Many of us struggle to stay within our grocery budget each month, but with a plan in place, it’s much easier. There’s no need to turn to extreme couponing, expensive budget software or recipes that are, frankly, so stingy they compromise on flavor.
The solution is much simpler, and though it will take time out of your Sunday afternoon, you’ll stay right on track with your financial goals. Here are some helpful tips to get you started in the fine art of meal planning.
Plan with the sales
The first step in successful meal planning is to take a look at upcoming sales. The Sunday edition of the newspaper is a great tool for this, as is the app Grocery Pal, which scans through the ads at your local grocery stores for deals. When you have an idea of what will be on sale next week, you’ll be better able to plan your meals around the most cost-effective ingredients.
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Now that you know what’s on sale, it’s time to plan your recipes. Sites like Supercook create personalized recipes based on the ingredients you plug in. This ensures you’re only relying on the ingredients you plan to buy and those you already have at home. You’ll also want to track which meals you plan to make and/or consume each day, either by writing on a physical calendar or by using an online tracker such as Pepperplate.
If you want to take it up a notch and plan monthly instead of weekly, consider working homemade freezer meals into the rotation. Either way, when it’s finally time to shop, be sure to organize your list by store, and save each store’s coupons in a separate envelope or bag.
While the previous tips will certainly save you time and money, the real key is to not throw food away. Food efficiency is an important factor in your meal planning strategy. Understand that you will typically be planning for the week, so don’t buy food you aren’t sure you’ll use within that time. Or, be ready to preserve it. Food waste can also be decreased by simply reorganizing your fridge so nothing ends up forgotten in the back.
This may seem like a ton of work, but when you’re struggling to keep to a budget or just want to cut down on monthly expenses, meal planning could be the solution you’ve been looking for. Take time this weekend to organize, check out sales and start planning!
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens or visit http://communityamerica.com.