I will admit. I never used to be very good at meal planning. I would go shopping a few times a week, sometimes when hungry (we all know what that means!), and buy meals on the go. I am a great cook! However, shopping “per meal” turned into an expensive habit, especially when I am picky about quality ingredients and I would end up spending more than $200 per week for just two of us.
Then, enter my toddler child, who on a daily basis can either eat more than my husband or less depending on his mood and what he is willing to try at dinner. So it was time to start to save money by meal planning!
So to try and at least save a little money each week, I started to meal plan. Typically, I spend time on the weekend planning our meals for the week ahead. My husband is a good sport and will eat anything I make, my toddler, can be picky at times so I plan for his go-to-items if he won’t try what I have made as the “adult” meal.
I usually get all of my recipes from Pinterest or some cookbooks, so I utilize Google Keep, a neat little Goole app that lets you create lists, share lists and collaborate with others on lists (think sending the husband to the grocery store with a list he can check off!). As I find recipes on Pinterest, first I “Pin” the recipe, Open the recipe and then type the ingredients into Google Keep. When I get to my grocery store (Trader Joe’s!) *look for an upcoming post about saving money at Tj’s*, I just pull up my Google Keep List and start shopping! I usually post our weekly meal planner on our fridge to remind “all of us” to stick to it!
My secret for a happy “meal planning life”? Make sure you have a Go Out For Dinner Night! We like to mix up each week, depending on special deals that we see locally around our neighborhood…Pizza, Sushi, Pub-Food etc….bottom line, you have to treat yourself.
As a working woman, I have found meal planning essential to maintaining work-life balance.
So here is my FREE Step-by-Step Guide for SAVING money Grocery Shopping (no matter where you shop!).
6 Steps to Save Money When Meal Planning
Step 1: Get a Flyers, Sign Up for Grocery Rewards Cards & Get Coupons!
The most important step is to check around for ongoing deals and coupons on the products you’re looking to buy. Get a flyer from your grocery store – or perhaps flyers from two or three local grocery stores and look for online manufacturers coupons. Often times, you can sign up with individual grocers that will email out upcoming deals…I love to check out Fresh Market, Publix (a Florida thing!), Trader Joe’s, Winn Dixie and even Target. Sometimes they have great deals on weekdays such as $2.99 Tuesdays at Fresh Market for Organic Chicken breasts and Ground Beef.
Winn Dixie offers a great reward card, the Plenti Card, for either the grocery store or liquor stores that earns points that can be used in store, other retail stores or even for gas!
Publix offers a sign-up program that you can enter your phone number at the register and it will automatically use any digital coupons that you may have. They also offer weekly BOGO’s on many products in the store!
Step 2: Find Sales on Fresh Ingredients
Once I have the flyers, I go through them and mark any sales on fresh ingredients that they have. For example, as I write this, I’m checking out deals on local produce and butcher shop items. We try to eat very clean, so we ignore many sales on some prepackaged items and focus on buying staple items each week.
Step 3: Do Some Recipe Research- Pinterest is my Favorite!
My first stop is always Pinterest. You can search any type of food combos or even diet types to find recipes that suit the needs of your family. Throughout the week, I will “pin” recipes to make sure that I have them for the weekend when I start to write out my meal planning calendar. Choosing fun meals to make is probably my favorite part of meal planning. I get excited finding things I can make this week…and then into the weeks ahead depending on what I find on sale (see step 2).
Step 5: Make a Shopping List from the Meal Plan- Google Keep!
Once the meal plan is in place, I go through and Google Keep list all of the ingredients for all of the recipes I’ll make and then cross off the things we have as I find them in the cupboards or refrigerator. Most of this is very easy, but it saves us money – we don’t accidentally buy things we already have on hand…which is easy to do if you are haphazardly weekly shopping without purpose.
I also check the staples – flour, milk, yeast, juice boxes, and so on – and add replenishments to the Google Keep List!
Step 6: Go Grocery Shopping – And Stick to Your List!
Once you have the list in place, it’s simple. Take it to the grocery store and stick to it. Don’t toss stuff that’s not on your list into the cart. Since you’ve already planned your meals, you know that you don’t need it.
Using this path will also make grocery shopping itself substantially quicker. Most of your purchases will be around the edges of the store, in the produce and meat sections. You won’t have to go up and down every aisle to find the items you need. This will shave significant time off of your shopping trip.
In the end, though, when you go home, unpack your groceries, and put that meal plan up on the fridge, you’ll find that overall it hasn’t taken you any more time than a grocery trip without planning would have taken, plus you now have a clear plan for meals for the week and you’ve saved significant money at the grocery store.
Now that you have the “Know-How”. See how much money you can save! We have cut our grocery shopping budget down to $125 week including wine(!) for our busy family of three purchasing high-quality, organic ingredients in an attempt to keep our eating as healthy as can be. Click below to get your free printable meal planner!
Let me know in the comments some of your ways to save money at the grocery store!
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