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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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grocery budgeting  tips for meal planning

A little while ago we covered some basic ways to reduce your grocery budget by 30%.  Now that you’ve had two weeks to begin learning the drugstore systems and to focus on only grabbing deals that you’ll actually use… let’s tackle a little bit more of the budget.

I mentioned last time to plan your menu’s for the first weeks based off of sale items.  Once you have built your stockpile, you don’t have to focus your menus off the weekly ad anymore.  However, you will save more money if you still make menu plans.  Menu plans not only help you be less stressed during that crisis “what’s for dinner” moment, but they also keep our spending down.  I encourage you to spend the next two weeks thinking about meals.

A few tips to help you save with your meal plans:

Try to think of meals that can be made with the same meat.  If I can get a whole chicken on sale this week, then plan at least two meals if not three that can come out of one bird.

An Example:

Monday
Baked Chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans, salad

Tuesday
Chicken Enchiladas, Corn, salad

Then go one step further, save the bones from the chicken and use those to make your own chicken stock.  Either freeze this to use in a few weeks, or plan for later in the week to have homemade chicken soup.

Plan out your side dishes as well as your entrees.  Sides for us tend to be fresh vegetables, and salad.  If I don’t plan these with the meals two things happen.  First I tend to over buy in the grocery store, not thinking about how much we need.  This normally leads to waste when they go bad.  The second problem with unplanned sides is that I’ll forget what produce I did buy and then again it goes bad before it is used.

Plan all your meals, not just dinner.  I don’t want to make this feel incredibly stressful, but I do want you to at least put a little thought into lunch and breakfast as you plan.  In our house breakfast tends to be cereal every morning except for Saturday when we have pancakes.  If I put a few second to think through that and make sure we are good on cereal, milk, pancake mix and syrup then we at least start our days ready.  Sometimes it’s nice to splurge on grapefruits or a cantaloupe when they are in season too.  Planning lunches is really where some of us can save chunks of money.  Either plan to cook extra with your dinner to have leftovers, or go ahead and plan what you would like to eat each day.  A salad, a sandwich… whatever makes you happy.  Try to pick foods you know you will enjoy, so that you don’t hear your co-workers going to Moes and jump in on the trip!

Plan to only add one new recipe a week at first.  You’ll get too exhausted trying to be Martha Stewart right out of the gate, and your family may not like it as much as the trusty stand-by’s.

It’s okay to plan simple meals.  In case you didn’t know every house is messy and we aren’t all living in the pages of Southern Living.

Put your menu plan front and center in the kitchen.  This will help you stick with it!  I do want you to be flexible, but the easiest way to be flexible is to switch up what night to have each meal, not to throw the whole plan out.

To get you started here is our plan for this week.  We are trying to only eat out of the pantry in attempts to cut down on what needs to be packed (we are moving in two weeks).  Our meals are gluten free, so maybe that will help someone too.

Breakfast will be cereal, fruit, yogurt and muffins -lots and lots of muffins!

Lunches for the week will be soup, sandwiches and salad.  If we have leftovers, my husband usually wins out and eats that.

Monday

Crock Pot BBQ, corn on the cob, white rice
recipe (we won’t eat them on bread though)

Tuesday

Onion Soup Burgers, mashed potatoes, green beans

For burgers mix the following together and cook pan or broil.
1 lb ground beef
1 egg white
gluten free onion soup mix – recipe
worcestershire sauce (I never measure just some for taste)

Wednesday

Dinner at Church

Thursday

Pancake Night with fresh fruit
(our favorite gluten-free mix)

Friday

My husband’s birthday dinner out!  We will be tackling a gluten-free pound cake for the occasion though.

Saturday

Italian Chicken, rice, sauteed squash, salad

Baste chicken in Italian salad dressing.  Broil on high until done, add a slice of provolone cheese or any cheese really to the top and 1 minute broil until melted.

Sunday

Beef Roast, with potatoes, carrots and salad – gluten-free recipe

Okay now it’s your turn!   Give yourself a few minutes and plan out the week.  Not only will you save more money, but hopefully you’ll only need to go the store once too!

    • cakewalkingmother

      I’ve been doing this for about three years now and it is the reason I can save so well with coupons. I keep breakfasts, lunches, and snacks the same throughout the week and change only dinner meals. (We homeschool and I have a four and six year old)
      This actually works really well after the inital work/trial period. It gives me a stand-by grocery list, we waste less, I KNOW what’s for dinner:) & can look for exact coupons.
      Today is; pb bagels & hashbrowns, tomato soup, grilled cheese & popcorn, snack is cookies with grapes/raisins and dinner is sheperd’s pie, sauted mushrooms & crescents:)

      Great post.

      • Sarah

        I had shepherd’s pie for dinner too lol

    • Cindy

      I’m glad you did this post. I have been wanting to start meal planning to really save $$ but have felt overwhelmed just thinking about it. This post helps break it down. Thanks!

    • Janice

      Once you get going on this, make your life simpler by having some consistent meals. We always have pb&j for lunch on Mondays so that my children can pack their lunches, even if I don’t have the menu up. Also, we always have toast for Wednesday breakfast. Saturday breakfast and lunch are generally listed as “you pick”; I retain control of choices by having a “you pick” list posted on the fridge, otherwise they’d eat all the good stuff! :-) For years we did pizza every Friday night, until I realized that was costing extra money, because sometimes I had to pay full price for pizzas.

