Genius Hack to Save Time and Money Grocery Shopping
Genius Hack to Save Time and Money Grocery Shopping
What’s for dinner tonight? As innocent as this question seems, it can create an immediate sense of stress.
If you’re anything like me you would go to the grocery store unprepared, and buy a ton of food, only to throw most out of out at the end of the week, untouched.
I’d heard of meal planning before, but it always seemed daunting and intimidating. I thought it would take a lot of time. Spoiler alert, you end up saving a lot of time at the end of the week.
Before I started meal planning, I would hem and haw over what to make for dinner. After finally deciding on a recipe, I would go to the kitchen to realize I am missing several key ingredients. This would leave me with two unappealing options. I could find something else to make, or I can run to the grocery store (again) and pick up the missing ingredients. All too often, I would call it quits, and order takeout, or decide to go out for dinner. Anything, to not feel as though I had settled on a dinner idea.
The sad truth is that this happened to me all the time. Despite large grocery hauls, all I was left with were random ingredients, but no meals.
Why should you do it?
Meal planning has helped organize my grocery shopping. I no longer have to agonize over what’s for dinner every night. Plus, at the end of the week, there is less food waste, and a savings of hundreds of dollars every month. I call that a win!
Making these simple changes can change your life too. To help you get started, I have broken down meal planning into an easy to follow, straightforward process. I have broken meal planning down into four categories: Schedule it, Plan it, Record it, and Execute it.
The average person goes grocery shopping once a week. This makes a weekly meal plan the easiest to execute for beginners. That said, if you live in a smaller community, where it is harder to get to the grocery store, or typically go to the grocery store less often, you may want to consider bi-weekly or monthly meal planning. Once you decide on a timeframe, you need to pick a day of the week as your “grocery day”. Many of you will already have a day of the week they do their grocery shopping. Congratulations, you have subconsciously started the first step toward meal planning. If you usually do your grocery shopping when you realize your refrigerator is empty, this is your opportunity to organize your schedule.
At least two days before, but ideally a week in advance, start to think of any meals/recipes you want to make. You can find inspiration online, in cookbooks, or old family favorites. Breakfast for dinner? Why not! There are no rules. However, I do suggest you keep the following in mind.
Think big picture:
When planning, take these four tips into consideration:
As a general rule, simpler meals are usually the best ones. If something is overwhelming, it is easy to get discouraged. The simpler the process, the easier it will be to stick with it.
Keep your family’s schedule in mind. If you know that every Friday night is take out – then plan accordingly. Similarly, if you always have Taco Tuesday, or order take out on Friday, make sure that is reflected in your planner. Planning an elaborate pasta meal with a long list of ingredients on the day your family always goes to their favorite restaurant can throw off your whole week.
Try to find recipes that make use of similar ingredients. This way you don’t have to buy a whole package of that that one expensive ingredient for one meal.
With that in mind, look at the serving size and consider doubling a recipe to repurpose it into leftovers the next day. For example, last night’s roast chicken can be added to pasta and sauce for a fresh new meal tonight. Or that steak from tonight’s dinner can be made into taco’s for tomorrow’s lunch.
Budget Friendly Tip: Try to find recipes that make the best use of what you already have in your fridge, pantry and freezer. Before starting your meal plan, take an inventory of what you have, what you are running low of, and what you have run out of. I also recommend as a rule that you keep a well-stocked pantry.
Having a meal plan is also a great way to stay on budget with your grocery shopping since you know what you are going to buy in advance. Going to the grocery store without a plan is a recipe for disaster if you are tying to reign in your grocery spending.
Keep track of sales. Take a peek at your grocery store’s weekly flyer to check what is on sale. Use the sales to dictate your keywords when looking for recipes. For example, if chicken breast is on sale this week, you can make Creamy Garlic Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers. Click Here for the Recipe.
How you choose to keep track of your recipes will depend entirely on your personality.
Some people work best with a paper and a pen. If that’s you, a journal or calendar may be the best options for you.
If you prefer a pre-printed journal style, this is a great option
For those of you who prefer the electronic route, you can use Google Calendar. Click here for instructions how to create a meal planner in Google Calendar. The best thing about using Google Calendar is that you can share it with other members of your household.
Alternatively, there are several apps you can download.
Remember, there are no hard and fast rules to meal planning. If one thing isn’t working for your schedule or way of life, make adjustments that suit your needs.
Let’s Get Started
Once you decide which method you prefer to record the recipes and ingredients, you are ready to start. Note the name of the recipe when you plan on making. Ensure that you have the recipe and instructions easily accessible once you are ready to prepare the meal. Ensure the grocery list reflects the elements of the recipe you need to purchase.
Sanity-saving tip: Organize your grocery list by the various departments in your grocery store. There are few things that are worse than having to go back to the same section of the grocery store to pick up something that was at the bottom of the list.
Voila! Your meal plan is complete. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
You may think that the job is done when you get home from your grocery shopping. It can be, but I recommend you take the time to pre-prep your foods. For example, if looking at your meal plan, you see you will require grated cheese, do it now. Chop any veggies that you may use to make a salad or side dish. Marinade any meats that you will be consuming in the next few days. This will also serve the additional benefit of cutting down the prep time for any recipe that you need to make.
You may want to put food storage containers on your shopping list.
Ever since I implemented using a meal plan with my family:
- I no longer waste hundreds of dollars each month by wasting food.
- My grocery shopping experience is shorter because I know what I need to buy before I even get there.
- I no longer have to go to the grocery store multiple times a week.
I saved the best by-product of starting a meal plan for last.
- I lost weight!
I didn’t plan for it. It was effortless. I was no longer getting as much take-out because I was stressing over what to make for dinner. I was also subconsciously making healthier choices.
Have you started meal planning lately? Share some of your tips and tricks to save money on groceries and meal plan for the week.