This week, I’m starting a series on meal planning and how I save money on groceries. I thought it would be helpful to provide some tips on how to do this. Really being strategic about planning out a weekly menu, shopping with a list and managing leftovers can seriously save money on groceries. When you consider that the big 3 household expenditures are housing, transportation and food, learning how to better manage your kitchen is a great money saving opportunity. Of course, it’s not all about money. Just think of how much healthier food you prepare at home can be for your family. For much less than going out to eat, you can put whole, nutritious foods on your table that will be a benefit to everyone.
This is part one of an ongoing series of our weekly meal plan and grocery shopping trip. Each week, I’ll provide you with a daily meal plan and grand total spent.
Of Food Budgets And Success
I feel really good about our meal plan this week. As the picture shows, shopping frugally doesn’t mean going without or eating Ramen and Spaghetti O’s. Rather, I’ve found great deals on nutritious whole foods for the week. I was able to pick up a few extra items for later that were marked down without going over the budget. How exciting!
The Leftovers Dilemma
Using all your food is the most budget friendly option, but coming up with creative ideas for how to do that can be challenging. I don’t think anyone likes eating the same thing for days; I certainly don’t. One way to avoid this is to freeze individual portions for later meals. Another way is to recreate your leftovers into something tasty and appealing you can eat right away. That’s exactly what I did to transform our hummus and veggies into a satisfying veggie hummus wrap.
Meatless Meals Save Money
Adding a few vegetarian dinners into your weekly meal plan is a great way to reduce food costs. I’ve found many delicious meatless options that are healthy and cheap. Bonus – they are excellent to eat the next day for lunch. Today, I’m making vegetarian burrito bowls and, with a little planning ahead, they are so easy to make. Crockpot, you are my favorite kitchen appliance! I use this little one, a real bargain at $9. It’s much more energy-efficient than my gas range and I don’t have to babysit the pot!
Meal Planning And Soup Making
It just so happens that I’m checking my pantry and freezer while making a grocery list today. I’ve found quite a few great meals, including a yummy soup for today.This is yet another proclamation for my love of soup on wintery days. Today, Boulder is expecting 10inches of snow and I find myself lucky enough to have the day off. That means I can look out the window and exclaim, “oh how pretty the snow is,” without having to deal with driving in it. It also means I’m craving a warm bowl of homemade soupy goodness.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to save more money (and pay off debt). For us, this pursuit began in August rather than January. Calculating how much you spend in a give month on eating out is a really beneficial exercise if this is a goal for you as well. That’s exactly what we did when we made the decision to get serious about our finances.
Put Those Overripe Bananas To Good Use
It’s so easy to let fresh fruit get away from you. You turn around and suddenly those perfect, yellow bananas you bought earlier in the week have now become mushy and brown. How does that happen so quickly? Part of being frugal when it comes to groceries is using up everything you buy. You worked hard for that money: don’t waste it!
Leftover Bits Transformed
As usual, my boys returned from school hungry and ready for a second lunch. Making creative snacks is a great way to use up leftovers – not to mention get your kids to eat a healthy snack. A Panini is just one way to put all those little bits and pieces from other meals to good use. After making a quick search of the refrigerator, I found the makings for a tasty panini.
Positive New Year’s Resolutions
Each January, most people make New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, get in shape, save money, and so on. I think reflecting on your past year is a great way to add direction to your life in the coming one. It’s easy to beat yourself up over the things you didn’t do so well at. Instead of reflecting on the negative, I’m choosing to remind myself of goals I made the year before; what I did well, and what needs improvement. This seems like a healthier way to handle New Year’s resolutions. I recognize that I’m not perfect, but there are areas that I feel really proud of. I want to continue to build upon those and gain encouragement to do better on the rest.
What’s Your New Year’s Word?
I’ve read quite a few articles recently on choosing a word, kind of like a theme, for the coming year. Give your New Year’s resolution a name. I think this is a great way to focus on the ‘flavor’ you want the new year to have. Maybe if getting into shape is your goal, strength would be your word. If saving is your thing, frugal or discipline are good choices. I think my word for this year is going to be Intentionality. As I look back on my goals for last year, I feel really encouraged about what I’ve accomplished. Rather than create new resolutions, I want to continue on with the ones I chose last year. To do this, I see that I need to be very intentional about my attitudes and choices. So, My New Year’s resolution is to follow the path I started this time last year because it is bringing me closer to the life I want.
Tiny Steps To Big Goals
Goals are funny things; each day is made up of hundreds of seemingly harmless choices that can make or break your path to reaching them. Realizing this shouldn’t fill your heart with indecisiveness or fear about making choices, but rather, encourage you that each good one brings you closer to your chosen goal. It’s like that saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This attitude can make achieving what you want so much more attainable. Small, intentional choices along the way make change seem less overwhelming. I’ll give you some examples from my life…
I have written quite a bit about being frugal and living simply. The reason behind this is a goal my husband and I have made to get out of debt and save more. Being successful at this means more options and freedom for the life we’re aiming to create. This goal is an admission that we’ve been far from perfect in our financial choices. Rather than focus on the negative here, I am choosing to follow a different thought process: I’m thankful that we realized at a relatively young age that we needed to change in order to reach our goals. A positive focus can make the journey joyful rather than penitent.
More on our journey to financial freedom later.
Live And Learn
For now, I want to encourage you to celebrate what you did well last year. Don’t ignore your shortcomings by any means; our failures are excellent teachers when we look at them honestly. Look at the good, bad and ugly. Then, decide where you want to end up. You can’t begin or finish a journey unless you map the route. What will your path be this year? What daily choices can help you make each step? Once you identify your destination, try to focus on what you need to do today to get there. Focusing on today rather than the whole year will make each day an accomplishment.
