While groceries are not a fixed expense like your mortgage or car payment, they are necessary—we all need food. The amount of money spent on groceries can vary greatly depending on your family’s eating and shopping habits. There are many ways to save money on groceries, and creating a meal plan is a simple method you can put into place immediately.
People who spend a lot of money on groceries usually do not plan out their shopping trips. Creating a meal plan can greatly impact the amount of money you are spending on groceries because you will not be making last-minute trips to the store for expensive ingredients or throwing out leftovers.
Here’s how to create a meal plan:
1. Inventory your pantry. You might be surprised at how many meals you can make out of what’s on hand!
2. Decide how many meals you want to plan. You also need to decide if you are planning all of your family’s meals and snacks or just dinners. If you are new to meal planning, you can still save a lot of money by planning only dinners.
3. Ask your family what they would like to eat in the next several weeks.
4. Write a list of the ingredients you think you will need to purchase for these meals.
5. Look at the ads for local sales, and determine which ingredients are on sale. If you have coupons, try to match them up to the advertised sales.
6. Take some time to look up recipes on the Internet or in cookbooks, so you can create meals using the groceries on sale.
7. Now, write your meal plan. If you have decided you will plan 14 dinners, try to write a list of meals that include the main course, any side dishes, beverages and dessert if you choose. Try to do this to take advantage of not only sales, but also leftovers. For instance, if chicken is on sale, try roasting a chicken one day and making chicken soup with the leftovers the following day.
8. Write a list based on the ingredients you will need for your meal plan, as well as general items you use every day like milk, eggs and bread.
4. When you get to the grocery store, stick to what’s on your list. If you want, you can add one or two impulse buys to your list, but don’t go over the limit you set for yourself before your shopping trip. For some people, it helps to go in with cash. That way, you can’t spend more than your allotted budget.
6. Enjoy the savings!