Meal Planning and a grocery shopping budget have become routine over the years and I have saved so much money in the process, and I would love to help you save at the checkouts too.
Once you get started, I’m certain you will love it as much as I do and the money you save is much better in your pocket.
This is the format I use. I add my weekly meals to a planner, I write my grocery list from there and then add our weekly dinner menu to the whiteboard which lives on our school station. You can skip the planner, I just keep it on the inside of my pantry door to keep on track but this isn’t necessary.
My weekly budget for two adults, two children (one in nappies) and two pets is $150 per week. BUT, I spend $150 a week for 3 weeks and then on the 4th I halve my budget, so I will only spend $75 that week. It’s tough but can be done and i’ll explain how a little later on.
Note – My budget is what works for our family and you can create your own budget based on your families needs. If you have a larger family, more pets, more children in nappies etc, your shopping budget will be higher, but the important part is setting a limit and sticking to it
The first thing I recommend doing is taking the time to sort through your pantry, fridge and freezer and get a good system happening so you know exactly what you have.
For the freezer, keep all your items grouped together. Meat in one drawer, frozen veg in another etc.
For the pantry keep all your canned items together, rice and pasta together, crackers etc so you know exactly what you have on hand.
I work out most of our meals based on items I currently have. This saves money and avoids items passing their expiry date and also rotates your frozen goods. For example, if I have taco shells in the pantry, cheese in the fridge and mince in the freezer, all I really need to buy is sour cream, tomato & lettuce and I have Tacos and a meal ticked off.
A great tip is to plan around ingredients you need to buy to avoid wastage. If I’m making Laksa and need a bag of bean sprouts, I will then plan a Bibimbap, Nasi Goreng or rice paper spring rolls for another night to use up the rest of the bag. Once you get into the habit of this, it’s very easy and you’ll see the savings.
Another money saving tip is to re-stock your pantry staples whenever they are on special. Things like rice, pasta, flour and sugar I always have a good amount of.
Also, you don’t need to spend a heap of money on meat. I can serve a healthy and delicious Chicken and Vegetable Hokkien noodle stirfry for four with leftovers, using one chicken breast. Slice it finely and it goes further.
We use good quality meat for the bbq and grilled with veg or salad but for casseroles, soups, Stroganoff etc the budget cuts are best. I use chuck of Gravy beef for these dishes as they result in tender braised meat that falls apart when a fork is inserted. Low and slow when cooking the budget cuts. Perfect for the slowcooker, oven or stovetop.
When it comes to where I shop, I don’t have a preference for one grocery store over another, I browse the catalogues online prior to writing my shopping list to see who has what on special. If Woolworths have the majority of items I need on special that week, that’s where I shop.
Let’s get started –
1. Work out your meal plan, write your grocery list based on what you need to make those meals from what you already have, and add anything else you need to last the week. Be sure to include everything from school lunches, breakfasts and any snacks you may need. The freezer is your friend, so double bag your bread and freeze it up.
2. Stick to your list, use a calculator while shopping, and try not to forget anything. I only ever visit the supermarket once a week to avoid impulse buys, over spending and blowing out the budget.
3. Follow your menu. If you have just cooked a Sunday roast and Monday night is grilled chicken and veg, pop the chicken in the fridge to defrost. This is the joy of planning as you know exactly what you’re having each night and you know what needs to thaw and when.
4. Plan your meals around your lifestyle. If your kids play sport on a Thursday afternoon and you get home late, don’t plan a meal that requires lengthy cooking time for that night. Things that can be prepared ahead of time are great, or make that your treat night in your planner by picking up a bbq chicken on the way home and serve it with a garden salad.
5. Exceptions to the list. While perusing the catalogues and creating your list, hunt for bargain buys. This is my only exception to only buying what I need. Meat is great for buying in bulk and freezing. If legs of lamb are on a good special and your budget permits, grab two and freeze. This applies to all meat, portion it and freeze.
If washing powder, hand sanitiser, toothpaste etc are 50% off then I buy a few and pop them away. I would much rather buy on sale and have a stash rather than run out and have to pay full price because I need the item.
It does take a little time to write it all out but saves time and money in the long run, particularly when shopping as you know exactly what you need.
Throwing back to my budget, on the 4th week of shopping, I only spend $75 and I call this my ‘budget buster week’. It is great to use up what you have, and you can put the extra savings towards a family day out, make an extra payment on the credit card or get ahead on a bill.
I don’t buy meat during this week as I tend to stock up during the first 3 weeks and it makes all the difference. Another tip, for the first 3 weeks, cook one extra meal and freeze it and you will already have 3 meals ticked off when the budget buster week rolls around. Or if you cook a few large meals like a lasagne, freeze the leftovers.
One final tip that is both healthier and saves money is to bake what you can. I generally have a bake day once a month, portion it out and freeze it for school and work lunches and afternoon treats. I tend to cook things like muffins, slices, cakes, pancakes and scrolls and they freeze well. If we are lucky enough to enjoy a quiet Sunday at home, I like to get in the kitchen and get some cooking and food prep done for the week to make things a little easier.
I hope these tips and tricks will help save your family your hard earned money.