When The Banker and I first moved in together (3 years ago –eek!) we spent an insane amount of money on groceries. Not only that, we ended up throwing a bunch of stuff away because it would go bad before we ate it. It took me a few weeks, but finally I realized we needed to plan better.
We started to plan our dinners for the week before we went out shopping. We’d try to plan meals that would use large items more than once so there was less waste. We’d add things we wanted for breakfast, lunches, and snacks, including some staple items that we typically buy every week (milk, bread, eggs) and then went out to the grocery store. Once we started doing this, our grocery bill dropped dramatically and we very rarely throw anything out now. We still spend more than I’d like (about $250-$300 a month), but we buy a lot of fresh food, and always have some food in our cupboards and freezer for those times we’re lazy or when we want to save some money for a week. We also make breakfast at home and pack our lunches. So, we may spend more on groceries, but we’re definitely saving by not eating out very often.
Don’t know where to start when meal planning? Start with writing out the days – on paper, a chalkboard/whiteboard, or even on your phone – then think about what days you’re busy at night or the whole family might not be home. On these days, we always put something quick and easy, something like pasta or grilled cheese. Next, you can think about what you already have in the house and need to use up. Pick meals that will include these items early in the week. Finally, fill in the other days with meals you enjoy, want to try, or that will keep your grocery bill low.
Meal planning can seem daunting, but once you get in the habit it really becomes second nature. And truthfully, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes and can save you hundred of dollars a year and a ton of time at the grocery store.
Do you meal plan? How do you decide what to buy on your trips to the grocery?