** I would like to note that if you eat processed foods, it’s very easy to use a lot of coupons, stockpile them, and even get things for free using coupons. But unfortunately for us REAL FOOD-ies, they don’t make many coupons for us and we have to rely on sales (sometimes) or just biting the cost. Sad…but true.**
In today’s post we’ll be covering these 6 key principals to saving money with meal planning:
- Shop Wisely – (Needs vs Wants)
- Stick to it!
Let’s get started, shall we?
1. Budget your money.It’s very important to set a ” Grocery ” budget for your household. To do this you need to figure out all of your income VS expenses.Currently, in our home, we are working with a frugal grocery budget for our family of five, which we split into two bi-weekly $220-$260 shopping trips. We do this to help us save money, eliminate food waste, control overeating, and not overspend.Figure out your family’s grocery budget and stick to it.
Step #1 Recap – Create your family’s grocery budget!
2. Organize that kitchen, my dear!Now that you have your grocery budget created, it’s time to organize your kitchen and see what you’re working with!Hey, let me just say that this helps drastically with not overspending because you can actually evaluate WHAT you have. This also eliminates those frustrating, ” Oh no! I bought ketchup, but whoops… we already have two in the pantry “ moments.
>> GUILTY <<
Here’s how I organized my kitchen:I clean out my refrigerator, freezer, pantry and spice cabinets, and then organize everything. What’s left is what you have to work your meals around.
Here’s what I had in the fridge:
More Condiments, nut milks and some cheeses.
And here’s where we start to look pretty bare…yikes!
My freezer, however, looked a bit more useful…
Here’s what I had in the freezer:
Homemade bone broth, frozen lemons, frozen organic broccoli and frozen avocado.
Frozen leftover spaghetti sauce, frozen homemade applesauce from our apple trees and organic veggies.
Pork belly, pork chops, chicken, hamburger patties and frozen Brussel sprouts.
The last of our deer meat.
And lastly, our all-natural ” junk food ” goodies. AKA stuff from Trader Joe’s.
My pantry is usually pretty well stocked because I buy a lot in bulk. Here’s a short glimpse of what I had in the pantry:
Lots of organic tomato paste and sauce.
Beans and lentils for daysssss!
Huge bag of whole rolled oats which will make easy frugal breakfasts.
Remaining fresh produce:We had recently made a stop at a discount produce store and bought 40lbs of bananas and 5lbs of oranges. This is what remains.
After a good kitchen clean out, I like to make sure everything is labeled and organized.
Let me introduce you to my new best friend…
Step #2 Recap – Clean out and organize your kitchen. Don’t forget to get super fancy and label.
3. Plan those meals and make a grocery list.This part is my favorite! I pick out recipes for the next two weeks (this includes breakfast and lunch ideas as well) and create what you call, a ” Meal Plan “.If you’re doing a bi-weekly meal plan like me, you’ll need to have 14 breakfasts, 14 lunches and 14 dinners planned out.To help you save more money, plan most of your meals around items you already have in your now organized kitchen.For instance- If you are overflowing with beans, maybe you’d make chili one night, Mexican food another, bean dip for lunch, etc. Get it?Also, if you’re on a limited budget, make a lot of soups, stews, chili’s and casseroles. They require less meat and stretch really far.Alrighty? So now that your bi-weekly (or however often you choose) meal plan is created, it’s now time to get down to the nitty-gritty…
Plan your grocery list!To do this, I literally go through every recipe I have planned, and each ingredient/ amount needed for that meal. If my recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and I am out of baking soda, I write down 1 teaspoon baking soda on my grocery list. If later I come across another recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of baking soda, I add that amount on the same line as the 1 teaspoon of baking soda from earlier. So now my grocery list would look like this:
Baking soda – 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoonThen when I do my grocery shopping, instead of buying a whole box of baking soda, I might just grab a tiny scoop from the bulk section.Now when your grocery list is complete, you can make the decision on whether buying a whole box of baking soda makes more sense, or buying a smaller amount in bulk makes more sense. Depending on your budget, you can choose what makes more sense.
Step #3 Recap – Write down amounts and ingredients you need for your planned meals, ONLY!
4. Shop Wisely – (Needs vs Wants).Here’s the mistake people make:Impulse buying ” wants ” and buying things that ARE NOT on your grocery list, whether on sale or not.You have made your grocery list with the NEEDS for your meals, so stick to it!Listen, if you want this whole meal planning concept to work and save you money, you have to learn to tell yourself NO to that box of donuts, ** sob **.This is an essential key to staying within budget and saving money while shopping!ï»¿When you’re at the grocery store, you NEED to stick to your grocery list PERIOD! No ifs, ands, buts, whys, whens, hows, its, whos, wheres…. NOPE 🙂 !How many times have you come home with two bags of (insert item) because it was on sale and a super good deal, even though it wasn’t on your grocery list? Or maybe it just sounded good. Which actually brings me to a good point… DON’T SHOP WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY. That’s literally setting yourself up for disaster, because when you’re hungry… EVERYTHING looks pleasant to the eyes.
Yeah, we’ve all been there!Don’t do it. Tell yourself NO and stick to that grocery list!To help me stay within my budget while I’m grocery shopping, I write down the price of every item I grab (usually rounded up to the nearest dollar), and write the amount on a piece of paper. Each time I grab a new item, I add that new amount to my previous total and continue to add the total until my shopping is done. This will show you how much money you are truly spending.If you notice you are getting close to going over your budget or you are going over, you will have to make the decision on what items to forgo and cross off the list.
Here are the two receipts from my shopping trip at two separate grocery stores (Costco and a local grocery store that has an extensive bulk section):
Here’s what I got:
Step #4 Recap – Shop wisely, use coupons if you can, stick to your list of NEEDS and refuse the impulse of buying those tempting WANTS.
5. Prep your food.Chop, cut, separate and prepare all you can to make your life easier. I’m serious guys, this helps with your sanity. Taking a few hours out of a day to prep for the next two weeks will make you a happy camper, especially on those busy nights.Bacon- I took my four packs of bacon and cut them in half to make 8 separate meals.Homemade Oatmeal Packets- We had quite a few days of oatmeal scheduled for breakfast for the kids, so I made a double batch of homemade oatmeal packets.Paleo Bagels- I whipped up a double batch of these paleo bagels. They’re from Danielle Walker’s Eat What You Love Cookbook. I froze half to use for one week and kept the other half in my fridge for the current week.Prepping our Homemade Seed Cereal- I also made a huge batch of my homemade nut and seed cereal… or known to some as squirrel food, haha 🙂 .
Step #5 Recap – Prep your food and meals to make your life easier. I’m serious, do it!
6. Stick to it!I get it, life happens and things mess up our schedules at times. But when this happens, don’t stress. Just pick back up the next day and stick as closely to your meal plan as possible.
Step # 6 Recap – Stick to your meal plan and don’t stress when your meal planning schedule gets interrupted.