Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reigning in the Budget: meal planning

Here's another "reigning in the budget" topic that I have not touched on yet: meal planning. I generally go to the grocery store with a shopping list, but it's not always that I go to the store with a meal plan in mind (and you know it's bad when I go with none of the above).

When I started this series of posts, I started saving grocery receipts. Whether or not I had a plan, a list or just wanted to pick up dog food, I wanted to see about how much I was spending every time I went to the grocery store. So here I am, armed with a bit of evidence, to tell you that meal planning is a really good way to keep your grocery bills under control.

exhibit A

  • 06/02/11, grocery shopping @ Giant Eagle with shopping list but no meals planned: $78.16
  • 06/12/11, grocery shopping @ Whole Foods with meal plan/shopping list: $32.94
exhibit B
  • 06/25/11, grocery shopping @ Earth Fare with a shopping list but no meals planned: $101.08
  • 07/10/11, grocery shopping @ Trader Joe's with meal plan and shopping list: $53.27
Now, granted, we're talking about four different grocery stores here. Also, you have to take into account that it's summertime and I do a lot of shopping at the farmer's market - sans list (since you never know what you are going to find!) So, take those numbers with a grain of salt. All I'm saying is that there has been a significantly lower total when I have a few meals planned for the week and only buy what I need for those meals.

My course of action is to choose three meals that I want to make for the week, the only rule is that I have to be able to at least make enough for dinner and lunch the following day. Breakfast is usually overnight oats or bread with cheese, or an egg sandwich (eggs and cheese are staples, and therefore are almost always on my shopping list, bread is something I generally make myself). Then, any days that aren't covered by leftovers are usually a sandwich or something thrown together by other pantry staples. For the meals that I am planning to make, I (obviously) only buy what I need. 

So far, I've found that planning meals in advance has been one of the best ways to keep my grocery bill down. It doesn't happen every single week, because of traveling or just being lazy, but even having a meal plan for one grocery visit per month will help the bottom line. I can buy into that! 


Need to catch up on my Reigning in the Budget posts?

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