For the longest time, I did meal planning monthly. I noticed that the fewer times I went to the grocery store each month, the less I spent. I am so bad about grabbing things NOT on my list because they are on sale or because they just look good (usually the latter)! So I would plan all of our meals for the entire month and do my grocery shopping the first and third weeks of the month. On my first trip, I’d get all of the dry and non-perishables for the month plus fresh foods for the first two weeks and on my second trip I’d get fresh foods for the last two weeks of the month.
That worked really well for a while. In fact, it continued to work well for the way I was using the system. But the way I was budgeting, planning, and buying groceries had changed over time. I went from planning meals based on what we like and what sounded good to planning meals based on a combination of those things and how much money I had to spend. I also got really good at only looking at my list and not making impulse buys, which I think is because I also started buying groceries with actual cash instead of using a credit card or debit card.
I also started paying closer attention to weekly ads and I couldn’t help but notice that often times my monthly meal plan did not allow me to take advantage of weekly sales.
I tried watching the sales and shopping for sale items for the next months meal plan and then planning our next month’s meals around that, but it just wasn’t working out.
So now I am planning one week at a time and shopping weekly. I actually stock up on several items at Costco, so I do still tend to plan meals around meats and other items we have on hand. And if something is really on sale, I’ll get a few to keep in the pantry.
This has led me to doing a much better job of shopping my pantry FIRST, which has led me to change the way I meal plan. The first thing I do is scan the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator and write down all of the things I want to use that week. Then I look through ads and circle things that are on sale that I might want to incorporate into our meal plan. I’ve been doing this for 2 months now and I’ve shrunk our grocery budget by 25%!
I created a simple meal planner that helps me do all of this on one sheet of paper. It is clean and simple (which I love) and most of all, functional. I hope you find it useful too!
Click here to download: Weekly Meal Planner
Linked up at: Thrifty Thursday.