After talking with friends one turned us on to the idea of weekly meal plans (thank you Sharon)!
Nearly two years later and I cannot stress the impact this has had on our calendars and wallets (woo hoo!). Looking for a way to spend less time AND money at the grocery? Get your meal plan on!
No. 1) You save store time. Instead of spending hours perusing aisle after aisle for what sounds good, you've already prepared your plan of attack. Gather those items in your cart and be on your way, leaving all those ill-prepared shoppers in your dust.
No. 2) You save MONEY! No, really, you save money. While buying six boxes of Cocoa Puffs because they're on sale for $1 might seem like a money-saving trick, you're really just adding dead weight (literally) to your bill. I'm not saying to pass up every sale, but instead plan your meals around them and stick to them. If pasta and sauce is buy one get one free, find a way to utilize this sale a couple of meals a week. Say ... good old fashioned spaghetti one night, followed by pasta salad for lunch another day and maybe some pizza with a little marinara a few nights later?
No. 3) You're way more organized, but not nearly as frazzled as all those extreme couponing moms. Just spend a quick 5-10 minutes browsing your grocer's local ad and then another 10-15 minutes planning your meals and budget around those sales. This way you already know what's on sale, what you need and how to incorporate that into your breakfast, lunch and dinner!
No. 4) Save more time at home. After a long day at work the last thing you feel like fumbling with is dinner. Planning takes the guesswork out of dinner. Afraid you won't be able to appeal to a picky eater with a "plan?" No worries. you don't have to assign one meal to one day, you can pick and choose from your week of menu items. No one said you can't swap out vegan chili dog Monday for tempeh stir-fry Tuesday.
No. 5) You can plan more nutritionally sound meals. Instead of wasting hours at the store to come home and realize you left out the veggies, you can compare each meal for the week and make sure you've got all the nutritional bases covered. This has been especially important for our vegan clan. By making out a list of meals for the week I can assure there's a balance of plant-based proteins and not an over abundance of processed mock meats.
In the last two years, we've taken our grocery bill from about $100 a week to a mere $60. (And before we had the little one we were averaging $37 a week).
Not to mention the number of hours (and probably pounds I've saved) by popping in the store for my required items and resisting the cookies section!
Start meal planning: While I just ordered these handy-dandy inserts for my planner (because I'm 26 going on 105 and they were only $3.71), all you really need is a pen and paper! Pre-planner pages meal planning meant I simply folded a sheet of paper in half and titled one side "Meal Plans" and the other "Groceries." I'd add up the amount of meals I need for the week (we only plan dinners because my hubby and I both work, which means we're not around to partake in group lunches) then start listing a few that sounded good. Once you've got the number of meals you need, do a quick scan of the pantry and make a list of what items you've got to purchase.
Then, post it on the fridge, fight over what delicious meal you want to cook that night and cross it off the list once it's been devoured!
It's seriously as simple as that.
If you really want to take a walk on the wild side, get a nifty folder, label it meal plans and stick all your "completed" meal plans in it. This method comes in handy for those times when nothing sounds good.