Budgeting can be a difficult task to master, especially when it comes to planning your grocery budget. When you incorporate meal planning into your family’s routine, you are setting yourself up for “budget heaven” because you know what you’re buying before you even enter the store.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience, for more information please refer to my disclosure statement.
We use meal planning every week in our home because it has many benefits. The top benefit is that you are saving money on groceries, and then the added fact that there is no guesswork when it comes to making dinner each time. By meal planning, you can plan according to your family’s schedule also. So that means when it’s baseball practice night, you already have a plan ahead meal that is quick and simple, allowing plenty of time for homework and dinner before practice.
Reasons You Should Try Meal Planning:
- You know what you’re cooking ahead of time.
- Your grocery budget sets itself.
- You can use up food in your house before buying more.
- It saves you from the “What am I making for dinner?” scramble.
So you may be wondering how this is going to save you money. Well, I’m here to tell you how. I am not a huge couponer, and I don’t ad shop or price compare. My grocery savings come primarily from meal planning.
We keep a calendar where everyone in the house can see. So if anyone is ever wondering what we’re having for dinner all they have to do is look at the calendar. I try to incorporate the kids into the meal planning by going through recipes and meal ideas with them each week.
I always try to start with recipes that incorporate what we already have on hand so that I am stretching my grocery budget as far ahead as possible.
How to Meal Plan
Okay, so it seems pretty self-explanatory but I’m going to give you the steps I follow so it is very clear and easy to follow.
Make a list of on-hand meals
This includes any ready-made meals you may have and even leftovers for a leftover night.
Make a list of meals you can make
This list would be where you write out all of the meals you can prepare based on what meat and sides you already have on-hand. So don’t include it on this list unless you have all of the necessary ingredients already.
Pick recipes for the week
Once you have a list of meals you have on-hand, and meals you can make with what ingredients you have, you’ll want to sit down and write out what other meals you’d like to have for the week. I keep a recipe binder with a bunch of options for when I just can’t think of anything. I also like to try out new recipes once in a while to add some variety to what we eat.
Use your family’s schedule to plan meals accordingly. You don’t want to have a meal planned for the day but not enough time to prep and cook it.
P.S. Crock pot meals are excellent for busy days because you literally set it and forget it until it’s time to eat.
Time to Make the Grocery List
Now is when you’ll figure out what ingredients you do not have to prepare the meals you’ve selected for the week. I typically try to stick to recipes where I have most of the ingredients, although this isn’t always possible.
Add Your Necessities
Now that you have your grocery list for meals, you want to be sure you’re adding any other necessities. This could be bread, milk, eggs, toilet paper, etc.
And you’re done and ready to shop!
By meal planning this way, you are only buying the food that you need. This way you’re not wandering through the grocery store buying whatever looks good at the moment. If I shop without planning meals, I end up buying way more than I need. The worst part is, a lot of it ends up in the trash, especially produce.
Additional Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill
If you haven’t heard of it, Flipp is a smartphone app that allows you to add your grocery list, browse local ads and find out where the items on your list are on sale. This will help you save a few bucks more if there are good sales on some of your items.
Plus, there are coupons on the app, all you have to do is link your store reward card to the app and load the coupons electronically.
Buying into a CSA
A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is like purchasing part of a farm. Well, sort of. You purchase a CSA through a local farm and in return you are given fresh fruits and vegetables while they are in season.
If these are available in your area, take advantage. Seriously, we go through so many fresh fruits and vegetables. My grocery bill always goes way up when I’m stocking up on fresh produce. Buying a CSA from a local farm would save us probably hundreds. Especially through the summer.
Click here to find a CSA in your area and enter your city or zip code.
Added bonus! Sometimes they may include fresh-cut flowers and herbs or even pumpkins during the fall harvest. Plus, you’re helping local farmers keep their business alive.
Using apps such as Ibotta can help you save on items you do buy. If you haven’t used it before, Ibotta is a cash back app. So you’d look through to see if any of the items you are buying have cash back offers available. My suggestion would be to only use it for the items you plan on buying or buy regularly. Otherwise, you may end up spending more instead of actually saving money. If you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place, it’s probably not going to save you any money to buy it just for the cash back.
By using this link to sign up for Ibotta, you’ll get a $10 welcome bonus, which means you’ll only have to earn $10 in cash back to get your first payout.
I know, I know. What does online shopping have to do with grocery savings? But, they often have cash back bonuses for Amazon so if you use Prime Pantry or Amazon Grocery, you can get cash back for those purchases just by purchasing on Amazon through Ebates.
If you sign up through this link, you’ll get a $10 bonus once you spend $25!