If you are serious about saving money, you already know that cooking meals at home instead of eating out can make a significant difference in your finances. However, you can find an abundance of ways to cut costs at the grocery store as well. Meal planning is a great way to ensure you are buying only what you need. Consider these meal planning tips before your next trip to the grocery store:
- Start by thinking about your lifestyle. Will you be able to plan each meal down to the day, or will planning by the week be more beneficial? Most people find that taking a more rigid, daily approach to meal planning is difficult due to unplanned events that may arise. Planning by the week can be simpler and sometimes less wasteful.
- Gather some of your favorite recipes and categorize them by difficulty. Your arsenal of recipes should include those that are for fancier occasions, as well as for quick and easy meals you can prepare in 30 minutes on busy days. Pinterest can be extremely helpful in accumulating tasty recipes.
- Determine how many meals to cook per week. In a typical week, you will eat seven lunches and seven dinners (breakfast can be much simpler — just pick up a few of your favorite breakfast items and alternate each morning). If you like leftovers, you will not have to cook as often; however, if you like a little more variety in your meals, there are still ways to switch it up without buying extra ingredients. For example, grilled chicken for dinner one night could be a chicken caesar salad for lunch the next day. Depending on your preferences and how many people you are cooking for, decide how many meals you will need to cook in a week.
- Decide which meals you want to cook and prepare a shopping list. It’s time to dip into your stash of recipes. Pull out the number of recipes you want to make and draft a shopping list at the beginning of each week. You can do this by hand or using an app such as Menu Planner, which creates a shopping list for you based on the recipes you have chosen. Before creating your list, be sure to check your pantry for ingredients you may already have. Also, you should look in your refrigerator to see what’s left over from last week that you could potentially plan a meal around.
- Go to the grocery store with a plan. It’s important to purchase only what is on your shopping list. It should include ingredients for meals for the week, breakfast items, and a few snacks/desserts for you to have on hand. Anticipate what you will need in advance and buy nothing more than the items on your list.
- If you have the time, and want to save even more money, try couponing. It can be a hard skill to master, but coupled with your new meal planning knowledge, you could save double the money at the register. For an easier approach, download your favorite grocery store’s app to see what kind of savings they are advertising.
Food and groceries are a significant percentage of your monthly budget, but being intentional with your meals can help exponentially. Meal planning is a creative way to save money and add variety to your diet, all while freeing up your budget and creating less waste.