Having a meal plan is important to keeping your grocery budget down. Here are three reasons why menu planning is crucial to budget friendly eats.
We’ve all been there. It’s five o’clock and your fridge is low and the family is wondering what you’re cooking. So you run to the nearest drive through or grocery store deli and spend $30 or more on one meal.
Or you have an idea of what you want to cook for dinner that week but forget the most important ingredient for one of the meals. So you stop by the supermarket to pick it up and the cookies are calling your name, and you think “oh, ice cream sounds good, I’ll get a couple of pints,” then twenty extra dollars later you make your way to the checkout.
Menu Planning is the Number One Way I Save Money on Groceries
By having a written out menu plan I am able to use ingredients more than once. For example a pot of pinto beans can be used a couple of days later as refried beans for tostadas or in chili. Leftover roasted chicken can be used in King Ranch Chicken, chicken and rice casserole, chicken enchiladas, or chicken tortilla casserole. Leftover white rice can be used in green chile and cheese rice.
I can also purchase larger sizes of ingredients often for a savings. Have two recipes that call for an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce? Buy the 15-16 ounce can, measure out the amount needed and store the rest in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days or freeze for a longer time if needed. Just be sure to check the unit price because bigger is not always cheaper.
Menu Planning Cuts Down on Waste
On the weeks when I don’t plan I have a terrible tendency to over buy because I’m afraid I won’t buy enough. That’s not so terrible when it comes to things like meat, milk, and cheese that can be frozen, or canned goods and dried pasta that last awhile anyway. When you buy more produce than you can eat and you have to toss it out because it’s gone bad that is not a pleasant feeling.
Menu Planning Does Not Look the Same for Every Family
I’ve been a once a month grocery shopper, once a week grocery shopper, twice a week grocery shopper and probably anything and everything in between. Currently I shop every two weeks or so. In a perfect world it’s every fourteen days but there have been eighteen to twenty days between trips. When I plan I usually map out 14-16 days worth of meals because I don’t always know when the next trip will be.
I’ve learned the hard way more than once that I cannot assign a meal to a certain day. It stresses me out and meal planning is supposed to make life easier. I look at my calendar for the week and if I know there are several days when I’m not going to be home long before our usual dinner time I make sure to have easy meals available.
Here are some of my favorite meal planning resources:
- Menu Plan Monday at Org Junkie
- Downloadable Menu Planning Sheets at Money Saving Mom
- Meal Planning 101 at Good Cheap Eats
Looking for more Budget Friendly Eats?
This post is part of the budget friendly eats series. You can find inexpensive recipes and my best tricks to keep your grocery budget under control by visiting all the posts in the series.