You know by now that the No. 1 trick to saving money at the grocery store and staying organized is to meal plan rather than impulse buy or winging it. But there are even more strategies that can help you before you even sit down with your notepad to start meal planning for the week! Many folks feel overwhelmed at the thought of meal planning for a long period of time, but it doesn’t have to be so arduous. Here are some steps you should be taking before meal planning to help you save money, avoid food waste, and feel like a homemaking superhero:
- Tidy up: Take a few minutes to chuck that expired milk and compost the rotten cucumber. Check the pantry for spills and stale crackers. Consolidate boxes and packaging.
- Inventory what you have: I cannot stress enough how essential this step is. Take a few moments to check what you already have in the house, jot those items down, and then plan your meals around these items first. For instance, those two frozen Italian sausage links in the freezer, box of penne in the pantry and the opened jar of sauce in the fridge you only needed a drop of the other day just turned into an entire meal!
- Check your calendar and consult family: There’s no use picking up gourmet ingredients for Thursday if your son needs to be at football practice that evening. Premade on-the-go sandwiches would be best for that kind of night. Check in with your family members and your calendar to see what nights would be best for fast eating and when you can dedicate more time to cooking.
- Check for coupons and sales: Yes, this practice does save money! And with inflation, saving a dollar here and there is more important than ever. Try to plan meals around sale items if possible.
- Eat something: It’s never a good idea to grocery shop when you’re hungry, but this can also be true for meal planning. Planning when you’re satiated can help you stay on task with healthy choices instead of meals you might be craving when your stomach is growling! When it’s time to head to the store, make sure you’ve eaten a meal and bring water and a snack!
Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re in charge of your shopping and spending, not the store! Take pride in the responsibility rather than feeling overwhelmed or hassled. Don’t let the store “remind” you of what you need with their sales and specials and your lack of being equipped! Instead, focus on the above tricks to stay in control of what you’re buying and why.
Meal planning, shopping, and cooking doesn’t have to be something to dread; it can actually be a very empowering thing if you are prepared!