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Why I don’t shop for groceries with a meal plan
Shopping for groceries and cooking at home are two regular tips I mention a lot here. And while I love to meal plan, my shopping never includes one.
You might ask why a frugal blogger wouldn’t meal plan before shopping. After all, so many people do and they save a lot of money doing it. And I tried this method before and it did save me money at the beginning of my journey. But I found a better way that saves me even more money than using my meal’s ingredients as my shopping list.
It’s not that I don’t think it’s an effective way to stay on track with cooking at home and it definitely saves you money from week to week.
When I analyzed my food budget, there was one common things that tripped me up from week to week. Shopping using my meal plan caused me to spend more money than I budgeted.
Because my meal plan didn’t take into account current prices of my ingredients. So, I had to change my method. Here’s what I came up with.
This is what I do prior to my shopping trip.
- Check out your grocery store’s weekly ad to find out the deals going on for the week
- Make a list of my stock up items- things that are at a really good price that I could stockpile for at least 6 weeks, so I’ll have enough on hand until the items comes back on sale
- Write down my regular produce and dairy items I get on a weekly or bi-weekly basis
- Go to 2-3 stores to pick up the items
Checking out my weekly Ads:
This is something my mom taught me. Not in the way that she sat me down and told me how to do it, but I watched her do it every week. In fact, my mom and her sisters would include the weekly deals in their phone conversations!
Every time one of them would find a deal somewhere, she would make sure to call all 4 sisters and let them know, in case they missed it in their browse, haha. Come to think of it, I do this with my mom, cousins, and friends now. I guess I want to make sure that my close people know where the deals are, haha.
It’s a good idea to check out weekly ads because you can see which grocery stores have the best deals. Often enough, you’ll see a trend or pattern between all of them. Usually, the same items are on sale at more than one store and they’re all competing to get your dollar, so it makes it even easier to get the best price.
Why the “stocking up” method works better.
There are a number of reasons I leave meal planning off of my method and why it works so well in saving me even more money than if I meal planned.
- I shop to stock up. My primary reason for shopping the sales is to stock up on items so I always have what I need in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.
- Meal planning limits what I buy. With meal planning I’m restricted to buy only what I will use this week, so I could potentially miss out on really good deals if I make myself stick to my ingredients list of the week.
- The items might be more expensive. If I meal plan as my way of making my shopping list, I’m not taking into account the sales for that week. So, I might buy items at a higher price. And while this will probably still be cheaper than eating out, there’s a better way to get the most bang for your buck.
Let’s break down it even further
Shopping purely for items that are on sale allows me to stock up at the cheapest price possible. It also allows me to stockpile all of my necessities throughout the month. For example, if lean ground beef is on sale at $2.79 per lb. I may but 20 pounds and ask the butcher to split them into meal size portions, for us that’s about 1-1.5 pounds per meal. I do the same with eggs, flour, rice, sliced bread, and anything else we use regularly.
This way, I’m getting the best price and use those items in weeks to come. I’m not frazzled having to go for ingredients I don’t have just because my meal plans calls for it. I’m not wasting food because I buy an item that I only need half of to make my meal. I buy food that I could use for multiple meals. I also try to use up all the fruit and provide BEFORE I make my next shopping trip.
It becomes a Habit
It forces me to meal plan according to my stock and helps me keep my food waste way down, saving me a lot of money in the long run. And when I actually sit down to meal prep, I’m using my stockpile to determine what we’ll eat for the week. I pantry shop and shop my freezer for meats we have on hand and make my meals based on what we have in hand for the next few weeks.
As a result, my meals come out to much less cost per person than if I had just planned the meals and went out to buy the ingredients needed. I get to take more advantage of the sales and I save more money.
To me, this is more efficient and works really well for my lifestyle. This is the way my mom and grandma cooked. They’d look in their pantry and fridge, grab a bunch of things they had on hand, and they’d whip up a meal daily. Since I’m a working mom, I can’t wing it daily, so I use the same concept, but plan it out a week ahead. At least I try to for 4-5 days of the week. Weekends are all fair play, breakfast for dinner, take out dinner, or the hubs bbq’s.
I know meal planning works, and I’m not saying that it isn’t a money saver at the grocery store. It definitely beats going in without a list. But I think my method can help you save even more money. It also saves you time from scrambling for special ingredients that may not be on sale during that week.
I hope you’ll try out my method this month and see for yourself how much easier your meal planning becomes.
What’s your trick for saving money on your food budget? Do you meal plan, stick pile? Both?
I’d love to hear from you!