Grocery Shopping & Meal Planning


Some people dread that horrible chore of meal planning, grocery shopping, and making dinner ever night. Others, like me, love it. Then there are those who take it very serious. They extreme coupon. They plan for 3 months of meals and groceries at a time and have freezers full of food prepared out perfectly. Unfortunately we do not all have the time, energy, or organizational skills to do it like that. I have an approach that is in the middle. I don’t take too much time in my planning, but I do have a plan and a budget. Here is a quick peak at how I do it and some wisdom I’ve obtained about grocery shopping and meal planning.

I use a Word Notebook Document for my meal planning. It has 3 tabs, Meal Ingredients, Grocery List, Recipe Ideas. Here is a screen shot of the first tab:

I do it this way so that I can see at a glance what our favorite/common recipes are and their ingredients. If I know that the grocery store is having a sale on chicken I can now quickly see which meals take chicken. It also helps on the weeks where we don’t have as much to spend to see which meals have similar or special ingredients.

Once I pick out which meals to make for the week (or weeks) I can now easily make a grocery list because all of the ingredients are now right there. I can see which ones I have in the house and which ones I need to pick up at the store.

I found this awesome print out that will help with writing down the grocery list and keeping the meal plan for the week in view of everyone. (this in view helps people not eat meal items for snacks too). Meal/Grocery Planner Print out

Then I usually shop at one or two stores total. Save a Lot is my favorite. They have significantly lower prices all the time and take coupons as well. I am a part of their shoppers club and receive a $5 off of $25 or more coupon from them about once a month. They do not always have everything that I need (a few specific things here and there) and their produce is limited, but on a budget it is worth shopping there for us. I don’t need a fancy brand to feed my family.

Tips for staying in your budget with grocery shopping:

  • Make a list. Stick to it.
  • Go shopping less often.
  • Leave others at home. Then you don’t have to worry about them asking for extras or things not on the list. It will also help you focus.
  • Make a game plan before you leave the house. Get Ads, coupons, comparisons done, and make a game plan before you head out.
  • Eat something before you shop. Hunger will make you stray from the list.
  • Shop a places with regular low prices. It may seem like a good deal to drive around to 6 different stores and buy all those news papers and print out all those coupons; but sometimes going to one or two places that have consistently lower prices is more effective, cheaper, and takes less work for you.
  • Set an amount to spend. Use cash if you have to in order to make yourself still to the budgeted amount. Use a calculator as you shop to make sure that any extras you stumble upon (meat on sale, peanut butter that you forgot about, special treats) are still in the budget.
  • Buy in bulk. If you have stores that you can buy certain things in bulk and have the space to store them, this can be very cost effective. Don’t get too carried away though. Yes, you are going to use 50 rolls of toilet paper, but will you really use 30 toothbrushes? Make sure its a realistic purchase or you are just wasting money.
  • Buy it when its on sale. Rather than having to buy everything every week, there are certain things you can buy while on sale and freeze or store. When meat is on sale you can take it home, portion it out, label it, and freeze it for future use. Got a great cereal coupon, that stuff will last in the cupboard for a few months. Here is a list I found of what to shop for during what time of the year.

By the way, if you are into couponing here is a great site: Coupon Database. I also get coupons from Save a lot’s Face Book page, and in case you didn’t know you can now get the Sunday paper at the Dollar Tree (which also accepts coupons).


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