I came across a graphic titled “Budget Friendly Grocery Budget for the Month”. I ended up posting it on my Facebook Page asking, “Is this accurate for where you live?” Some said yes and some said, “NO WAY!” While I understand food prices vary from place to place for us meal planning has definitely helped stretch our grocery budget. Some people are great at meal planning while others don’t know where to start. I’m here to help.
Once we went to the budgeting class, I talk about in another post, I started Meal Planning. Meal planning has saved our budget as well as my sanity. It gets me organized and keeps our budget on track. Also, if I meal plan and buy all the groceries we’re less likely to eat out which also saves our budget. Planning your meals daily and grocery shopping daily sucks the money out of your bank account and is a waste of time. Who has time to go to the grocery store everyday? Not this railroad wife.
Okay, so how do you start? I’m no expert or guru on meal planning but this is how I do it and it works from me.
I meal plan for two weeks at a time. I do this for two reasons…1) the less times I’m in a grocery store the less money is leaving my bank account and 2) the grocery stores here does a 15% off your whole grocery bill on the first Tuesday of the month. My thinking is why shop for one week and get 15% when I can shop for two weeks and get 15% off a bigger bill. *Saving money!!*
I sit down with my weekly meal planning sheet x2, a pencil, an eraser, my recipe book, my laptop with Pinterest open as well as the sales flyer for the grocery store. I really try to plan my meals around what’s on sale at my local grocery store. When I’m shopping on 15% off Tuesday not only am I buying items on sale but I’m also getting 15% off my entire bill. *Saving more money!!* I think you are starting to see a theme here…I like to save money and stretch our budget.
When I’m meal planning I’m trying to find recipes that use similar items…hopefully they are similar sale items. I also like to try and do at least one meal a week that is meatless. My railroader isn’t always a fan of this but it does help the budget to an extent. Depending on where you buy your meat it can really save. The other thing I do which isn’t money saving but more sanity saving is do crockpot meals on nights where we have an activity to be at earlier than normal. For us, that is every Tuesday and every other Thursday so I work that into my meal plan as well.
Another money saving trick is couponing. If I could be an extreme couponer I would be but Canada has a lot of couponing laws that make it more difficult. If you can coupon…do it! I buy a coupon book every year for $20 and there is tons of savings but the grocery coupons alone make this book worth it. For every $100 you spend you get a $10 gift card at a particular grocery store I shop at. There are 4 of these coupons. So by spending $20 I’m getting $40 in gift cards at a place I already shop at. Plus this coupon book is a fundraiser for the Playschool my daughter attends.
I’m not one to stock up on sale items that I know I’ll use in the future because that just eats into the budget. I know some people say to stock up on sale items but I don’t. When they are on sale again I’ll meal plan around those items. It has to be a REALLY good deal for me to stock up. I also try to limit the (unhealthy) snacks I buy because it isn’t always necessary. Often we eat when we’re bored and if the snacks are there we eat even though hunger is not the issue. Just stay away from the junk food/candy section.
Often grocery stores have a clearance section in various departments around the store. Now this is “on the fly” shopping which can be okay. I usually bring my meal plan and grocery list with me so I can make adjustments in this type of situation. Often it’s stuff like dairy or meats that are close to their expiry date. If you’re able to use them before the expiry date..why not take advantage of more savings. Often with stuff like yogurt, cheese or sausage meats I’ll just change a snack to a smoothie or to cheese and meat instead of what I already had planned. I also tend to buy generic items more often than brand names because they are cheaper and taste the same. If there is a taste difference I go with what our family prefers verses saving money.
I know some who drive all over town to get the best deals at multiple grocery stores. To me this is a waste of time and money. What you might be saving in your grocery budget you are now spending in your gas budget. I try to stick to two grocery stores. If there is a store with a really good deal just work it into your regular errands or activities instead of making a special trip. We typically shop at Costco for our meats, bread, cereal (but it has to be on sale), milk, fruits and vegetables. This is why it’s important to try and use similar items in multiple meals. If I need broccoli for 2-3 meals I’ll get it from Costco but if I only need it for one meal I’ll get it from Safeway or Save-On Foods. Buy in bulk when it makes sense. At the non-bulk stores, like Safeway and Save-On Foods I’ll buy the remaining ingredients that I don’t need larger quantities of like canned goods, frozen foods and so on.
Here is a condensed version of how I meal plan.
- Meal plan for two weeks at a time.
- Shop on days you get an extra discount.
- Plan your meals around the sales flyer.
- Plan similar meals with items on sale (if possible).
- Try planning at least one meatless meal per week.
- Coupon as much as possible.
- It has to be a really good deal to stock up.
- Limit your time in the junk food/candy section.
- Shop the clearance section, if possible.
- Bring your meal plan with your to make “on the fly” adjustments.
- Try buying generic items over brand names.
- Don’t drive all over town for the best deals. You may save on your grocery budget but you are spending more on your gas budget. Only do it if you can work it into your regular errands or activities.
- Buy in bulk when it makes senses.
- If it’s not on your grocery list, DON’T buy it!
I also decided to make a Weekly Meal Planner as well as a Grocery List printable for your convenience. I really hope this helps you get better organized and helps stretch your budget.
Click to get your FREE Meal Planning Worksheets.
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If you have any money saving tips on Meal Planning, please feel free to share them in the comments section. I’m always game for new ways to save money.