Meal planning and shopping has changed a bit for me since having kids, but essentially I am doing the same things I have always done. My time is more limited now, so I really try to get it done as quickly as possible. This is my method.
Step One – Go through the store circulars for your top stores.
I usually go through 4 for the stores in my area: Jewel, Meijer, Aldi and Valli Produce. I go through each ad online and write down the items that I think our family could potentially use. The more you do this, the more familiar you become with what prices are actually a good sale, and which are just normal. This becomes extremely helpful when the ads scream B1G1, but the price of the one is way higher than you would ever pay normally. I feel like Jewel is notorious for this, so you really have to watch prices, not just sales.
Step Two – Check your calendar
Go through your calendar so you know what days you need to shop for. Besides the normal, everyday things I check to see if there are any special events I need to plan for, days my husband will not be home, or days I need a quick meal. It gives me a good overview.
Step Three – Make a list of possible meal options
I start with any meals that, for whatever reason, we didn’t get to in the previous week. Those can carry over. I also think about what I have in my freezer and pantry. What can we have using those things? Then I look through the items that were on sale. Can I make any meals from those items? Usually by that time I have a list of at least 5-7 meal options. Then I just plug them into my Sat-Friday calendar where I think they will fit best.
Step Four – Write down your list
Wether you use pen and paper or your smartphone, you need to make a list. I start with one list and just write everything that I need for the meals for the week. Then I break it down into lists per store from that initial list and add anything else we need, like milk or eggs, or other essentials. Then I go back through the sale items I wrote down and add any great deals to my list as well, even if we won’t use them this week. For example, if there is a great sale on meat I will stock up and freeze, but I may not necessarily make a meal with it that week.
This has worked so well for me. It’s not perfect, but it definitely helps to ensure that I am getting the most bang for my buck. My trouble can be that I buy things I don’t need because they are a good sale. I have to remember that there will always be more sales next week. But in general, we don’t waste much food in our home, so I know that what I buy will get eaten.
And one other piece of advice, STICK TO YOUR LIST! Ok, so I don’t always follow this advice perfectly. There has to be wiggle room for that great clearance item that you just found, BUT in general, if you stick to your list, you will stick to your budget. And if you don’t have a budget. Please check out this post on budgeting. Everyone needs one, even if it’s a loose one.
In the next few months I will be sharing more about how you can make the most of your money by using apps when grocery shopping to help you save even more.
Do you have any tried and true methods for meal planning?