It seems that everyone is clipping coupons and bargain shopping these days. While that is a great way to save, it can be time consuming and getting started can appear overwhelming. There is one simple and relatively quick way to start saving money at the grocery store: menu planning.
Sitting down once a week with a simple menu that can be created in your computer’s word processing program can net consistent savings at the grocery store. Just a simple planner created with boxes for lunch and dinner for each day of the week is all you need to get started.
Menu planning saves you money by allowing you to:
Plan ahead for busy nights
Taking time to plan meals for the week based on your family’s schedule helps to avoid those costly and unhealthy trips through the fast-food drive-thru by allowing you to plan ahead for busy nights.
If you know ahead of time that you aren’t going to have much time to prepare dinner, you can plan for a meal with little prep time, such as soup and sandwiches, or utilize your crock pot or freezer meals to get dinner on the table quickly.
Avoid unnecessary purchases
Making a menu, then planning your grocery list based on those meals ensures that you’re only purchasing what you really need from the store. It also cuts down on impulse buys that can occur as you wander the aisles trying to mentally plan for meals without a list.
Avoid multiple trips to the store
Knowing all the ingredients you’ll need for your week’s worth of meals cuts down on the likelihood that you’ll forget a key ingredient, resulting in extra trips to the store. This not only saves you time and gas money, but it helps to avoid more impulse purchases. You know how good those candy bars look when it’s dinner time and you haven’t even started cooking yet.
Keeping a running list of any items that need to be restocked can also add to the effectiveness of menu planning and eliminate return trips to the store. We keep a magnetic notepad and pen on our refrigerator so that family members can jot down items when they use the last of something.
One caveat: You may have to remind your kids that this list is for things you need, not a wish-list for noting all the things they’d like to have.
Utilize what’s in your pantry or freezer
Menu planning is a wonderful money-saving tool when you use it to plan around foods that you might already have in your pantry or freezer. Take into consideration meat or staple goods purchased on sale, freezer meals prepared ahead of time, or products purchased in bulk.
If you can plan these items that you already have into your menu for the week, you’ll be avoiding spoilage while saving money by purchasing less at the store. You can also put the money that you’d save toward the purchase of foods currently on sale to restock your pantry or freezer for later at better prices now.
Do you utilize menu planning to save money on groceries? How has it helped you to spend less?