When I looked at our budget recently, I noticed that over the past few months, our family’s food spending kept creeping higher and higher.
Right away, I saw that we were making several trips (usually 2 or 3 or sometimes more) to the grocery store each week. In addition, there were usually a couple of trips to the corner store on the way home from work.
Usually, the trips were for one or two things – often milk or bread. Though that was the intention, what inevitably happened is that we ended up buying a near cart-full of extras. Sometimes I tossed things in because I was hungry – I typically stopped mid-afternoon, when everything looks especially tasty – or, more often than not, because something was “such a good deal.”
These extra trips were adding big $$ to our weekly grocery spending.
I decided to try to reduce the number of trips needed by planning all of our meals – breakfasts, lunches and suppers – for the entire week and shopping for those needs. One grocery trip per week – the prospect was a bit scary.
Here are some things that I have done to make one trip last:
List, list, list
I have a list app on my phone that I use now, but before that, I was a pen and paper devotee. Whatever your method, lists will keep you organized. I plan our meals first, based on what we had on hand, what was on sale in the weekly flyers, and our family’s preferences.
Once I know what we are going to be eating for the week, I sit down with the flyers and my phone and make the lists. I have separate lists on my phone for each store if I need to make more than one stop.
When we run out of something during the week, I put it in my phone right then. Otherwise, I will forget.
Know Your Family’s Eating Habits
Planning meals and shopping for weekly meals for the family means know what your family eats, and making sure it is on hand. Once you take care of the basics, the rest is easy.
For example, we are simple breakfast folks at my house – it is fruit and cereal for the boys and toast for David and me. I make sure we are stocked on those items for the week and BOOM! Breakfasts done.
For lunches, we tend to rotate the same few lunches that the boys prefer: sandwiches, bagels and pizza. I make sure we are stocked on the extras (granola bars, fruit and cheese) to round out their mid-day meals.
Then I plan our suppers.
And don’t forget the snacks!
If we don’t have it, we don’t eat it.
I am bad for deciding that “I feel like tacos tonight.” I get cravings and decide that nothing else will do. If I don’t have the necessary ingredients, a quick trip to the store and voila! Craving quenched. Now, if I start thinking about a meal, I put it on the meal plan for the next week. Then I have a start on a menu and something to look forward to next week.
So, after 4 weeks, how are we doing?
I have made 1 extra trip in that time – when I needed a quick meal and had forgotten to take something out of the freezer. Oops! I still mess up. (I have started to set up reminders on my phone to take things out the day before.)
Other than that, we have made our one weekend grocery trip and that is it.
No more scrambling through the grocery store midweek, with hungry children in tow. No more wondering what we will eat for supper and thinking it would be easier to just pick something up.
Eliminating the extra trips is giving us predictability in our grocery spending. Even though the planning takes time, I think that one stop saves time over the course of the week. And we are eating what we have, so we are wasting less food.
Do you meal plan? What are some of your time and money saving strategies?