Have you ever dropped a ton of money at the grocery store, only to find that there is nothing to make for dinner a few days later? Or have you ever bought great produce but had to throw it away at the end of the week because you forgot it was there?
It’s so frustrating to waste money at the grocery store. In an economy where food inflation is becoming a very real concern, I’m paying more attention to what I spend now than ever before. So I’ve thrown my love for spontaneous grocery shopping to the wayside—it’s my favorite hobby!—and now I create a game plan before I even walk into the store. Here’s how I’ve managed to save over $200 a month on my grocery bill:
- Create a menu plan. Each week, I check our calendar for events and figure out how many nights we’ll be home for dinner. (Hold off on breakfast, lunch, and snacks for a minute.)
- Start a shopping list. I write down the ingredients for my dinner recipes first. Then I look to see if there will be any leftover ingredients that can be used for lunches or breakfasts. (Eggs, cheese, tortillas, bread, and extra veggies are ingredients that I can use for other meals.)
- Complete the menu plan with lunch and breakfast ideas. Of course you don’t need to stick to this exactly, but at least you now have an idea of what else you need. I finish off my plan with snacks, drinks, and any other foods I might need.
- Double check the pantry and fridge to make sure you don’t already have any of the items on your list.
- Assign a price to each item on your list. By writing down an approximate price, you won’t be blindsided when you walk into the store. The first time I tried it, I had no idea what things cost. But as I walked the store and found the real cost of things, the prices stuck with me. Now when I make my list and my budget, I actually know what things cost and I’m not surprised when I go through the checkout.
As you begin to understand the real cost of food, this entire process becomes very quick and easy. Before I ever set foot in the store, I have an idea of what I should be spending. And if I’ve created a menu plan that turns out to be too expensive, I replace a few pricey recipes with less expensive ones. By spending 30 minutes up front on the planning process, I’m able to buy higher quality ingredients for my family while sticking to a budget.
Amanda Haas is a cookbook author, teacher, cooking video host, and the founder of One Family One Meal, a website that helps families menu plan, grocery shop, and cook on a budget. She's also on Twitter and Facebook.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.