Grocery Shopping On A Budget
Do you want to know how to save money on groceries, without making massive changes in your life?
Great, because there are a few simple changes you can make, that quickly add up to money and time savings!
Answering yes, to at least one of the questions below, means there are savings you’re missing out on:
- Have you ever left the store having purchased more than you went in for?
- Is menu planning for the week something other people do, but not you?
- Is there a lot of food in the house, but not the right ingredients to prepare a meal?
- Do you ever throw out any food, eg: vegetables, fruit, leftovers?
- Have you shopped for groceries when you’re hungry?
I used to be able to answer yes to all of these questions! It got to me so much, (especially throwing food out) I decided to do something about it.
That something was creating a meal plan!
How To Create A Meal Plan
Step 1: Start In Your Pantry, Fridge & Freezer
Don’t even begin to think about next weeks meal planning or, buying more food, until you know what you already have. There are some goodies just sitting, waiting to be used, in your pantry, fridge and freezer too.
That’s your weekly starting point and biggest opportunity to save money and stop wasting food. It also makes it less overwhelming to think about meals when you have a solid point to start from.
To understand why this starting point makes the most sense, check out my post on how to make a budget you can stick to.
Get in the habit of starting meal planning with the ingredients you have on hand, that:
- Have a sell, or use by, date that is about to expire.
- Haven’t reached freezer burn stage (but have been in there for a while).
- Are still fresh.
Adopt and maintain this planning habit and it can eliminate the cost of tossing food in the trash.
Next, look at which dried or canned goods you have available. There will be at least one, and probably more, options to make a meal just sitting there.
My favorite meals have less than 5 ingredients (ideally) are simple, quick and easy to cook. My hubby, loves cooking, so he’s enjoys using more ingredients and taking longer to prepare and cook.
For example, if we have a box of dried linguine in stock, and some homemade fresh tomato sauce left over, we add some red chili peppers, garlic and olive oil to make a delicious Arrabbiata sauce. This sauce is perfect to serve with pasta.
We always keep sourdough bread in the freezer and a chunk of parmesan on hand. We make garlic bread to accompany this pasta dish. And add some grated parmesan too. It’s easy, quick, cheap and delicious!
Best of all, it takes care of one dinner on our meal plan. [Cha-Ching!]
Step 2: Fill In The Gaps
Ideally, you’ll have one or two complete meals on your list for the week, because you started with what you already have at home.
Next step, is to decide what other ingredients you have on hand, that can form the basis of a meal.
For example, you may have three types of beans in the pantry, stock, spices, an onion and some cheese in the fridge. All you need is to buy some beef and you can make three bean chili. If you make enough, you can either freeze it or have it for lunch the next day.
When you create your meal plan this way, it makes it less work to complete the grocery list. It’s also far easier to identify items that need purchasing.
In our home, most of our planning is around what we’ll eat for dinner each night of the coming week. I discovered it was costly (and draining) if I didn’t take stock of what we had on hand, and instead, searched Google for easy dinner ideas.
Why? Because, I’d pick menu ideas that included a list of ingredients we didn’t have in the house!
Meal Planning & Variety
Before I started taking time to meal plan smartly, we’d end up stuck in a bit of a rut. Often eating the same thing week after week.
It definitely gets repetitive, and expensive, when you default to buying prepared main dishes from the likes of Trader Joe’s or Costco! We added fresh vegetables to most meals, and every week we’d still end up throwing food in the trash!
Because of meal planning (and the weather improving), we’re now opting for freshly prepared salads. There a few good reasons and benefits to this:
- The cost per meal is much less expensive.
- There’s more variety in the salads we create (vs steamed veggies).
- The meal is healthier.
- It takes less time to prepare.
- There’s no spoiled food going in the garbage.
- They take longer to eat, so we feel more satisfied.
If inspiration isn’t kicking in for you, yet and you’d like some budget cooking inspiration to feed 4 people for $10, discover over 100 tasty healthy recipes here.
Breakfast and Lunch
We keep breakfast and lunch very simple. That’s what I recommend you try in your family, too.
Breakfast: Hubby has cereal with berries or banana every day and a cup of coffee. I have a protein shake with almond milk and a banana, berries or strawberries. It doesn’t get boring and it sets us up for the day and saves a lot of time.
Lunch: Monday through Friday, we eat a salad every day and fruit, yogurt or veggies and dip for a snack. Even although we eat salad for lunch and dinner often, we keep both meals different and interesting with variety. At the weekend we often eat leftovers like pasta or chili. Sometimes, we enjoy soup and a sandwich and occasionally, we lunch out.
Step 3: Create Your Grocery List!
There are various methods you can use to create your meal plan and shopping list. From writing it down to using an app! I may try an app in the future but, for now, I organize everything for the the week using my favorite planner.
One page per week, helps me manage:
- Meal Planning
- Grocery List
- Daily Habit Tracking
The grocery list in the image above, is small because I took the steps outlined earlier.
If I discover we’re running low on an item this week (eg. cereal), I add it to the page for next week’s grocery run.
This method is simple and effective! Plus, you won’t feel your spending your life thinking about “what’s for dinner”, running to the store and always chasing your tail.
Step 4: Go Grocery Shopping!
Don’t forget – no grocery shopping when your hungry! You know what happens if you do, we’ve all made that expensive mistake.
If feasible, make one trip to one store. Driving all over town to get the best deals, is a waste of time and gas. Plus, with your list in your hand, you can be in and out very efficiently.
If you can use the self checkout. It doesn’t take much time and it prevents possible overcharge errors.
Cashiers don’t deliberately make scan mistakes or try to overcharge you. But it does happen.
They have to work quickly and scanners are highly sensitive. It’s happened to me more than once before, so these days, I always use self checkout, when I can.
If you do have to use the cashier option, keep your eye on the cash register. Watch that sale items are charged at the discounted price, and that you also pay the right price, for the right quantity.
It’s best not to distract the cashier with idle chit chat as they ring up. Let them focus; if they can’t concentrate, it could lead to accidental miscounts for multiple purchases of the same item.
Before you leave the store, check the receipt. It’s much easier to fix issues then vs returning later.
Once you implement this way of meal planning and grocery shopping, you’ll find you regularly enjoy savings in the following areas:
- Money on Groceries | Wasted Food | Gas
- Time on Meal Planning | Shopping | Looking for inspiration
Leave a comment and let me know what works for you or tips that you want to know more about or would like to share.