Saving money on groceries is a hot topic today. I know my wife and I consistently search for the best deals and try to spend as little money as possible.
With gas prices rising, it is becoming harder to find those deals.
The projection of $5 dollar a gallon is coming back and has sent the price of food through the roof. I was at Walmart the other day and the darn ground beef had gone up $.75 a pound.
The scary thing is that gas is only around $3.60 now. I shutter to think what it will be when gas hits $5. And you know it will this summer. Gas always goes up.
With grocery prices rising, what can we do to save money?
Ways To Save
Coupons is always a winner. And boy have there been a lot written about coupons. You can find anything you need to know.
But, one thing is over looked on regular basis. Not a lot has been written about the one step that is left out of all the coupon finding and cutting guides.
Simply planning out your meals can dramatically decrease your grocery bill and save you all kinds of money.
Check out Want To Be Rich? Grab Your Piggy Bank for some saving techniques.
It sounds simple enough. But how can this really save you money? Let's take a look at an example of 2 hypothetical situations and then we will go into actually setting up a meal plan.
Hypothetical Situation #1
Let's pretend that we have gone to the store to buy groceries for the week. We had to stay late at work and got stuck in traffic so we get to the grocery store a lot further along in the evening than we had expected.
Because of the time crunch we were not able to plan out meals for the week and have to go on instinct.
The first thing we do is come up with meal ideas in our head. We immediately go pick up some frozen pizza's, maybe some meat and spaghetti sauce, some bread, milk, drinks, snacks, and a few more items to make out favorite meals.
Then as we are going through the store, we pick up an item displayed here and another item advertised over there.
We fall victim to what the grocery stores do best, sell us food we don't need. Learn more about managing cash flow here.
When we get to the check out, we usually have a cart full of quick and easy meals with some snack and drinks thrown in. Hardly a good meal plan for the week but all we could come up with.
Our bill is a little much, but prices have gone up. We got groceries for the week without a plan. Not what we wanted, but it worked.
Hypothetical Situation #2
The night before our shopping day while we were in bed, we made a list of items that the family would eat for the week while thinking about how we could use single items multiple times.
The next day, we got out of work late because the boss wouldn't let us go until his project was done. Traffic was rough but we finally got to the store.
We pulled out our list and went straight for the items we planned on getting the night before and nothing else.
After we got everything, we went to the check out and realized that out bill wasn't as high as we would have thought for a weeks worth of groceries.
Summary of Examples
In both situations, we got out late from work and we were running behind. But in the first scenario, we did not have a plan and we fell for all the stores sales and deals they put in front of us.
We were thinking only of specific meals and not how they could work together to make multiple meals.
In the next scenario, we planned out our meals and took in account that we could use fewer items to make different meals. We planned out each item to buy so we would not have to go through the store searching for food based on what we were feeling like at that moment.
A great article to check out for saving money from extra change is called Saving Money With Extra Change: Money Ads Up.
In both scenario's we got groceries for the week but the second example was the way to save money because we planned out our meals.
How To Do It
The best way to save money on groceries is to plan out your meals before you even get to the store.
Follow these easy steps and you will save tons of money.
The first thing you need to do is get a piece of paper and write how many days you are planning for on the left side of the paper. Then on the right side, write down 4 meals that you would like to cook that week.
Next, you want to come up with 3 more meals from the 4 meals that you have already written down.
A simple example would be spaghetti sauce. Think about different things you could make with spaghetti sauce.
I like to take the left over spaghetti sauce and make mini pizzas with bagels. All you need is some bagels, left over spaghetti sauce, cheese if you have any and an oven to bake them in.
Just spread the sauce on the bagels with cheese and you have a fun meal.
Look at the rest of the meals and try to be creative.
After you have come up with the 3 meals from the 4 meals you have written down, list all the ingredients for those meals on the left side of the paper.
While you are doing this, look in your cupboards, refrigerator, and cabinets for alternative ingredients. I want you to find items you already have in your house to substitute for items on your list.
They may be slightly different, and if you can't find any, don't beat yourself up over it. But the goal here is to use every single thing in your house.
I started doing this because I was buying food and not using it. It would sit in my cupboard.
After you have found some items, write the rest down on your shopping list. Cross some out if need be. Make sure you double-check so you don't leave anything out. If you do, it can easily lead to you buying something that is not cost efficient.
All you have to do now is follow your list and cook your meals.
Don't Be Tempted
This happens to me all the time. I have spent time on my grocery list and I have gone to the store and bought a weeks worth of groceries. Then Wednesday comes around and I am tired.
So I go through the McDonald's drive through and buy dinner for the family because I do not feel like making food when I get home. I end up kicking myself every time I do it.
Don't be tempted to buy dinner out after you have spent money on groceries for that day. Saving money on groceries by planning out your meals does no good if you buy more food that is not apart of your grocery list.
This has proven to be one the best ideas for shopping in the grocery store and saving money. I can't take credit because it was my wife's idea. It is so simple but it works because it decreases the time spent in the store by half.
That is important because the longer you spend in the grocery store, the more chance you have of buying something you didn't go there to buy.
The simple tip is ... group all your food items on your list that are in a specific area of the store so you only go there once.
Before I started doing this, I would go to the grocery store and go down an aisle to get the food I wanted. After I was in the next aisle, I realized I needed something from the previous aisle. I would go back and forth in the store like this.
How many of you have done that? I know I have to many times.
It is very easy to do. Most of us know our grocery stores. If we don't, it is easy to put like items together, i.e. dairy, meat, canned goods, etc.
Write a new list with all the like items together starting from the back to the front. (Notice that all grocery stores put the dairy section in the back of the store so you have to go through each advertisement to get your milk.)
If you have milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, etc. on your list, write them together so you grab them all at the same time. Also, put them in the order that you will be walking from back to front. This way you start at the back and move your way to the front never back peddling.
You will save time and money doing this, I promise.
Compare Your Receipts
A good way to see if you are doing better with your grocery bill is to compare your receipts. This helps you to see what you are changing and spending money on differently. Also, it helps to see if you are buying something that you don't need to and if your bill is higher or lower than the week before.
Any Other Ideas
If you have any other ideas about how to save money on groceries by planning out your meals please leave a comment. I know I would love to hear them.
Hope this helps,