    • Janice

      Once you get going on this, make your life simpler by having some consistent meals. We always have pb&j for lunch on Mondays so that my children can pack their lunches, even if I don’t have the menu up. Also, we always have toast for Wednesday breakfast. Saturday breakfast and lunch are generally listed as “you pick”; I retain control of choices by having a “you pick” list posted on the fridge, otherwise they’d eat all the good stuff! :-) For years we did pizza every Friday night, until I realized that was costing extra money, because sometimes I had to pay full price for pizzas.

    • I usually already meal plan. I’ve been doing it for alittle over a year now, and it was really hard at first. I wish I was able to read this article back then, because I know about all the tips you’ve listed through old-fashioned trial and error! I really DO appreciate you posting this now, though, because I’m always looking for reminders and motivation to save as much on groceries as possible and stay on track. Thank you.

    • Janice

      Don’t be scared that menus give you no flexibility. I got to a point where I actually made my menus a month at a time (I could do that because I always shop the sales to stock my cupboards/ freezer, not to eat right then). However, there’s always the random Dr appt., meeting that ran late, etc. I compensated for that 2 ways. I might just flip 2 days menus (a quick or crockpot meal subbed for a more intensive meal). The second way is that I keep a list of simple “instant meals” in my head (canned soup; cheese toast; tunamelts) that I can make in under 5 minutes. I then just roll the meal I didn’t have time for into the next week, or a few days later if it was perishable. I’ve even been know to go ahead and make it the next day when I had time and throw it in the freezer for a day I wouldn’t have time to make it!

    • S Jones

      I use my iphone notes app to list my menu for the week after I read the sales circulars. It usually takes me about five days to accurately plan my menu for the week because I am scouting for coupons and the best deals, which are added daily. I usually buy groceries every Sunday and buy weekly sale items.

    • Lana

      I have planned meals for at least 15 years. I plan them on a wall calender. I do the whole month at once. If we do not use a meal I circle it and then just move it forward to the next month. I do not throw out the previous years calender as I use it s a cheat sheet. It is so easy to just look back and get ideas for more menus. If I try a new recipe that we do not like I cross it out on the calender so that I remember not to make it again. The reason that I meal plan is so that I can thaw out meat in the refrigerator in advance and so that I can avoid the 4 PM what’s for dinner question.

    • natalie

      Jenny, are you still going to post sometime on your big plans for your BBQ sauce? :-) I have lo ts too!

      • Janice

        -bbq lentils (only way some of my children eat lentils w/o complaining)
        -bl/sl chicken breast with swiss cheese and bbq sauce
        -crockpot pork bbq
        -bbq on the grill
        -sauce over salmon (old Publix recipe using old english cheese to stuff salmon)
        -mixed w/ mayo as dip for sweet potato fries
        -sauce for little smokies (REALLY good with the cheese ones)
        :-)

      • lil A’s mom

        i had the same question, natalie!

    • Sarah

      I am a newlywed and I have learned that by planning out the menu for the month it keeps me and my husband from going out to eat or grabbing a frozen dinner when we get hungry. I was able to do this easy with the dry erase calender I got 90% off at CVS in November. It has really helped us to stay on budget :) and like others have stated before you can have flexibility with the meal planner if I decide I want something else instead of what is planned for the day all I have to do is switch days with another meal no need in remaking or wasting a whole planned month which is another reason why the dry erase calender is awesome!

    • SaraJ

      Great tips, thanks Jenny! We plan out weekly menus as well. We often pick meals based on cheese and vegetable deals since you can’t stock up on those too far in advance easily and reach into the cabinets and deep freezer for all the ingredients were able to stock up on. With a small family of 3 we also have the luxury of making almost every meal big enough to be eaten another night as leftovers. That really helps planning when we know either my husband or I will work late or helps us plan which days are best for squeezing in workouts after work.

    • Tracy

      Thank you for the gluten free ideas, Jenny. We just started eating this way, so I’m a little overwhelmed with trying to think of new foods to make that will satisfy everyone. You have given me a few new ideas – and helped me figure out how I can plan better. Thank you!

    • Barbara

      For anyone who just doesn’t have the time or desire to plan your menus, there is a great website that will do it for you. Lots of different options..I’ve been thinking about signing up only my family is so picky, I’m not sure if it would work out for us. It gives you a shopping list and all the recipes for each menu plan as well and highlights what is on sale in your area. It is called emeals and costs less than $5 a month if you go to retail me not dot com and get a disount code. Hope this helps someone!

    • CC

      I have been putting off starting my meal planning, but you have inspired me to start it now. Maybe just a week at a time for now. Thanks!!

    • lil A’s mom

      thank you jenny! you are a really neat person and I love reading how you make your everyday life run smoothly and still save money. thanks for sharing :)

    • Couponnana

      Thanks for all the GF ideas!!!

    • Jennifer Mark

      Good calender planning for meal budgeting. I am pretty much impressed with the same. But lets think the other way, if the the expense comes to the action in some other perspective, then the budgeting may differ or vary in the instance.

      Being a busy home maker striving all the way for a better saving in my house hols, I personally use Replicon’s expense reporting software ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/expense-reports.aspx ) for making the expenses in absolute control which ultimately speaks up for the better for a expense module.