I’m sure by now you know that it’s important to budget your money. In doing so, you have probably figured out one of the biggest flexible budgets is your grocery budget, which means that with a bit of planning, you can save big when shopping for food. There are a lot — and I do mean a lot — of ways to do this, but I want to talk to you about menu planning: one of the best ways to cut costs from your grocery budget.
Everyone menu-plans differently, so you’ll need to find a groove that works for you! Here’s how to get started with weekly menu planning:
1. Start with a calendar. Write down what you’re going to make for dinner that week, Monday through Sunday. You can also jot down any activities your family has going on that week if you think it might help. Some people find it helpful to just jot down a list of seven meals and pick one each day. I prefer to have meals set by day and make easy stuff on busier nights.
2. Take inventory. Shop your own pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Make a list of what you have and use that in your meals first. Have hamburger, two packs of chicken and a pack of pork chops in your freezer? USE THEM! Pair them with the can of green beans and package of rice in your pantry, and the corn on the cob or green beans in the fridge. Right there, you’ve got four great meals — with side dishes!
3. Use coupons. Take the sales papers from that week to the grocery stores in your area and really look at them. You might be visiting more than one of these. Why? You want to shop the sales. Is roast and pork chops on sale this week? Then that’s what your fill-in meals will be! Pasta on sale for $1 a box or less? Use that, too. By doing this, you aren’t paying full price for the hamburger that is NOT on sale for a meal. This will cut money off your bill right away.
You can take it another step further by buying extra quantities of whatever is one sale. Maybe you buy an extra roast, extra pork chops and extra pasta this week while it’s on sale, and use it next week to pair with next week’s sales.
One of the main reasons to menu-plan is that you’ll only need to go to the store ONCE during the week. If you go more often, you run the risk of buying more than you need and, therefore, spending more money than you should. Not to mention the extra costs in gas and time!
As you get better at menu-planning, you can start planning breakfast and lunch, too! This also stops the “What is for breakfast/lunch/dinner” questions, because your family can just check the menu. It also saves mom and dad a little sanity — and can you really put a price tag on that?
Take a look at How I Menu Plan for some ideas on how to make menu-planning work for you.
Danielle Leonard is the founder of The Frugal Navy Wife, a deals blog that features money-saving deals, recipes, DIY projects, frugal living tips and more.