Can You Really Save at the Grocery Store

A while back I decided to see where all our money kept “disappearing” too because it just seemed that there was always some missing and I don’t feel like we are a frivolously spending family ~ but we do like to have fun and spend a little money in doing so. What I found was shocking. I was spending on average $1,000 – 1,200 a month for our family of 5 at the grocery store/WalMart, and I didn’t feel like I was “splurging” on non-essentials or name brands (I often buy grocery store brands for many everyday items.) and beyond that price at the store, we still eat/ate out a few times a week.

It was clear that something about my grocery shopping habits was not working, and that something drastic had to be done, which is why I decided to test drive a menu plan. A menu plan is essentially a plan you put together that lays out what your family will be eating each week or month, however you decide to do it. From your menu plan you can create shopping lists, find coupons for what you need and start saving money immediately.

As you may have guessed, I was eager to get started. While there are plenty of websites that provide meal planning services for a small fee, I decided to spend a little time and go about it the DIY way, after all I was trying to SAVE money not spend more!

Here’s what I did:
1. Start small and involve the family
It can be intimidating to think about planning family meals for a whole month, so I’d suggest starting with something more manageable, like planning for a week at a time. Here’s how to do it:

Get our the recipe books, search recipe websites, gather your family and create a list of 7 dinner ideas, both entrees and sides. Make the dinner ideas foods that everyone will eat and enjoy.
With the meal ideas in hand, create a new list that will be your menu plan, and make our grocery list of items needed.

2. Build in leftover night
Cut yourself a break when building your menu plan and don’t forget to make at least one night leftover night.
This is where the savings really add up. Instead of throwing away all those leftovers you’re bound to have, create a leftover buffet for dinner and finish them off. If leftover nights don’t work for your family, at least re-purpose that extra food into lunches instead.

3. Go shopping
Menu plan in hand, make a grocery list. I started by checking the pantry and fridge for items we already had, and only put items on the list we needed to make the meals for the week. Once you have your list, check coupon circulars and printable coupons to see if there are any that match your needs.

With the list and coupons done, it’s time to shop. I found that shopping alone with a full stomach helped me stay under budget. The kids couldn’t distract me (or convince me to purchase items we didn’t need), and a growling stomach didn’t entice me to buy all those fun treats at the end of the aisles.

4. Stick with the plan
Creating the plan and shopping is half the battle–now you need to stick with it. Although my first meal plan included six meals a week, I didn’t assign them to a specific day. This gave me flexibility, so I didn’t have to prepare spaghetti on a night when we felt like eating chicken pot pie. A good way to keep on track with your plan is to post it somewhere in the kitchen such as a work or E space bulletin board or on the fridge. That will hold you accountable, as well as give your family a heads up of what’s coming for dinner.

5. Use sales to plan
After you’ve successfully planned your meals for a few weeks, start planning based on what you find for sale in store circulars and with coupons. (This will probably take some extra time in the planning stage.)

After I had been at it for a while, I became a meal planning pro. By using these simple principles, and spending about 30 minutes a week planning, I found that I was able to shave a coupon hundred dollars from our family’s grocery bill per month. What we were eating didn’t change all that much, it was all about planning and shopping strategically.

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