Find out how we save tons on our groceries by using a monthly meal plan! (And it’s MUCH easier than you think.)
When we first were married, we were tight on finances. Mr. Crazy was in school full-time, and Mrs. Crazy was in the hospital. A lot. (Meaning lots of medical bills in addition to schooling expenses, like tuition.)
As a result, our monthly food expenses were getting out of control – our circumstances made wanting to cook very, very difficult. As a result, we ate out a lot and bought a ton of frozen microwave dinners. We were spending over twice what we had spent before we were married – combined! We knew that this would be the biggest way we would save money with not a lot of changes.
Our first step was to figure out how to do our grocery shopping. So many websites talked about couponing, but we had no idea what we wanted to buy! We had a hard time sitting down each week to make a menu, and as a result just got frustrated. We would buy things on sale that we would never use, but we bought them because we had a coupon and that’s what we were supposed to do to save money. We finally decided that first we had to figure out what we were eating, and then shop for that as opposed to eating what we bought.
lazy brilliant idea was to not do just a week’s worth of menu planning, but to do an entire month. We bought a whiteboard calendar and magnets. On each magnet we wrote a meal that we both liked that I knew how to make. At the beginning of each month (or rather, the end of the previous month), we would use the magnets to make out a month’s worth of planning. Then we made a giant grocery list of everything we would need to for that month to make the food (minus anything we already had in our small stockpile).
Here is our masterpiece:
Our next step was to keep an eye on prices. We found that since there were just two of us, buying in bulk at Sams or Costco wasn’t going to save us very much. It definitely wasn’t worth the cost of a membership and gas money to make a separate shopping trip. We also found that the best deals on things that we used on a regular basis were at Smith’s (or Kroger’s or King Soopers, depending on where you live). Not only can you save money by getting one of their shopper’s cards, but you can download coupons onto their card from online. PLUS you can earn points to get money off of gas if you gas up at one of their gas stations (which were the cheapest ones around anyway).
We kept an eye on the ads each week, whether or not we’re making a shopping trip. That way if things we would usually eat (noodles, meat, etc.) go on sale, we can just pick them up that week and freeze/store them. We also have to buy groceries during the month, like produce, that won’t last long enough to buy at the beginning of the month. We try to freeze as much as we can, even the milk and bread if it is on sale. We always check the day-old shelf and manager’s special sections. One time, we found Angus ground beef 80/20% for just $1.33 per pound, and there was about 60 lbs of it!
Using the calendar has saved us a ton of money for a lot of reasons:
- We go to the grocery store a lot less, saving money in gas and splurge purchases
- We know what we’re going to cook each night, which means we am a lot less likely to run out and grab fast food instead.
- We can easily double a meal and Mr. Crazy has lots of leftovers to take for lunches to work
- If we’re am too tired to make what I had planned, we just switch nights with something else that’s easier.
It takes some work to set up, but monthly meal planning has cut down on our food expenses tremendously. We’re less likely to make splurge purchases (which is always worse when you’re hungry!), and we can stockpile on things we regularly use.
Now two kids and six years later, this is still our favorite way to plan meals and do our grocery shopping!
Another version of this post written by Tiffany is on Saving Talents.