Reducing Your Grocery Budget: Menu Planning (1 of 4)

Posted 04-12-2010 at 12:00 PM by MyFrugalFunLife

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 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.

Filed Under: Savings Talk


26 Responses to “Reducing Your Grocery Budget: Menu Planning (1 of 4)”

  1. whitneywalters on April 12th, 2010 6:44 pm

    Great tips!!

  2. arly1983 on April 12th, 2010 7:47 pm

    This comes a great time for me. My $600 a month budget for grocery and eating out will be going to $300 in July. I will be following along and trying all of your ideas. Thanks!

  3. bluemoonbutterfly on April 12th, 2010 9:52 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I am trying to start doing this myself.

  4. pbresolin on April 12th, 2010 10:43 pm

    Great post! I can’t wait to read the rest!

  5. 13kittycats on April 12th, 2010 11:01 pm

    Thanks for walking us through! Practical things I know, but haven’t put to practice yet. I think I will try tonight!

  6. JennJenn on April 12th, 2010 11:57 pm

    Perfect timing of this article for my family. We have recently been trying to cut our grocery budget. Looking forward to the next parts of the article.

  7. mama2jack on April 13th, 2010 12:50 am

    love the binder!

  8. marvelous on April 13th, 2010 1:37 am

    This is exactly what I do and it works! We are on $70 a week including toiletry items for a family of 4 including limited organics. I could probably squeeze it down a bit, but we’ve been at this same amount for a few years now and still manage to do okay despite price increases, so were good.

    Excellent tips.

  9. FaithandAndrewsMom on April 13th, 2010 1:46 am

    Great ideas, thanks for sharing

  10. Timothysmama on April 13th, 2010 1:47 am

    I SOOOOO need to start doing this! We totally nickel and dime ourselves by stopping in at the store a few times a week to “just pick something up,” you know? Such a frustrating habit!

  11. 2queens1princenmyhouse on April 13th, 2010 1:53 am

    Great post! Menu planning is a must for me too!

  12. zacks_mommy on April 13th, 2010 2:02 am

    I should start a binder, my index cards are out of control!!

  13. Katiebug_1976 on April 13th, 2010 2:06 am

    I’m so excited that you are writing about this topic! I am looking to reduce our grocery spending and hope to learn some new tips here.

  14. BabyKakes on April 13th, 2010 11:44 am

    Great article!

    I’m so horrible at planning ahead especially when it comes to the menu…I usually just end up staring at my fridge and pantry for a few minutes trying to come up with something…LOL!! You made some really good points, so I’m going to try planning ahead this coming week and see how it goes. :)

  15. momma2Mimi07 on April 13th, 2010 3:27 pm

    VERY Helpful, Thank you!

  16. mugsywebb on April 13th, 2010 4:13 pm

    thanks! I have such a hard time with grocery budgeting so this helped

  17. Holly_Anne618 on April 13th, 2010 11:06 pm

    This comes at a great time for me. I’m trying to find ways to cut our grocery bill down, and our family will soon be expanding by one more. I can’t wait to read what’s next.

  18. pwcbabe on April 14th, 2010 3:36 am

    i do the reverse – i shop the week’s specials THEN plan my menu! :)
    weekly sales and coupons are a family’s best friend. gradually stock up on items that don’t expire soon, like pasta, rice, canned and jarred food, cereal, and meat (portion and freeze it!). we get by on about $50 a week and have plenty of good food like steak and chicken.

  19. Jennifer on April 14th, 2010 7:58 pm

    We’ve recently realized that we spend a ton of money on groceries, so this article series comes at a great time for us. We try so hard to eat well, cook at home, and not eat out and it ends up costing us more! The price of food has skyrocketed and it seems like eating healthy, homecooked food (instead of prepackaged convenience meals) comes at such a cost!

    Thanks for this article…can’t wait to read the rest!

  20. bkcwjzy on April 16th, 2010 5:05 pm

    Love the binder idea! and when does step 2 come out?

  21. ceslade on April 17th, 2010 5:01 pm

    These are good tips. I’d love to see an example of one of your weekly menus and your grocery list just to get a good idea.

  22. larsencass on April 17th, 2010 6:08 pm

    I am so inspired by you women that say you only spend $50.00 to $70.00 a week. I spend over $600.00 a month and just got a big wake up yesturday when I found out I can only spend $300.00 a month now. I’ve been in a panic! Thanks for the post. I can’t wait for the next ones. I’ll be printing them all out.

  23. Michelle_M on April 18th, 2010 12:51 am

    This was an AWESOME article. I followed this advice this week actually! The biggest thing for me was to go into the store with only cash. I actually had FORGOTTEN my debit card at home, thankfully my bank has a branch inside the Kroger where I shop, so I was able to go get cash. When I got close to my budget at the cash register, I simply put some of my “splurge” items back, rather than use a card :) .. .another strategy that worked for me, was instead of wearing Levi in a baby sling, I put his carseat into the stroller. So I didn’t have a whole cart to fill up. So limited room in the stroller basket ALSO helped because rather than just strolling along to “see what else looks good,” I thought “Well, baskets full, and I have everything I need.” Thanks for the article. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

  24. Sassafras on April 19th, 2010 9:22 am

    thanks!! looking forward to the next :)

  25. wendykay717 on April 24th, 2010 2:50 am

    I also do this. I actually plan out a month at a time. I buy all the dry ingredients for the month and 2 weeks worth of veggies and fruits. Then I go back after 2 weeks to pick up the other fruits and veggies. It really works well for me. I actually write on my calendar what we are having….it also helps me with the what do eat/make problem. I never know what I want to eat. When I plan it out…it is there ready. And if something comes up you can rearrange if need! Thanks for the article…works well!

  26. yewsernaim on July 5th, 2010 6:51 pm

    This was very helpful, thank you.

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