Meal Planning: Saving on Groceries

Alright, this is my last post on meal planning. After this I’m done yammering on about it. Here are my earlier posts in the series in case you missed out:

Meal Planning: Getting Organized

Meal Planning: Quick & Easy Method for Making Meal Plans

Today I’m discussing the grocery shopping side of things, and how to save some money and time in the process. I’ve got two assignments below for you to start working on, and if you complete those and the ones from the previous two weeks, you are going to be a meal planning machine! So get to work!

Assignment #1: Establish a grocery shopping technique

  1. Shop from your own pantry first when planning out your meals to take advantage of ingredients that might be expiring soon or meals you didn’t get a chance to cook last month.
  2. This will probably sound a little ridiculous to some, but I buy all of my groceries at once for the entire month with a couple of quick trips to the store for produce as I need it. I do this because 1. I hate grocery shopping, so the less times I have to go the better, and 2. I save a lot more money the less I go. The less you go shopping the less you will end up spending. You will buy things in bulk, and you will make things stretch further throughout the month. You will also see less things that you go “oh that looks nice” to, and throw in your buggy.
  3. If it’s not on your list then don’t buy it! Unless you forget to write down toilet paper and you’re about to start using your shower curtain, but other than that stick to your list! If it’s important enough to put on a list, only then is it important enough to buy.

Assignment #2: Create a stock pile.

  1. Create a list of the staple items you use in a lot of your recipes or buy regularly.
  2. Watch grocery store sales flyers every week for items on your list of staples, and start stocking up on ingredients to last you until they go on sale again. This will cost you a little more than you usually spend at the start, but will save you money in the months to come. Also, don’t just buy any old item because it’s on sale. If you never buy Little Debbie snacks, then you aren’t going to be saving any money by purchasing them when they are on sale, because you never would have bought them to begin with.
  3. Shop at discount grocery stores like Aldi to stock up on cheaper ingredients when they are available.
  4. Take advantage of a deep freeze so you can stock up on things like meats, cheeses and (so I’ve heard) milk whenever they go on sale.

Other Savings Tips

  • Try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season, because that’s when they are cheapest (and better quality). I keep a season schedule for produce in my planner, so I can keep up with it. Research when fruits and vegetables are in season for your specific area.
  • I buy all of the groceries that I can’t find discounted somewhere else at Walmart. Their prices are usually the cheapest, and I like to use their app for their Savings Catcher feature. You just scan your Walmart receipts, and it will compare prices of competitors and give you the difference in rewards dollars of anyone they find with lower prices, and then whenever you feel you’ve built up enough cash you can put them on a Walmart gift card.
  • Plan meals closely together that use the same perishable ingredients, so you don’t waste things. Like I have some meals that call for cilantro, but I only need a little bit of the bunch I have to buy, so I’ll plan another meal that uses it around the same time.
  • Buy store brands. They are usually cheaper. Just make sure you compare prices of other brands first, because that’s not always the case.

The last thing I want to say is: invest in your health. Yes saving money is good, but not at the expense of making unhealthy choices because it’s cheaper or quicker. Spend money on produce, skip boxed meals and packaged foods loaded with preservatives and trans fat (etc. etc. etc!). Spend money on whole foods, and invest time into creating meals with healthy ingredients. If you want to make up the cost you spend on quality foods, then cut out the sodas and unhealthy snacks you purchase. Nothing is worth feeling like junk and having poor health when you’re older, because you didn’t take care of yourself when you were younger.