Hi Ya’ll! I hope you had a wonderful weekend! Welcome to the first ever Mmmmonday on this blog! If you didn’t see my post about the new writing schedule, you can find that here.
Today, let’s talk about meal planning! I greatly enjoy meal planning. People are always interested in how I meal plan, so here you go! This will probably be a longer post, but I promise it will be super informative and hope that it will give you a good place to start in cutting your grocery budget!
We have recently updated how we grocery shop and meal plan. I have always meal planned for suppers, but breakfasts, lunches and snacks have always been on a whim. Here’s how grocery shopping went: “Maybe we’ll have sandwiches for lunch, let’s buy lunch meat and bread. But what if I don’t have time to make lunch, we better get something frozen. Oo, this recipe on Pinterest looks good, let’s get the stuff to make that. Josh wants eggs for breakfast. But, if we’re going to have eggs, we need sausage and potatoes, and bell peppers are on sale, let’s get those. But, I don’t like eggs so I better get some cereal for myself. But what if we wake up late and don’t have time to eat cereal, better get oatmeal packets.” And before you know it, we’re walking out of the store with more food than we could ever possibly eat in a week and the budget is blown! Sound familiar?
I have recently started planning all of our meals: breakfast, lunch, snacks and suppers. On my weekend, I make all of the lunches and breakfasts for the week and put them in Tupperware containers. I make two different meals for lunches and one for breakfast. Our breakfast is usually a crockpot steal cut oatmeal. For lunches, I pick two meals that we usually would make for supper and pack it in smaller portions. We have been doing this for a couple of weeks now, and it has REALLY helped make my life so much easier and keep us on track with our budget. Because everything is already in containers, it takes no time or thought to pack our lunches before work or grab breakfast while heading out the door.
I have made a printable meal planning list that you can find here. It is pictured above. I plan all of our meals and keep this on fridge so that we know what is scheduled and what we need to prep.
The first thing for you to do in meal planning is to decide how often you will go grocery shopping and what your budget will be. We grocery shop every two weeks with a small trip at the beginning of the second week if needed just for maybe fruit or milk. We used to go every week, but I have found that the two week schedule works better for us. We were spending too much money when we went every week. Weird, right? We grocery shop on Wednesday nights after work.
Our budget for groceries is currently $130 every two weeks with an additional $20 if needed for the off weeks. We pretty much always come in under budget, so I am hoping to cut that even further. Last time we went shopping, our two week grocery trip was just under $80, so I know we can do it; I just haven’t decided on what the best number is. Our grocery budget does not include household items like paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. We get most of that with our couponing budget (which is $20 a week.) We also have a household items budget of $30 a month, but it rarely gets used. I honestly can’t remember the last time we used it. It usually just rolls over each month.
Your budget is a personal decision and is going to be different for every family. I recommend printing your bank statement for the last few months and highlighting all the times you went to the grocery store so you can get a good idea of what you are currently spending. Then, determine if you either over bought and had a ton of food leftover or if you were barely making it by the end of the week. You’ve got to be honest with yourself. You know if you toss a lot of extra things in the cart or if you stick to your list. We all do it, but you can’t change the behavior if you don’t recognize it as a problem.
Once you have a budget, you need to make a plan. I plan our meals based on what we already have and what our schedule looks like for the week. For example, this week, I have 4 ears of corn and 4 bell peppers that need to be eaten, so I have incorporated that into the schedule. Of course, Thanksgiving will fall in this meal plan, so that needs to be planned for. My sister will be in town, so we will probably be going out or to my mom’s for supper for a few nights while she is here. I picked meals that we don’t need to buy much for in case we have to move things around, which we probably will. On days that I work late, I try to plan crockpot meals. Be realistic about your time. We are trying not to eat after 8pm, so if Josh works until midnight, I we have to be prepared to have supper ready before he leaves the house so that he can take it with him.
Each meal lasts us two days, so for two weeks, we only need seven suppers. It will save you the most money to have the same thing for multiple nights, but I know this isn’t a possibility for some families. I have also seen other families that make one meal to last all week. They do save a lot because they don’t need to buy very many ingredients. We aren’t there yet. We do that for breakfast and lunch, so I like a little variety in my suppers.
