Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meal Planning

Saving on your food bill isn't all about coupons - its also about shopping wisely and pre-planning. If you can plan meals around what is on sale or if you have extra freezer space and can buy when things are on sale and freeze for later then you can probably save money. You can also save money when you cook more things from scratch or cook extra food in advance and save for a future date (notice I said money and not always time - though if you watch meatless Monday you will find some quick recipes that are also mostly from scratch).

For meal planning, the best tip I have is to make or buy a cheap weekly calendar (shows Sun-Sat in whatever order you want based on the day you shop - we usually shop on Sunday and so ours usually starts there). Another tip is to do your meal planning after the weekly adds come out - in our area that is Tues - and plan meals around what is on sale. If certain vegetables are in season they are likely to be on sale so now is the time to cook with them. If you visit a farmers market or cook from a CSA farmers box you might wait to see what you get from there and then plan your meals around those vegetables. I also always make sure that Monday's meal is really quick or leftovers because I know it is garbage and bath night and so I want us to eat fast.... I will also often plan for a fish meal on Monday or a day I know I can leave early to pick up the fish at a market because I know it should be eaten that day. Spaghetti or Chili is great for Friday or Saturday because the ground meat can be frozen and then thawed (so it won't sit in the fridge all week or so I can buy more of it the weeks it is on sale).
Planning out your meals means you will only shop for the food items you need (just because you have a coupon doesn't mean you need it - stick to what you need either now or something you are planning in advance for). Shop, then post the meal plan on the fridge so you know what you are making each night. We also always keep a list for the next week right next to it so when we use up something that is a staple (like eggs) we add it right to the list.

I recently read in this article "cut your food bill by 25%" that "roughly 25% of the food Americans buy goes to waste. That's about one pound of food, per American, per day -- thrown in the trash." So, be sure to count for leftover days or plan to take extras for lunch. Also, if you have extra items in your pantry that are just sitting around use the web to search for meals that use those ingredients - why leave money on the shelf. The same goes for your freezer - make it a game to see if you can use up something that has been in there for a month rather than throw it out at the next spring cleaning. Then, be sure you are always meal planing and using up your fresh ingredients so nothing goes in the garbage.
I would love to know how you plan your grocery trips or other tips you have for eliminating food waste!


  1. I cringe when we throw food away, and despite my attempts it still seems to happen. I'm sure it's better than it used to be, at least. Definitely meal planning helps cut down on that and on clutter from unused, but unexpired, items. Thanks for the link to the article, things like that keep me on track! I liked it when I had my head together enough to shop from the weekly specials flyer. That way you get the meat and veggie stuff that you don't get with coupons, but it's harder to make recipes, I find. Most of my recipes are collected, so I can't just say, oh I need a recipe for [store special] and do it.

    Did anyone go to the couponing 101? I have a friend who gave one of those (but in Maine). I didn't get the whole scoop from her, but part of it was that you have to be really strategic and know your prices. Stores price in cycles, and often raise prices right before the coupons. Out here in the pacific nw we don't have double coupons (that I've ever seen), like they seem to in every other part of the country, and I know that's how a lot of people save.

  2. Safeway has a double coupon almost every week in the Wed ads but I think it is only good up to like $.60 - still I find planning things out and eating up food to be a better saver for us. This is especially true for bringing my lunch which I'm still struggling with :)

  3. OK good to know. I usually do F Meyer for big box, we did QFC for a while and their club card members really save a lot, so we did that, and did have significant savings. I'm not really sure how we faded back to F Meyer, except I like their natural foods section for several items and their household goods stuff. I still float around a little.