One thing that I have learned is that when you’re on a budget it helps to have your meals planned when you go grocery shopping. Planning out your meals can seem like a tedious, time consuming waste of time when you first start out, but once you take your first trip to the grocery store buying what is on your list for meals (and anything else planned for snacks or paper/toiletry products) the savings starts to add up.
There are some wonderful websites that can help you with meal planning. There are subscriptions to meal planning services for small fees. Or you can just plan your own meals using recipes you already use on a fairly regular basis and than jazz it up by trying a new recipe once a week. You can plan your meals weekly or monthly. You can write down your meal plan on a sheet of paper or display it on a whiteboard or chalkboard in the kitchen so the family has in on the action. Put down what you plan to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and don’t forget to include snacks. I also like to pick one or two what I call back up meals for in case you forget to take out something to thaw. I also recommend to pick one night a week where you can eat left overs or designate one day a week as crockpot night because coming home and not having to cook is just plain awesome (and sometimes you just get burned out from cooking all the time, or at least I do.)
Now it’s time to make your grocery list. Refer to your recipes if need be so you don’t forget anything. You will find most spices and some staples (like butter or flour) you already have in the kitchen, so you won’t have to include them on the list, but double check just in case. After you have the lists taken from the meal plan/recipes, don’t forget to include your toilet paper or toiletries.
Time to grocery shop! The hard part of grocery shopping is not straying from the list. Don’t be tempted to buy a bunch of stuff that’s not on your list. Those impulse buys are the ones that will blow your budget. Go grocery shopping weekly (or in my case bi weekly as I almost always forget one important thing on my list like bread, or butter or toilet paper and sometimes I like to go bi weekly so my veggies are fresher). Only buy what you need for the meals you’ve planned so you aren’t wasting as much money. I promise, the longer you do this the more it turns into a habit and the easier it becomes. You will soon have the recipes ingrained in your head or have them so easily accessible you just have to do a quick double check while you’re in the store to make sure you haven’t forgotten everything.
The plus side to menu planning is the hour it took you to plan the meals will really pay off during the week, not just in money savings but it lowers your stress because you already know what you will be cooking for dinner. Meals don’t have to be elaborate, it just helps if they’re planned out.