10 Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping Tips
In a recent giveaway, my comment optional entry was asking y’all what you would like to read more of. Several of you asked about meal planning tips, so here are 10 Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping Tips that I hope will be of help to you!
- I keep a calendar just for meal planning. Honestly, I use a Google Calendar that I share with family members. I also have a Google Doc with a list of all the recipes I’ve ever made (links to them if they are online, many are over at When Is Dinner, and the Doc has Tabs for Breakfast, Appetizers, Dinner, Desserts, and there is one for recipes they’d like me to try. If they see something online (we all love Pinterest and StumbleUpon around here), they can grab the link and paste it in the Doc. When I’m ready to meal plan, I try to grab 1-2 links per week to work in, to keep things changed up. I plan for dinner only, breakfast is easy around here, and we eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Planning (not necessarily buying) a month at a time works out well for me, because these guys don’t like to eat the same things over and over. I set their favorites to repeat every 10-12 weeks on the Google Calendar, and adjust as needed.
- I try to alternate what types of meats I’m cooking according to how I’m preparing it. I rely on my slow cooker A LOT. So, if I’m cooking meat in it, I’ll cook 2 nights worth, so we’ll have Chicken 2 nights, then Beef 2 nights, etc. It cuts on my prep time.
- As I’m planning my meals, I “shop” from my pantry and freezer. I like to rotate things in and out to keep it all fresh so we don’t waste anything, and I am able to use up my stockpiles, as we have limited pantry space.
- Once I’ve shopped my pantry/freezer, I make my grocery list out. Sometimes I need a bulk amount of rice, pasta, etc. and if my stockpile is low, I’ll usually purchase that at the warehouse club, because it’s less expensive there.
- I try to make my “big” trip for staples once per month, and perishables I’ll buy weekly. We are lucky to have several small farms closer to us than the grocery store, so it’s really quick and easy to stop by their farm stands (most open daily for a few hours) and grab fresh produce and dairy.
- Learn your sales cycles for your grocery store. This will take time. But, once you have a standard menu rotation on your calendar, and learn your sales cycles, you can start to move things around and match them up. This will give you the most “bang for your buck” as you can match sales and coupons to grow your stockpile (to a normal limit). In my area, it’s a 12 week cycle, and I meal plan about 12 weeks at a time. This allows me to stock up according to the cycle. If I know Taco Shells are on sale 10 for $10 once a quarter, and $3.29 otherwise, it pays for me to buy 12 weeks of Taco Shells when they are on sale. (I use Tortillas for breakfast burritos, sandwich wraps, etc.). Just make sure you can use what you buy before it’s expiration date!
- Using a calendar also helps you see what activities you have coming up. If you know that you have evening activities on certain nights, you can plan ahead to have something in the slow cooker, or prepare something the weekend ahead of time, put it in the freezer, then pop it in the oven when you get home.
- Plan ahead to double up a couple of recipes to keep in the freezer. I know that sometimes I get sick suddenly, out of nowhere, and then the guys look at me and wonder what are they going to eat! If I have something pre-made in the freezer, they can just turn on the oven and pop it in. No need for fast food or pizza delivery
- I prefer to keep my coupons in a purse size coupon holder, that is divided by category. I keep one for grocery items, another for household goods. It’s less bulky than the binders, and more portable for me. Before I go, I match up coupons to sale items and put them in the front pocket with my shopping list so I don’t forget anything. Then, I keep my files in my purse, so if I see something unadvertised or on clearance, I can check to see if I have coupons for those items. Often, I do, and I can get them for free, or very low cost, AND I don’t have to ponder if it’s worth going home to get the coupons, driving all the way back to the store, and risk the items being gone.
- Always shop with a list. I’ve always done this, it’s how my kids grew up shopping with me, and I don’t have the issue of them begging for items not on the list, because they KNOW that I shop by my list. If they see something they would like, they ask once, I consider if it’ll fit in the budget, and answer them. If it’s a Yes, of course they’re happy, but if it’s a not today, they just put it back and then start checking the Sunday paper for coupons, they know they have a better shot if we have a coupon, haha