Last fall when we redid our finances my grocery budget got cut to $50 a week for our family of five, which also had to include toiletries, paper goods etc. At the time I was spending at least $10 a week just on my soda addiction-eek! I had to rethink how I fed my family and since then, I’ve learned several techniques to make my kitchen more thrifty. My next four articles will talk about some of the ways you can save money in your own kitchen; let’s start by looking at ways to reduce your grocery budget!
Menu planning gives you control over what goes into your grocery cart. It makes your grocery list accurate and eliminates the need to make multiple trips to the store each week. It also takes the uncertainty of meal time away and allows you to provide balanced meals at the lowest cost possible. Here’s what I do when I make my menu plan:
What do I have already? I first look through my fridge and cupboards and see what items I have that I can build off of. If I have one or two ingredients already for a meal I just need to buy the things to finish it, instead of starting from scratch.
Go through the weekly store ads. I shop at Aldi and Meijer. Aldi has very inexpensive groceries but their selection is limited. I get 95% of my groceries there and then finish up my shopping at Meijer. They are higher priced but they run weekly sales and accept coupons.
I go through my recipe binder. I get most of my recipes from recipezaar.com and it only takes a minute to print recipes and add them to my collection. Having a binder of recipes makes it easy to come up with dinners ideas.
Use one ingredient for multiple meals. Many times a recipe only uses a small amount of an ingredient, like 1/4 cup of sour cream or half of a garlic clove. By including two meals in one week that use the same ingredient, the left over amount does not get shoved into the back of the fridge and forgotten about.
Utilize Leftovers. We used to never eat leftovers. Now I incorporate them into my menu plan and it helps cut out food waste, which in turns saves money. Leftovers make great lunches and even snacks!
Menu planning is a must for a frugal grocery budget. There is a learning curve but once you get the hang of it, it really can help get your grocery budget under control!
Some other easy tips for cutting back your grocery budget:
Bring CASH! If you walk in the store with cash you cannot go over your budget. Each week I go to Aldi and Meijer with $50 cash and I do not bring a check book or debit card with me. This way I have no way to go over my budget.
Cut out the small trips-if you’re at the store you’re more likely to spend money you didn’t budget. Cut out those small stops in between your regular grocery shopping trips and you’ll be surprised at how much money you save!
Have a list: I make my grocery shopping list the same time I make my menu plan. A good, accurate list will keep you on track at the store and keep you from throwing unneeded items in your cart.