Are you ready for the BIGGEST secret to saving money at the grocery store?? And guess what… it has NOTHING to do with COUPONS OR SHOPPING!!!
Meal Planning 101
I have shared this information before, but I have received a few emails recently asking about how I actually plan my groceries and meals. So, I figured it would be a good time to review.
Here are some amazing tips on how to save money on your groceries and this time… no coupons involved!! We are going to focus on the importance of meal planning!!
If your family is anything like mine, our weekly schedule of piano lessons, sports practices, games, book clubs, and even more sporting events keep our evenings (especially around dinner time) rather busy! Some nights it is SOOOO easy to just take the drive through approach and snag something quick for everyone to eat between events. You guys!! This is a HUGE expense!! But with a little planning you can avoid fast food meals and save a TON of money!! So let’s get started!!
As with any undertaking you need to know where you are so you can know what your future plans will be.
Step #1 – Inventory what you have on hand.
Set aside some time to go through your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer. Make a special note of the items that you need to use right away. “Waste not” and all that. Those items that are close to expiring are going to be your first priority to use. Feel free to inventory everything else you have as well for future use. How many times have you cleaned out the fridge and kicked yourself because you forgot all about that ground beef that was hiding in the back of the fridge. UGH! That’s the worst. Literally throwing away money, or food that has gone bad. We have all been there. So let’s use it before we lose it… mmmkay.
Step #2 – Create meal plans based on what you already have
Now that you know what you have and you know what you need to use up, create meal plans for the week that focus on those ingredients. Chances are the things you buy at the store are for recipes that you use frequently. We are creatures of habit after all. But put that food to work you guys!
WRITE IT DOWN! Put your meals in your calendar, or snag a really cute printable and display your meal plans for all to see. If you have it planned you are one step closer to executing that plan. My friend Colette at My Computer is My Canvas has some beautiful (and functional) menu planners.
What if you are stuck with a list of ingredients and you have no earthly idea of how to make it into a meal?? No worries! This actually makes meal planning kind of fun. Go to Allrecipes.com and at the top of the site there is a recipe search and an “INGREDIENT SEARCH”. If you found that you have some chicken and zucchini that need to be used soon and you are feeling pasta-ish, simply type those ingredients in and click search! This amazing site will then show you several recipe options that include those ingredients! Slick, right?! You get to use the food you already purchased and maybe you get to try a new recipe! Win win!!
Step #3 – Freeze it! Make some for now and some for later!
I LOVE freezer meals!! If you are whipping up a nice dinner, why not just double the recipe and make 2. Eat one and then put the other one in the freezer for another busy night. If you are really ambitious you can carve out a day to assemble several freezer meals. Imagine investing a few hours of work and not needing to mess your kitchen for a whole month!! Glorious, right?!
Now imagine combining those efforts with a few friends. You get a variety of meals at super low prices! Work smarter, not harder, right?! Check out my Freezer Meal Group Kit for more information. Included in that kit are over 50 tried and true, Morris family approved, freezer meal recipes!
Step #4 – Grab and Go Meals
This tip is for the crazy busy mammas out there, and the stay-at-home moms who don’t really ever stay at home because the car is your office. This is for the working men and women who tend to go out to lunch rather than brown bagging it and end up grabbing drive through on the way home because it is just easier. This is for us lazy-ish folks who don’t like to think about what to make for lunch or dinner sometimes. Ok – so basically, this is for EVERYBODY!
As you are looking up recipes that use the ingredients you have on hand, look for recipes that would be great on-the-go. Look for anything that is a self-contained meal. Maybe it’s wrapped in a tortilla, or made in a muffin pan. Think quiche, burritos, and wraps. Make a bunch ahead of time and stick them in the freezer. Then literally, grab, heat and go!
You can also make a small investment in some good re-usable to-go containers. These Bento Boxes are less than $1 each on Amazon right now. As you are putting dinner away, throw some leftovers in one of these bad boys and you are all set for maybe a few lunches. OK – as I type this I feel like I need to tell you that I have never purchased those types of boxes. I am crazy cheap, so what I do is always buy my sliced meat in plastic containers. When we are done with the meat, I get a bonus box that is the perfect size for leftovers. Plus, if I lose the lid I am not crying buckets because it was basically a gift with purchase. Haha.
Maybe you prep a few of these for dinner and heat it up on your way to the kids’ soccer practice. They run around and get all sweaty, and you can sit there enjoying your yummy dinner that was FREE.99 instead of they typical fast food frenzy.
Ooooohhh… I just thought of another cool tip… Get crazy and heat up your meal before you jump in the car and then put it in your favorite portable cooler! Your meal will stay warm in there until you are ready to eat it. I did this once for a camping trip. Cooked a bunch of potatoes in the morning before we left and put them in a towel-lined cooler. Those suckers were still piping hot by dinnertime! K- back on track…
Do you already do any of these things?? What are your favorite grab and go meals and snacks??
Here is your homework/challenge for the next week…. I want you to try these tips!!
DO NOT GO TO THE GROCERY STORE!!
DO NOT SPEND ANY EXTRA MONEY ON FOOD THIS WEEK!!
Let’s see how much we can save by using up what you have on hand and being a little more prepared.
Then… take it one step further… You know how much you typically spend in a week on eating out for lunch or dinner, or your typical grocery trip, right? Take that money you WOULD have spent and put it in your savings account or put it towards one of your financial goals!
I would guess that just by accepting this challenge and NOT doing any extra food spending this week you will be able to save a nice chunk of money.
What do you say??? You IN??
Make it a great week everybody!!