I realize that meal planning is something I enjoy. I might be alone on this meal planning island, but out there I’m sure there is another mom looking for a way to make dinner an easier affair.
Meal planning wasn’t always my thing; it came about in my college days when I was so broke that I only ate eggs, spinach, and feta cheese all sautéed together every night for dinner. The beginning of marriage wasn’t any easier; we were both in college and working at a restaurant, not the most lucrative job on the market. Fast forward a few more years and my husband and I were living off of our savings while he was in graduate school (for the first time). He’s now back at it again and working on a degree from the seminary in New Orleans. I like to say we are addicted to graduate school.
All that to say, planning ahead and saving money where we can are big priorities at our house. Food being an easy budget line item to control.
Today I’m sharing a few tips I’ve held close to over the years to stay below or within our weekly food budget.
To start off, use a meal planner. I have a template I created on my own years ago that I use every week. It lists out meals for the week on one side of the paper, and the other lists grocery store sections.
You can download a meal planner by clicking the image below.
Where do I get all these meal ideas from you ask? I have a large cookbook collection, but my favorite way to plan is on Pinterest. I honestly have 20+ boards of meals and dig through them every week. Pinterest is a wealth of recipe knowledge that will allow you to rarely repeat a recipe, unless you want to.
Grocery Shopping Made Simple
After I’ve figured out what we are eating for the upcoming week, I either head to the grocery store, or hop online to my new favorite shopping tool … Wal-Mart Online Grocery.
If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s heaven on earth. Especially if you are a parent to a little person. I started using it 10 months ago when my toddler was at a constant state of insanity during every single shopping trip. I can’t even begin to count the amount of cellular data we used handing a phone with YouTube pulled up to his beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every Friday evening to keep the howling to a minimum.
Grocery pick-up is basically my howl-free shopping experience. Within 15 minutes, I have everything I need for the week without wrestling a child in or out of a car seat.
Online grocery ordering isn’t going to help keep you under budget if you browse every interesting thing on there though. You also have to be aware of their tricks and not fall prey to the last window before check out … what I like to call “you don’t need this, but you totally could need this.” The key to success with online shopping is sticking to your meal plan. On an average week, I don’t buy anything that I didn’t add to the list before I began shopping.
Do I want to see what’s new in the Paleo section at the grocery store? Yes. Do I go to that tab? No.
I know if I click there I will instantly be down a rabbit hole of $9 frozen dinners and a whole basket full of items I don’t actually need to cook dinner for the upcoming week.
Tips for Meal Planning & Shopping
Enough of my rambling though, here are six tips to be successful at meal planning & shopping:
- Plan out your weekly meal plan in advance and stick to it. Use our handy printable.
- Plan for leftovers so you don’t have to cook every night.
- Use options like online grocery shopping if available locally.
- Don’t browse. Only buy what you need to restock the pantry and cook for the week.
- Buy in bulk when you can; typically bulk items are cheaper. (hello Sam’s Club & Costco)
- Be sure to also plan for breakfast and lunch. Eating out twice a day quickly adds up.
Places with Pick-Up
Since I mentioned using grocery pick-up, here is a list of places in our area that offer that service:
- Lafayette Wal-Mart on West Pinhook
- New Iberia Wal-Mart on Admiral Doyle
- Breaux Bridge Wal-Mart
- Carencro Wal-Mart
Don’t forget Sam’s Club also offers free club pick-up in Lafayette (as well as their other stores).
While we don’t have the option quite yet, it looks like Albertson’s and Kroger are both on the pick-up train. If you live in Alexandria, Shreveport, Bossier City, or Lake Charles, the Kroger stores in those cities are already offering pick-up. Where there’s a will, there’s a grocery pick-up somewhere.
So there you have it, several ideas for how to save money with meal planning and an easy mom tip of using grocery pick-up.