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When you are trying to stick to a budget in the grocery store, it can be a real challenge! Meal planning is essential for saving money, but trust me, it will save you more than money to have a plan for dinner.
I recently began using
However, before I started using MyFreezEasy I had a pretty good meal planning method that I’d like to share. It combines convenience with strategy to create your plan and manage sticking to it easily.
RELATED: HOW TO MEAL PLAN IN MINUTES WITH MYFREEZEASY
1. Check Your Meal Planning Inventory
The first step to saving money on groceries is to use what you already have! Before you even start thinking about what to make for dinner this week, check your fridge.
Look for perishables in the fridge(such as veggies and meat) that need to be used up. Are there any meals that are based around those?
The next step is to check the freezer! Meat is usually the most expensive ingredient, so you want to base your meal plan around it more often than not.
Think about what kind of meals you can make with the meat that you have so that you don’t need to buy a different protein for each meal this week.
Pro Tip: As you are perusing your perishables, jot down meal ideas. If you don’t have any ideas, jot down ingredients so that you can look for recipes that will fit the bill.
If you don’t write it down, you are likely to forget most of what you have when you get to the planning stage.
2. Choose Your Meals For Your Plan
My favorite way to choose recipes is by browsing Pinterest. I mean who doesn’t find it useful for recipes? So I have created a family favorites board that holds all of the recipes that my family likes.
When I am ready to meal plan, I visit this board. Then I look for recipes that use the ingredients I have on hand first! The next step is definitely where my meal plan starts to differ from others.
I use Trello to record my meal plan and link the recipe right to the card in my life planner board. I love doing it this way because when I go into Pinterest, I always get distracted.
By linking directly to the recipe from my Trello board, I can bypass all of the temptations and stay focused. It also gives me a bit of structure, making it more likely that I will follow my plan like a good girl.
After I have decided on all of the meals I need, it is time to get organized to go shopping!
RELATED: HOW TO RELY ON TRELLO WHEN YOU STRUGGLE TO FOLLOW A SCHEDULE
3. Create a Shopping List For Your Meal Plan
Like I said before, I love to use Trello to create my meal plan. I love that I can access the app from my phone. This makes creating my shopping list and remembering to use it so much easier. It is a huge part of why this method has finally made meal planning work for me!
Since I already linked all of the meals for the week in step two, I can click into them and read the recipes super quickly.
(Side note: If we like the recipe a lot, I create a card for it in my meal planning board. Then I only have to go to the website once or twice. As I choose the recipes that we have already tried, I copy the card from my meal planning board into the “Meal Plan and Snack Ideas” list for easy access while making my list.)
As I read each recipe for the first time, I do three things:
1. Place the item into the appropriate card depending on which store I plan to buy from(I usually visit two or three in one trip). I do this automatically these days, but you might need to create one long list for now. I will elaborate on my method in just a minute.
2. Place the item into my cart using Walmart Grocery if that is where I will be shopping. (This service has become life changing!)
3. Make a list of pantry ingredients to gather.
After I have my pantry list created, I go into my stockpile and gather all of the ingredients. I do this for two reasons.
Having all of the ingredients together makes it so easy to make the meals! I like to group them by day so that I can just grab them all and get to work.
Lately, I have been prepping and freezing my meals in order to avoid cooking every night and grouping the ingredients ahead of time makes this so much faster. It has seriously decreased my dishes and saves a ton of time. MyFreezEasy has definitely impacted my outlook on this.
I will also be able to catch any mistakes! Sometimes, I will be out of an ingredient and not know until this step. If that happens, all I have to do is add it to my shopping list. Rather than finding out on meal day and needing to run to the store or change my plan, I find out right away. Boom! Obstacle removed, time saved.
RELATED: 16 Practical Ways To Stop Overspending on Groceries
4. Remind Yourself of the Dinner Plan
Even though it is so simple to review my meal plan in my Trello board, it took a while to get into the habit of checking it daily. I basically needed to be smacked in the face to remember to follow my meal plan.
If you are this way, there is hope! Regardless of how you do it, the point is to remind yourself of the plan somehow! Here are some ideas:
- If you use a planner, write your meal plan into it.
- Add a calendar event on your phone.
- Rename your alarm.
- Work pulling out tomorrow’s ingredients into your evening routine.
- Use a post-it on the fridge to remind you about any prep.
Do whatever will help you remember what needs to be done in the easiest way possible. A meal plan that is forgotten is useless when five o’clock rolls around and the chicken is still frozen solid!
5. Check For Deals On Meal Planning Ingredients
Now that you have a meal plan, check for deals on your dinner ingredients.
Shopping around is one of the best ways to stretch your money. I know that it can feel overwhelming if you have been buying groceries willy-nilly.
You basically have two options. Check for sales, or visit an everyday best price type store. I do both.
Checking sales can feel like a hassle at first. I really want to encourage you to check sales before going shopping for about a month. It will help you to see if the difference in cost is worth your time, and also help get you into the meal planning routine.
Checking sales and writing lists should only take about half an hour or so, maybe less. If it takes longer you are overthinking things! After a bit of time, you will be familiar with prices and spot a good sale from a mile away.
When you first start, try checking several of your local store sales. You will notice that many of the sale items are the same and be able to tell which store has the best deals.
If the prices make it worth the extra stop, then write a list from that store. This leads to my next point: how to create a plan for your shopping day.
6. Create A Grocery Shopping Plan
I typically visit two or three stores. I will grab the best sale items from a local grocery store, and then visit an “everyday value” kind of store.
More often than not, I just use Walmart Grocery Pick-up. It is so convenient, and I have found the prices to be as low as my local Winco, sometimes beating it!
I also shop at Smiths, Costco, Winco, and Smart Foodservice depending on what I am needing. I don’t visit them all in one trip, but these are my go-to places to visit.
What money I have left in my budget after my meal plan ingredients are bought is stock-up money. It is spent couponing for non-edible consumables or stocking up on sale items.
In order to build your stockpile, pay attention to what kind of items you use frequently. If you see something that you use regularly on sale while searching, buy several instead of one!
I always buy cheese, tortillas, and meat in large quantities when they are at their lowest prices. Then I freeze them so that I have them on hand for later. (If you don’t have a stockpile, you need to start one!)
How To Save Money On Groceries By Meal Planning
I know that transitioning to such a budget-friendly method of grocery shopping can be a big change.
If you are overspending on groceries, give this planning method a shot and see if it works for you! I have found that putting all of this together minimizes shopping mistakes and really makes following a plan realistic.
If you are interested in trying out Trello to stay organized, I have a Life Planner template board in the Freebie Library! You can grab the password here: