Do you plan meals for your family or are your meals chosen on the fly? For a long time I did not do any meal planning. I would just prepare whatever I was in the mood for that night. Often times I would stop at the grocery on the way home from work and go in just to grab a few ingredients for that night’s dinner. Of course I always ended up buying more than what I needed and often a lot of impulse purchases ended up in my shopping cart too.
Looking at our budget I realized that we were spending WAY to much money on food. Not only was I spending to much at the grocery but we were also eating out a lot because I had not planned ahead to have something ready for that night’s dinner.
In the past 6 months I have made several changes to how we plan our meals and do our grocery shopping. By taking the time at the beginning of the month to do some meal planning I am saving money each month and I am also able to prepare healthy meals for my husband and I and avoid the trips through the drive-thru to pick up dinner.
At the beginning of each month I sit down with the current sales ads for the grocery stores in my area, along with my coupons and rebates. I plan many of our meals based on what is on sale at that time from our local grocery stores.
I have a meal planning sheet that I have created to help me plan a month’s worth of dinners. You can download the meal planning printable through this link. There are certain meals that are on our menu each month and then I try to plan a few new dishes sprinkled in the with regulars. So that I can keep my recipes handy I have 2 printable recipe cards that I write the recipes on keep them in a binder for easy access in my kitchen. For more information about the recipe cards and to download your own, check out Part 2 of our Organize Your Life Series.
Once I have our meals planned I check my freezer and pantry to see what ingredients I have and what I need to purchase. I then use this organized grocery shopping list to create my shopping list, which you can download through this link. I originally shared this grocery shopping list here on the blog back in 2014.
For several years I was a high school Family & Consumer Sciences teacher and taught several culinary classes. When you are shopping for foods for a culinary class of 30 students you must be organized! To keep me organized I created this grocery shopping list spreadsheet which is organized into various sections, in the order that they are located in my local Kroger, which is where I do most of my shopping. By listing everything in that order it helped to cut down the time that I was in the grocery because I was not running back and forth all over the store looking for things.
With this grocery shopping list I have 2 columns next to each section. You can see that they are labeled “Q” and “C”. “Q” stands for Quantity. This is where I write down how many of each item that I need. The “C” stands for Coupon. This is where I place an “X” if I have a coupon to use for that item.
Since I began using this system to plan our meals each month we have been able to save a lot of money. I typically spend around $150 to $200 during my large shopping trip at the beginning of the month. Throughout the month I do have to make trips to the grocery from time to time to pick up things like produce, bread and milk. But since I already have my pantry, fridge and freezer stocked up I don’t feel the urge to make those unnecessary purchases that I was making previously. We might spend about $30 extra a month for those mid month shopping trips.
I’d love to hear about how you handle your family’s meal planning and grocery shopping. Leave us a comment below and tell us are you a planner or a last minute person.
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