Posted: April 28, 2011 Filed under: meal planning budget
Cooking is quite possibly one of my favorite things to do. If I could make lobster omelets and guacamole everyday, I would, but unfortunately, sometimes food is big bucks ($$). As a current intern (intern = work for free), I try and keep our grocery bill as tiny as possible, while still making our meals as yummy as possible. Unfortunately, I did none of this before I started working for free in January, but since then, I have learned a bunch I thought I’d share, because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to save money!!
Step #1: I meal plan. I sort of did this before, but never really stuck to it. I tried several times to make meal lists every week, but I never stuck to them. I figured out finally what I was doing wrong. Basically, I was planning meal for every week (Monday:Lasagna, Tuesday: Corn Chowder), but then things would come up, and I’d never stick to it. Since then I have developed a better plan. I grocery shop usually on Thursday or Fridays, since those are my lighter days. So before I go, I look at the flyers online to see what’s on-sale. Then, I plan lightly, so that I have the number of meals I need (I no longer account for the one day I have school late, and just plan for leftovers that day now), but I do not plan for the specific days. Here’s an example:
Those aren’t the specific days we’ll eat something (for instance, we probably won’t eat pasta 2x in a row), but we can pick and choose what we’re in the mood for, and I don’t have to brainstorm what’s in the house. It works for us!
Step #2: The grocery stores. The biggest way I save $$ is by meal planning and not having to stop at the grocery store mid week. I can’t tell you how many times I used to be in the mood for something on the way home, and then stop and pick up $20 worth of stuff to make salsa and totally ruin my budget. Now, I’ve gotten used to just using what we have to make dinners. It really doesn’t make a difference in the long run and is delicious. I like to do my grocery shopping on Thursdays or Fridays because that’s when my grocery store sales start. Sometimes, but not often, they will run out of things. I usually try to go to only 1 store a week, but at times, for a really good deal, I will go to more than one.
Step #3: Coupons. I am seriously amazed and overwhelmed at the amount of coupons and the information available online. I use smartsource
, but don’t go crazy with them. I probably go on every other week and clip things that I would use. At first, I only clipped things I was sure I would use, but I have learned now that if I do buy the brand, clip it, because the coupons do run out, and you could miss out on a really good deal. Here’s an example:
A while ago, I saw a kraft singles coupon online. I buy whatever brand is on sale for this, but packaged cheese is expensive, and I usually buy whatever is cheapest. However, since I thought there was a slight chance I might need it in the future, I printed two. I’m glad I did! Because this week, as I looked in the shoprite flyer, I saw that this cheese, regularly like $2.99 was on sale for $1.69. The coupon I had was $0.75 off one package, and since shoprite doubles coupons under $1, it took $1.25 off each, and I got them for $0.45 each!!! Wowzer!! I get so excited about deals like this. I probably have to buy one package a month or so for our house, and it doesn’t expire until August, so this will definitely be used up!
Step #4: Website deals. Sometimes I feel like this is such a great deal, it is wrong. Seriously. I also can’t believe I haven’t been tapping into this resource my whole adult life. There are some amazingly useful websites there that will tell you:
- a weekly breakdown of what is on sale at major grocery stores
- daily and weekly online coupons you can print
- a weekly breakdown of how to score BIG deals with on sale items, when using internet and mailed coupons
- free stuff on the internet, as well as samples
I think it really depends on where you live as to the sites that will be most available to you, but here is what is in my google reader:
I have been able to score tons of free stuff with these. They will tell you for instance, that if you print a $1.50 off coupon for cooking creme, it is on sale at Big Y this week for $1.50. That means it’s free!!
I hope this information helps somebody. Let me know what kind of deals you score!!