Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping – Saving you time and money

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With an average spending of $37.50 to $50 a person, an American family of four is spending anywhere from $600 to $800 a month in groceries, according to the latest information from the United States Department of Agriculture.
My household is a family of three and while I enjoy going to the grocery, I also dread it. I dread seeing the bill when the cashier completes my order, but I enjoy it because I have found a way to save time and money. Everyone likes saving a dollar, right? Here are some easy ways for you to save on your next grocery trip and while they may seem time consuming, they are completely worth it!

  1. Make a list of what you have. Go through your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards. See what staple pieces you have, what items you have to build meals from and work from your inventory. Do you have an extra can of green beans or cream of mushroom soup in the cupboard? Find recipes that will incorporate the ingredients you already have. This means fewer things to buy during your next grocery trip.
  2. Make a dinner menu. Create a menu based on items you already have. I’m not suggesting you can only use those items, but incorporate them. Plan meals for a duration of time that works for you. I usually go to the grocery on Sundays so I plan for a full week. Planning ahead of time leaves less room for forgetting to lay something out for dinner, having to run to the grocery at the last minute, or going through the drive-thru.
  3. Make the most of your meals. When you create a dinner menu, make the most of what you’re buying. For example, there are some weeks when I plan four meals, yes four, around a rotisserie chicken. Costco sells rotisserie chickens for $4.99 and they are huge! Last week I bought one and created the following dinners: chicken tacos, chicken Caesar salad, BBQ chicken salad, and BBQ chicken pizza. Not only was I able to split the chicken up for four meals, but other meals shared common ingredients that I was able to divvy up instead of wasting them. I used corn, black beans, and BBQ sauce in the BBQ chicken salad and on the BBQ chicken pizza. I got a head of romaine lettuce and used it for both of the salads and the chicken tacos. In the past I’d use half a can of corn for the salads, put the remainder in the fridge promising myself I’d use it later only to throw it in the trash after finding it hidden on the back of the shelf.
  4. Dig out your crockpot. You’d be amazed at the amount of meals you can make in your crockpot! Take advantage of websites and apps like Pinterest to find new recipes. After a long day at work or running errands you won’t have to worry about dinner because it has been cooking all day!
  5. Take advantage of coupons. Some stores offer coupons via a device you use daily – your cell phone. Stores like Kroger, Meijer, and Target offer virtual coupons right at your fingertips. Kroger periodically sends me coupons in the mail for things I’m already buying, and sometimes the coupon is for a free product!
  6. Pay attention to prices and sales. When you’re comparing prices it pays to pay attention to details. During one of my grocery trips I grabbed a bottle of the store brand ketchup assuming it would be cheaper, especially since there was a big yellow discount tag underneath it. Upon looking closer I realized that the name brand ketchup offered a bigger bottle at the same price as the store brand bottle. Now, this won’t always be the case, but it is definitely worth taking an extra 30 seconds to compare prices.
  7. Plan your lunches. If you’re planning your dinners, why not take the extra step and plan your lunches while you’re at it? My husband and I try to be good about packing lunches instead of buying lunch. One thing that helps financially is buying in bulk. This may not work for everyone, but look into joining a store like Costco or Sam’s Club. We buy frozen meat in bulk because it’s the most cost effective option for the amount we make it for lunch and dinner. Lunches are also a great time to eat those leftovers from spaghetti night.

All-in-all, do what’s best for you! You know your family’s schedule and budget better than anyone else so take these tips and adjust them to fit your needs. If you have grocery shopping and meal planning tips please share them below. We’d love to hear them!

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