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When I first thought about sharing how I come up with my menu and grocery list, I thought maybe it was too simple of a thing to share. After all, lots of people do it, what can I share that you don’t already know? Then on the other hand I thought about when I was first married and how my menu planning consisted mostly of just thinking of what sounded yummy then buying the needed groceries for those meals. Now I put a little more strategy into it and spend a lot less money. So all of you seasoned menu planners out there, may know all of this, and probably have some tips for me, but anybody else, who wants to lower their grocery bill read on!
- Usually the first thing I do before making my menu is to look at the sales online to see what good deals are out there. Shopping at more than one store to get the best deals at each is a great money saver, but I know not everyone lives close enough to multiple stores. I usually just stick with HEB, Albertsons for any great deals, and Sam’s Club. I drive right by Albertsons on my way to HEB, so stopping in doesn’t add any extra gas and only a little extra time.
- Once I’ve seen what items are on sale I shop at home. I see what I already have, especially things that won’t last much longer and need to be eaten.
- I see what coupons I have. I don’t do a lot of couponing, but if I see a coupon for something I usually buy, I’ll use it. Occasionally if I know I’ll be buying something that’s name brand I’ll check online to see if I can find a coupon for it.
- Now it’s time for me to make my menu plan using what ingredients I found on sale, with a coupon or that I already have. I also keep a few other things in mind:
- I try to always have a few quick and easy meals planned for busy days (ie: grilled cheese sandwiches or frozen pizza).
- I plan a few meatless meals. Meats are one of the most expensive foods we buy, so using dry beans or eggs as the protein in a meal is a great way to cut the budget (ie: bean burritos, lentil soup, stir fry with egg as the protein).
- And I always try to keep things healthy, serving veggies and fruit, and mostly whole grains.
5. Once my menu is planned out I see what needs to be added to my list, whether it’s ingredients for the meals, something I wrote on my white board that I was running out of, or maybe some toiletry items.
6. When I write my lists I try to keep them kind of categorized (ie: produce together, refrigerated items together). This makes it less likely that I’ll have to be running back and forth in the store.
7. And lastly, I keep an open mind. If I see some clearance or good deal I didn’t know about, I’ll tweek my menu. I don’t have a certain order we need to eat the meals or anything. A lot of weeks we don’t even end up eating every meal I listed because of leftovers, going out or I simply opted to make a simpler meal. The side dishes I plan for each meal get swapped around with other main dishes, I mostly just list them, so I know what I can make.
I know every one is different with their groceries and menu. I’ve recently started doing my menu plan for 2 weeks. I do a big shopping every other week, and only stop in the store in between if I need something. It saves me a lot of time and I also have less temptation to buy things on whims. On the other hand, it is harder to keep produce fresh for 2 weeks. I’m learning how best to store it, and I try to eat produce that goes bad quickly first. For example, I might serve salad earlier because lettuce doesn’t last long, and serve sweet potatoes in the second week, as they last a long time. The other disadvantage of shopping every other week is that stores usually do their sales every week. So I may be missing some great sales on the weeks I don’t shop, but for me personally, the time I’m saving is worth it.
Anybody have anything to add? How do you menu plan and grocery shop? What have you found saves you time and money?
This tip is shared at Tammy’s Recipes for Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.