We all know how it is. You get to the end of the month and don’t know where all the money has gone. You thought you were being so frugal but when you look at your bank statements you realize that all of those quick trips to the grocery store to buy milk and whatever hitchhikers ended up in your cart along the way, added up to big bucks. Life is busy. Plans change and there are never enough hours in the day but grocery shopping doesn’t have to take over your budget.
Simple menu planning can save you hundreds of dollars each month and have a huge effect on your overall health. The health benefits of meal planning may even outweigh the financial benefits. When convenience meals are replaced by simple and healthy family dinners, it can make a huge difference in your general nutrition. Grocery shopping time can be replaced with time together at the table, which is much easier to do when you know what you are making ahead of time.
Set a time each week to plan your meals. It only takes 15 minutes when you finally sit down to do it. Look at your schedule and figure out where you have an extra 15 minutes to spare. When you think about all the money you will be saving that’s a pretty good hourly return for your 15 minutes of planning!
Create standard menus and grocery lists for the weeks when you don’t have time to plan. Use familiar stand by recipes that are simple to prepare and you know your family enjoys. While it is nice to get some variety in your meals, having a backup menu is better than eating fast food for the week or taking multiple trips to the grocery store to buy things you forgot.
Post your menu on the fridge so that it is available. Not only will your kids love knowing what is for dinner but you will remember what you are cooking and not be tempted to improvise something at the last minute. Chances are your last minute concoction will probably involve a fast food line or yet another trip to the grocery store.
Buy frequently used items in bulk. This will cut down on the time you spend in the grocery store and save you money on your grocery bill. Case lot sales are often held several times a year at local grocery stores and bulk grocery stores carry an ever increasing variety of foods. Many of the foods that you use each week can be stocked up on ahead of time at a substantially cheaper price than you may have paid otherwise.
Planning ahead for the week will not only save you the headache of throwing together a last minute meal, but it will save you money. Having a set grocery list will prevent small add-ons that add up to a huge chunk out of your budget by the end of the month. You will be amazed at the amount of money this one habit can save you and your family.