Meal Planning Week 6 is all about the money! Now that you’re cooking from home more often and using your pantry and freezer for meal planning, let’s save some dough! And no, I’m not talking sour-dough.
You’re cooking from home. And you’re using your pantry and freezer inventory. Now it’s time to talk about saving money on the items you need to purchase every week. Meat, veggies, dairy, etc. Since you’re saving money by cooking at home more often, and using leftovers for lunch or repurposing them, let’s save money on the actual groceries.
Do not shop hungry!!
I cannot stress this enough. If you’re hungry when you shop, then EVERTYHING will wind up in your shopping cart. Because everything looks delicious, and you want to eat it. Even if it’s a stick of cheese, maybe some toast, or even a handful of nuts. Something to take the hunger or hangry edge off before you walk through the door of the store.
It’s all about preventing those impulse purchases. These happen quite often throughout the store. You don’t think about it at the time. Then you get home, unpack the groceries and you’re like, “I don’t remember buying this!” Next thing you know have to a pantry full of chips, salsa, and snacks and nothing really wholesome to cook up for dinner.
Another way to prevent impulse purchases is to stick to your meal plan and your shopping list. If you go in there armed with a list and stick to you, then no stray items will wind up in your cart. Granted, I’ve done this and still had a few impulse purchases wind up in my cart. It’s either something that would be great for lunch or something that was on sale I didn’t know about. Either way, it’s not something that will break the bank or kill my budget.
Shop once a week.
Or once every other week. Maybe once a month for you? Granted that last one doesn’t lend itself to in season produce, but sometimes you have to do what your budget allows. Some people only get paid once a month and that works for them for the bulk of their shopping. But if you stop in every other day for something then you’re more likely to have those impulse purchases again. They’re not great on your budget or your meal plan.
The only time I stop into the store is if I’ve forgotten something for a recipe. Otherwise, I don’t set foot into the store until the next week. And if I have to go into the store mid-week, I am armed with a grocery list. Might not be a printed one, but it’s one on the To Do app and I stick to it!
Be an early bird!
Shop when you get up. Don’t shop tired when you’re more likely to be influenced by those CHEAP ON SALE NOW end caps. If you can’t and have to shop after work for after a long day, do it in a store you know like the back of your hand. You’re less likely to be distracted and be influenced by those CHEAP ON SALE NOW end caps.
Since you’re an early bird, you’ll have time when you get home to prepare your produce! Shred your own lettuce and cheese, and pre-chop your own veggies and fruits. Sunday is the meal prep day! We’ll get to that in my post next week. It not only saves money but time, too. Think of it as your own personal meal subscription box.
Organize your pantry and use what you have before buying more. In an earlier post I talked about shopping from your pantry and freezer. And I’m serious. Also, I’m horrible at this. I always forget to check the pantry or freezer before I make a list. One of these days I will use this handy pantry inventory list, so I know what all is in there.
For meal planning week 6 eat leftovers for lunch.
I always do this. I tell people I don’t like to eat out for lunch because my leftovers taste better than restaurant food. Seriously. Today I reheated up some pulled pork in barbecue sauce we had for dinner last night. The guy that shares the office with me commented on how delicious it sounded. And it wasn’t anything special. Just a pork butt I cooked in the slow cooker with some barbecue sauce. Cheap eats but oh so delicious.
You can also plan leftovers for dinner, too. Mom and A usually have what they call smorgasbord for dinner some nights. It’s just the bits and pieces of leftovers throughout the week. I like to think of it as my personal happy hour with all the appetizers I can eat. It’s fun, it’s budget friendly, and it’s usually delicious!
Buy in bulk!
This can be meats, veggies, frozen foods that are on sale, and canned goods that are in bulk packages or marked down. Some stores have dry goods in bulk bins, too. This is where your pantry inventory is key! You don’t want to buy what you already have unless it’s something you always use and will use more quickly.
Buying meats and cheeses, and even some dry goods, in bulk is easier with a vacuum sealer. I’m not kidding when I say that it was one of the best investments we made for your family. Yes, it’s a family of two, but still. I’m a kitchen hoor and food hoarder. So, there’s that. Vacuum sealing meats, cheese, some chopped products, and dry goods keeps them fresh longer. And I already talked about freezing presoaked beans.
Check the unit price.
This is something my father taught me. Sometimes those big box stores seem like a good idea, but not all the items there are cheaper than your regular grocery. If the unit price isn’t on the shelf, use your phone calculator. Sometimes it’s surprising to see what brands or products vary by unit price. And it’s the guaranteed way to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
Sometimes the unit price is cheaper with the store brands. I have no problems buying the store brand for most things because the unit price is MUCH cheaper. And sometimes it’s just as good if not better than the brand names. A magazine did a product test of pre-made pie crust. Now, normally I would say make your own, but I fail in this department. So, buying a premade one is stress relief in my book. Anyway, they rated the Walmart crust better than Pillsbury! I will admit, it is nice and flaky.
Ignore the items at eye level.
This is like the top shelf at the bar. You see it. It’s in your plain view for a reason. It costs more. Look up or down. The store brands and off brands are not at eye level. They are just as good and usually much cheaper. Check unit price before putting it in your cart.
Scour the ads! Plan your meals from your grocery store ads. They usually come out on Wednesday for a reason. So, your weekend shopping should be a breeze! Look at the meats and produce on sale. Plan to purchase extras of those that are a true bargain to freeze for later. Meats you can marinade and veggies you can prep and freeze.
Only use coupons for products you’ll actually cook with./
I know. They look so tempting and have such a great savings but ask yourself one question. “Is this something I would use normally? Or just because there’s a coupon?” I think most times you’ll find that it’s just an impulse purchase. I belonged to a group that would send coupons in the mail to each other. It allowed me more coupons for items I would purchase, but in the end, it was more for the postage than I actually would save most times. Same with clipping coupons.
BYOB bags. That’s bags. Not booze! Come on people! Some stores charge you for bags. Seriously. In Washington, DC I think it’s a law that stores must charge for plastic bags. So, bring your own bags to save that 5 or 10 cent charge for the bags.
Check for markdowns not on the store flyer.
My husband works for Walmart and they call it their Customer Value Program. That’s when things are getting ready to expire and they mark it down for quick sale. Dad taught us all about this when we were kids. Just because it’s marked down, though, doesn’t mean it’s a great deal.
Granted, Dad always said if it’s not half off it’s not worth it, but that’s hard to come by now. If it’s a meat we’ll eat often and easily, and it’s at least $2 off, then I’ll usually get it. I can vacuum seal what I didn’t plan on and put it in the frozen pantry.
I think I could go on and on about how to save money grocery shopping. And maybe I will expand this post into more meal planning posts. We’ll just have to see how this series progresses. Either way, I hope I have provided some inspiration and thinking points on saving money grocery shopping. These are all, or almost all, steps I follow or items I consider when grocery shopping.