Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to save on your grocery bill AND meal planning for dummies

I know this is a day late, but it's such a good post and it's going to be super helpful for you so I wanted to make sure I had enough photos to show you the way I do it so you aren't confused at all.

Currently, I am not working. I haven't worked since the end of March so we have been relying on Matt's paycheck to get by. Matt's job pays him twice a month, he isn't bi-weekly, he is paid strictly on the 7th and the 21st of the month, no matter what. Which sounds super, to have a guaranteed pay day! But when you look at the calendar, some months this really sucks. Like July/August for example. Matt's pay periods run from the 1-15 of the month gets him paid on the 21st, and the the 16-last day of the month gets him paid on the 7th. Well he got paid July 21 and won't get a check until August 7, and when you look at that, it's a LONG haul.

Which makes meal planning crucial because it keeps our grocery bill down. Currently, I'm cooking meals for 4 people. Matt and I typically either have left overs or sandwiches for lunch, and the kids almost always have a sandwich. Right now we are taking advantage of free lunches and snack at the park, but that ends August 7. And really, that hasn't cut down on our grocery bill because I'm still buying sandwich things anyways, but it's a nice option to have if available to you.

I know I have had many people say to me, "I don't know what I'm going to want to eat on a particular day a week from now" when I mention meal planning as a great way to get your grocery bill down. To that I say- learn. Seriously. If you are in a position that you have to budget, learn. Secondly, you don't necessarily have to do that. Here's how I do it:

When you come to my house you will see a packet like this hanging on my fridge. It's my meal plan and any recipes I'll need (if it's a new recipe I'm trying or one I can't remember off the top of my head) all together on the side of the fridge.
Step One: When I plan my meals out, I write down every day I need to have a meal for between Matt's pay checks. You can see here that it's basically three weeks of meals. I only include dinners because for breakfast I always have cereal but also keep a hot option like waffles or pancakes in my freezer. I write down a meal idea for every single day. In the morning, I pick a meal off of the list for dinner, not necessarily the one "scheduled" for that day. Some times something comes up and I need a crock pot meal so I find one off the list I can quickly do and not worry about it during a busy day.

Other tricks I do? At least once in a cycle I do a spaghetti and use the left over sauce for meatball subs the next day. Sometimes I'll make chicken tacos and we'll have nachos the next night with my leftover chicken, and I'll add corn and beans to it. Be realistic, if you know there is going to be a day where you declare you absolutely are not cooking? Put "order out" on there, knowing you can only order out ONCE in that cycle. (You see that? I just saved you money.)
Step Two: As I add an item to my menu, I write down the ingredients I'll need to make it. Don't even THINK about what you have on hand already, we'll get to that. But for right now, write down every single thing you'll need.
Step Three: Once you have that completed, take your list and go through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Cross off what you already have. This will save you money because you won't buy repeat things.
Step Four: Then I go through my ad. Usually I peek at the ad first primarily to check if there is any good deals in the meat department because that's often the most expensive area. Yes, those are ads from two different stores. Yes, I know it's a pain in the ass to go to two different stores, but if there is a really fantastic deal on a couple of things at one store, split your trip. Sometimes Cub Foods had a buy one/get one deal on chicken breasts and when that is happening I go and bring Matt and the kids with me. I'll make Olivia buy 4 packs of chicken (the limit), Matt buy 4 packs of chicken, and I'll buy 4 packs of chicken. I have a chest freezer and that's when I stock up.

Step Five: Once I get my coupons from the ad, I start looking online for coupons on the items I need. Truly, the only two sites I really use are and Sometimes I find no coupons, sometimes I find a bunch I need. Don't forget to look at your ads at the things that are already on sale without a coupon. This week I was able to get mayonnaise (the large jar) for only $1.33 because it was on sale for $3.33, but I had a $2 coupon online.

Lucky for me this week Super One Foods had a lot of buy one get one deals so I did all of my shopping there. Things I picked up extra as buy one/get one deals that were not on my list were:

  • Quilted Northern 6 packs of toilet paper
  • Kielbasa
  • Marinated pork roasts
  • Packaged deli meat
  • Soft taco shells
  • Taco seasoning
  • Purex laundry soap
I also picked up two packs of pork chops that were in the marked down area of the meat department. That will save me on my menu planning for next round. 

After purchasing everything on my list, plus my extras, my bill was $125.49. 

My absolute budget per month for groceries is $300 for a family of 4. I budget $150 per paycheck to groceries, so the extra $25 went into my savings for Olivia's braces. 

Every Sunday I'll be posting recipes that I've tried from cookbooks, Pinterest, etc that are inexpensive to make. If you missed my first post, Macaroni & Cheese, go back and check that out. Next Sunday I'll be sharing my Pot Roast recipe that is so easy and SO good. 


Cynthia said...

Great advice! I bet you continue to lower your spending as you continue

Kim {Hope Whispers} said...

Love this break down. We do one week at a time but sorta the same process. Except I try to keep all my notes and things together on my phone or the dry erase board. I'm a list maker and if I do it on paper, I would have a stack by the end of the week ;-)

Unknown said...

You are so organized! Meal planning is not something I am good at, but with your system, I might be able to try. Thank you for sharing!

DoingDewey said...

Wow, I'm impressed by how far in advance you plan your meals! I plan mine for the week, but don't have the discipline to make myself sit down and plan an entire month.

Caitlin said...

This is so smart! Thanks for the tips! I'm really trying to get better about meal planning...
xo, Caitlin
And Possibly Dinosaurs