You’ve set your budget, you have a plan, now where do you find the recipes? I find recipes mostly from Pinterest, but also from cookbooks that I have at home. I have a board on Pinterest called “Meals this Week” that I keep all of the recipes for the week in one place so that I am not searching for the pin. Most of the recipes in this plan are in there if you would like to make them for yourself. After I pick the meals, I fill in my printable and go through each recipe one by one and make a list of what I need to purchase. Below are the meals we have planned. Snacks for week two are not planned yet because we like to have fresh fruit, so we will purchase that in the smaller trip. Other than that, we will purchase ingredients to make all of the meals on this list.
You will need to determine what grocery store is best to shop at. I use the website Southernsavers.com a lot. She has a great video on her Youtube channel from a couple of weeks ago where she talks about picking the best grocery store. If you live in the south, I definitely recommend watching it. Here in Las Vegas, we don’t have any stores that double coupons, so for us Walmart is the best place; though it may not be for you depending on your region. We price match our groceries at Walmart. I love price matching because I can get all of the deals without having to go to multiple stores.
The next step is going through all of the ads for the week to find deals that match the items on my list. I try to have a price match for every single item. Sometimes, I can’t find any stores that have an item on sale. This week, those items were Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce and biscuits. These will be purchased at normal Walmart prices. Sometimes, the lowest price I found in the ads is more expensive than Walmart’s normal price or a store brand of that item, so we obviously won’t price match those. The price matching list gives us a good base price to go off of. There are also a lot of Mexican markets in Las Vegas that can be price matched as well. They have AH-mazing deals on produce. I never pay the Walmart price for produce.
I recommend to be as detailed as possible in your price matching list. I include sizes, if it is only a specific flavor, if the sale is only in certain quantities, etc. This is really important to make sure that you are picking up the correct items. Learn from my mistakes, it is horrible to get to the register and realize the add only said a specific flavor and #1 have to go put everything back and #2 get looked at like you were trying to pull a fast one on the cashier. One thing that shouldn’t have to be said, but does, is please be honest. I have met so many people that just make up prices since Walmart’s policy is that they don’t actually have to see the ad.
There are some things that we don’t buy at Walmart, meat is one. We buy meat at Sprouts. Usually smaller grocery chains will have better deals on meat than Walmart. We also have a Sam’s Club membership that we use for certain items..but I won’t get into all that today or this post will be never ending. I can do a separate post on that if you are interested.
My list for this trip is below.
The final step is to look for coupons for items on your list. Southernsavers.com has a great feature that allows you to search an item or brand and will give you a list of all the coupons that match your search. (And no, I am not being paid to say that about the site I just use it a lot.) I have not completed this step yet for this grocery trip. I will probably do that tonight. You should already be saving a TON by price matching alone, so coupons are just added savings.
To see the most savings, you really need to stick to the list, stick to the plan and stick to how often you go shopping…all of which I am still working on. You can have all of your groceries for the week in $50, but if you start walking around the store saying “this looks good, maybe we should try that” you will blow your budget. I am the QUEEN of this! I love walking up and down the aisles and am a huge Target end cap gal, but I am trying to get that in check–and I am trying to get my husband in check too. He’s the king of sneaking things in carts when his wife isn’t looking. You also need to stick to the meal plan. Eating out or changing the meals will blow your budget. I personally can’t go back to the grocery store before the next shopping trip. I have zero self control. I had asked Josh take some some chicken out of the freezer when he got off work at 3:30…but then his boss asked him to stay until 7 when I got off. So now it’s late and we have no chicken defrosted, and remember we are trying not to eat after 8pm. I decided let’s run to Sprouts quick and get a pack of chicken breasts. I can spend a lot of money in Sprouts. I don’t even go in there by myself because I need an accountability partner haha. Our $5 pack of chicken breasts turned into $45 of chicken breasts, a salad that looked really yummy, corn because Josh wanted some, cough drops…I have no self control.
I am not perfect at this by any means. And, that is one of the reasons I write this blog, for accountability. But this is something that I enjoy and want to share with others. What meal planning questions do you have? What would like to learn?