Couponing seems to be the fad right now to cut down your grocery bill. I am not a couponer.
Its not that I wouldn’t love to learn, but in-between working full time, freelance writing, blogging, and having a family, I just don’t feel that I have the margin of time to add another “thing” to my schedule. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want and need to save money on our grocery bill!
The most effective tool I have found to save my family money at the grocery store is planning ahead. Since I started faithfully doing a meal plan and sticking to it, we have cut our grocery bill in half!
But, sometimes I feel like I don’t have the time to meal plan! Between inventorying my pantry, sifting through Pinterest and recipe books, then deciphering a grocery list, I could easily spend a couple hours per week.
Clearly my method needed some tweaking, so here are a few simple tips that have drastically sped up my meal planning.
I have posted before about eMeals, and we are still loving it! Between food allergies and preferences I do not strictly follow their plan every week, but it is such a great resource for new recipes! We have definitely found some new family favorites from eMeals, and that is saying something because I love to cook.
I save all of the menu plans from week to week in a file. Then, when I sit down to menu plan I pull them out and scan them and can quickly decide what looks good, what we haven’t had in a while, etc. If we have a lot of rice to use up, I write down more recipes with rice, etc.
2. Not keeping a written pantry inventory.
Maybe this helps some people, but for me its just too time consuming. Instead of inventorying everything in my pantry on paper, I just do a quick glance before I meal plan so I have a general idea of what we have on hand and what needs to be used up. Maybe a written pantry list works for some, but this way cuts out a lot of time and effort for me.
We eat a lot of the same meals. I would say for about 3 weeks in a row our menus will look very similar. then, as we start to get sick of some of those dishes, I will make more dramatic changes and repeat. This way I know off the top of my head what ingredients I will need to add to our grocery list, and I don’t spend as much time searching for a new recipe.
4. Organized shopping list.
I do most of my shopping at one grocery store, so I know the layout well. I write my shopping list by grouping fresh, frozen, canned items, etc. and then write it out in the order I will be going down the aisles.
This saves me a LOT of time in the grocery store. Generally I am in and out in user 15 minutes. It also helps me see if I have forgotten to write anything down, and helps me budget more efficiently.
I think some people shy away from menu planning and don’t try at all because they can’t do it EXACTLY “right.” My advice is do what works for you, and don’t worry about being perfect! Some planning is better than no planning, and the longer you do it, the easier and faster it will become.