Welcome to part four of my year-long series on how to reduce your grocery bill. If you missed earlier parts you can find them here:
For part four of this series, I want to focus on meal planning & making a shopping list.
When you meal plan you are then able to create a specific list of items that you need to buy. This reduces the chance for impulse buying and also lessens the chance of food waste. Over the years I have found a routine that works for our family. Feel free to give it a try or if you have another way of doing it please share it in the comments section.
First I take stock of what is in the pantry, fridge and freezer. I take into account what needs to be used up first and what meats/proteins that we have since we often buy them in bulk and freeze them. Next, I go through the flyers to see what is on sale and which items I have coupons or rebate offers for. Once that is done I write down a list of meal ideas. During this step I will ask my kids which meals they would like to eat that week, check Pinterest for meal inspiration and write ideas based on what needs to be used up. Next, I hand the list off to my husband along with my book of what is on sale. He will mark the meal ideas he would like to eat and add some to the list.
Once that is done I sit down with the meal idea list, my meal plan fridge sheets and our calendar. I choose 7 meals from the list usually trying to vary the meat or protein sources that we are going to eat. Finally, based on what is on our schedule that week I put the meals into the schedule. Sometimes I take a look at the weather forecast as well- who wants to be eating a cold dinner if it’s going to be -30C or having the oven when it’s +30C? So for example if we have a commitment in the evening I will choose a meal that is quick to make. Or if I will be home later than normal I choose a meal that can cook on it’s own in the crockpot.
Once the meal plan is made I write down a shopping list. Having a game plan for when you go to the grocery store is crucial if you want to save money on your grocery bill. The outside isles of the store are typically where the produce, meat and dairy are sold. The inside isle are the ones where pre-packaged foods can be found. We try to shop from the outside isles as much as possible. This is not only healthier but less expensive as pre-packaged foods can really be marked up. I also like to write my shopping list in order of one side of the store to the other. This helps me to save time so I’m not missing an item and having to go back.
This is a fairly typical shopping list for our family. Fresh fruits and vegetables usually represent at least 50% of our grocery list. The only exception to this is the week which we receive our good food box purchase. We do most of our weekly grocery shopping at one store. We then pick up a small number of items at Costco when needed. We are very lucky to have one just a few minutes from our home. We have a discount grocery store in our city that is about 20 minutes away. My husband often works in that area and so he will pop in during the week if there is another few items that are considerably cheaper at that store. (Both grocery stores are owned by the same company so I am unable to price match their items.)
I share our family’s meal plan often with recipe links every Friday on the blog. For some meal ideas and to see what a meal plan looks like our family click here.
Do you meal plan? What challenges do you face trying to write one each week?