one trip – because who wants to have to run out at 7PM on a Wednesday because you need sauce to make your quick zoodle sauce with zoodles?
Shop Your Pantry First
This method requires you to quickly inventory all of your pantry items and then determine what you need to use up and what meals should end up on your meal plan. This one to me saves the most money because you’re ensuring you use your food up before it spoils rather than buying something new that you’ll use instead. If you’re stumped for what to do with the random bits of vegetables, meats or other items you have go onto Pinterest or look at my recipe section. Once you have those items accounted for, you can either shop sales for more ideas or just create a list of what you want for the weekend.
Shop The Sales First
Grab your local Supermarket insert (or go online) and look at the sales running for your store for that week. Go through the ad and make a menu around what will be on sale. Will ground beef, lettuce and taco shells be on sale? Great, make one night taco night. This is a great option if you have less on hand to use up. It also ensures that you’re saving money by only buying items when they’re on sale.
Make sure you’re looking at the right ad for when you’ll be shopping. Most sales roll over on Sunday, but there are definitely exceptions. Some stores like Aldi have better deals on Wednesday for meat. Plan your day to shop that works best for you and make your plan based on the deals for that day.
Make a list for what you want!
This option will likely save you the least money, but it still will save more than going blindly into the store. This also involves the least work because you just write your list based on what you’re in the mood for, not what’s on sale or to use what you have.
What meal planning style do you use? Let me know in the comments below.