Freezer Meal Planning
The festive lights along the railing are chilly and snow-covered. Its cold outside, but I’ve been busy inside trying to find ways to frugalize the grocery budget during the holidays. With a little imagination and a well-stocked freezer, our bellies are full and our Christmas budget is going further. A very merry occasion indeed!
When you have a family, buying groceries anytime of year is expensive. This is even more true during the holidays. Even if you’re a frugal shopper like me, all those special holiday meals and snacks increase the old grocery bill (and maybe your midsection). I’ve found a great way to combat this – plan meals out of the freezer and pantry for a week or more. This is a good idea anyway because 1) it allows you to clean out the clutter and use up things that may have been waiting around for a while to be eaten and 2) it saves you a ton on groceries.
A Well-Stocked Freezer Save You Big-time!
I like to shop sales and stock up on things even if I won’t use them right away. For example, when meat goes on sale, I will buy extra and put it in the freezer for later. This allows me to buy at the cheapest price and skip it when its more expensive. This is true of other foods too and my pantry is full of great things. Last week, I decided to put these goodies to good use. I carefully went through my pantry and freezer, planning meals around what I had. I couldn’t get away from shopping completely, but I didn’t need much. My last post was an admission to being a bulk food hoarder, which provided quite a bit for my n0-grocery-shopping-week(s).
Drumroll For The Freezer Challenge Menu
Below is a list of what I came up with. As you’ll see, we aren’t going hungry. In fact, we’re eating really good meals. Not too shabby if I do say so myself!
- Pork chops with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables
- Spit pea soup and bread
- Lasagna and salad
- Chicken enchiladas, rice and beans
- Moroccan chickpea stew and pita bread
- Beef roast, mashed potatoes and green beans
- fettuccine alfredo with frozen peas and shrimp
- White chicken chili
- Spaghetti with Italian sausage and antipasto
- Pinto bean soup and cornbread
- Tamales with rice and beans
- Roasted salmon, carrots and roasted potatoes
- Chicken and dumplings
- Cuban black beans and rice
I have 14 meals planned out of mostly what I had left in my crisper, pantry and freezer! I could easily add a few more things, but that would require a more extensive shopping trip for some fresh things. Notice that some are vegetarian dishes. The best part of these meals is that I’m getting more than a single pass on some of them. Quite a few provided tasty leftovers for lunches and leftover dinner nights. Yah for not having to cook every night! So I actually have more than 14 meals here.
I have 3 teenage boys at home along with myself and my husband. Our grocery bill can easily total $170, and that’s if I’m being really careful. That means these meals are “saving” us about $340 over the next two weeks. Of course, the ingredients had to be purchased at some point, but instead of full price, I got them on sale. This is really helpful to making our Christmas budget go further.
I Challenge You To A Frugal Food Duel!
I challenge you to see how creative you can be with meals by using what you already have. When you start digging through the dark recesses of your freezer and pantry, it will be surprising how much is there! I was able to do really well and there were no sad meals of spaghetti O’s or ramen. We had lots of great protein, legumes and vegetables. I should mention that I had a delicious stash of granny smith apples too. I paid a whopping 88 cents per pound for them. Granny smith apples always seem to keep forever without getting mealy. They’re great if you want to buy fruit in advance when on sale. So, no worries, we have plenty of vitamin C and not a hint of scurvy!
Let me know what you come up with!
The Bulk Force Is Strong With Me
I recently cleaned out my pantry. Apparently, I have a serious problem with buying too much in the bulk department. For example, I get really excited when rice goes on sale 2 pounds for a buck and I just can’t help myself! What can I say – I don’t get out enough! I was admittedly a little freaked out to discover my food-hoarding tendencies (as evidenced by the photos below). It’s all good though because, on a positive note, I found a goldmine in my pantry that can be used to slim down the grocery bill for the next few months.
I’ve since given myself a stern talking to and will NOT be buying anything else of that nature unless I am out and need it right away. Never fear though – all those dry goods will last a long time.
Bulk Foods Are A Frugal Win!
Buying food in the bulk department of my grocery store makes me happy. I cook most everything from scratch, which is already mega-cheap, but its even better when I can get ingredients on sale. When things do go on sale in that department, I take full advantage and stock up. You can get tons of tasty and nutritious things this way; dried beans, rice, baking supplies and nuts. It’s a great way to lower your grocery bill and have nutritious foods on hand.
Planning Meals Saves Money
To conquer this mess, I broke out my mason jars. I just absolutely love these things. They are so useful, cheap and pretty! How could you not love them? I now have all my dried beans, rice, nuts, and grains housed handily in these beauties. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit the baking supplies, such as sugar and flour in them. These items will stay in their bags until I can use them. I cook so much, freshness shouldn’t be an issue. The before picture is below. (I conveniently posted the tidied-up version at the beginning of the post).
This got me thinking that cleaning out your freezer and pantry is a great thing to do periodically. I mean, seriously, it’s so stinking easy to lose track of whats way in the back. When did I buy those tamales? Where did this roast come from? What IS that? I usually go through my fridge pretty often when I’m planning my menu for the week. The pantry and freezer get a glance as well, but from here on out, I will be doing a more thorough search and rescue mission before menu planning.
I’ve been saving quite a bit on our grocery bill since by planning meals using these recovered items. Lets just say it will be quite some time before I need rice or beans. Please organize an intervention if I deviate from this plan during the next few months!
This post has gotten me thinking about how many meals I could potentially make with all this stuff. Plus – I haven’t even gone through the freezer! I may not shop for months! Look for the menu plan in my next post!