How to Save Money Through Meal Planning

Meal Planning to Save Money

Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need

When do I have the most problems buying groceries I really don’t need? That is when I don’t have a complete list based on the ingredients of the meals I plan on making throughout the week. Besides, who needs to plan a meal when you can just look for coupons and make your meals based on them? The problem with this simplistic plan is that important items like specific spices for flavoring may be left out but coupons are definitely a money saver if they are found before ordering groceries. After establishing a specific step by step approach to meal planning I found that I was spending a lot less on groceries than I used to. 

Five Steps For Meal Planning To Save Money

Make a Grocery List

Step one is deciding if you are going to just use what you have on hand for the week or need to put together a grocery list to buy additional items, In other words, you need to take an inventory of what you still have on hand versus what you will run out of before the next grocery trip or order.

Follow Your Budget

Step two is deciding which ingredients you typically cook fit your current budget. As family budgets are tightened due to the current restricted economy, purchasing less expensive sources of protein should be considered. For example, tasty inexpensive bean recipes can be whipped up or those that include rice. Chicken is another tasty meat that is less expensive. Making effective use of the space in your pantry with meals made from it that include only three to five ingredients is a must when it comes to saving money on your grocery bill.

Plan With Coupons

Step three is to make a list of the meals for each day and a list of the items that you need to complete all of your meals based on a master pantry list. This list is helpful to ensure that you don’t forget some necessary items like milk or butter. Go through coupons as the list is compiled, making certain that your coupons correlate to your meals you have decided to fix for the week. In other words, don’t buy food just so you can use a coupon unless you can use the food on the coupon in one of your meals.

While shopping in the store keep your eye on your list.

Shop Online

Step four is centered on shopping online to stay out of the grocery stores by using Amazon and another service like Instacart. (When I ran out of toilet paper and paper towels, Amazon met my need by creating their own brand of toilet paper and paper towels.) Instacart did the same by expanding its area covered in some areas of the US, and they are still expanding to meet the overwhelming demand for delivery all over the US. Shopping online will keep you from buying the scrumptious food purposely placed at the eye level of the grocery store and usually not the best buy for your buck.

Freeze Leftovers

Step five encompasses making leftovers either to freeze or to eat two days out of the week. Most meals will freeze easily; although, some of them will become mushy after defrosting. The foods I have had the most success with the consistency of and ease of preparation for freezing are casseroles of any type, cooked meat to use in our favorite recipes, and beef or chicken broth for use when cooking rice or pasta. Many cooks have success in avoiding freezer burn with either squeezing out the air from the baggy before freezing food or using a vacuum sealer machine to squeeze out the air, which is essential if you are freezing large quantities of meat.

By only buying what is on my list based on meal planning, I have saved thousands of dollars over the years. Slipups like buying too many frozen prepared meals or too many snacks when bringing my family along to the grocery store are avoided when ordering online through Instacart with same day service. 

Set a Dollar Limit

When visiting the grocery store I must make sure to round each item up in value to keep track of the approximate total purchase in order to only spend up to a certain amount on each trip. For example, if buying an item that costs $5.69, I would round up that item to a cost of $6.00 to add to the next item on the list and so on. Usually that means I will come up with a total larger than my actual grocery bill but that result will give me confidence that I have not spent anymore than I intended on spending this trip.

Reward Yourself

Whatever you do, don’t make the same mistakes I used to make through not planning each and every grocery store visit or online purchase. That includes not only meal planning but also set a limit on the amount of money that will be spent on each and every trip. The most success I had with this method of including groceries in my budget happened when I started using cash only at the grocery store. Because of this limitation, I could not spend any more than I had in my grocery store envelope. Yes, this involves self-discipline but with a self-reward system in place like a trip to my favorite getaway for vacation in place, successful grocery budgeting became easy.

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