I recently read a newspaper article indicating that more families are choosing to save money by cooking at home VS eating out. Along with rising grocery costs, rampant obesity and poor nutrition, a plan is definitely needed. The plan should include: a weekly dinner menu, a smart shopping list, and whatever it takes to fill your pantry without having to take out a loan for the grocery tab! You will be amazed at how much money can be saved by not eating out several times a week. Eating out, for a family of four, could be equal to ½ or more of your weekly grocery costs if you chose to dine at home. To say nothing of the importance of eating together where family conversation and no electronic devices prevail. I have also read, several times, that when families eat dinner at home, around the dining table, students’ test scores improve. Now that is well worth a plan!
Here are a few ideas for YOUR plan:
1. The first step in planning is a weekly menu. Look at your busy schedule of work, errands, appointments, kids’ after school activities and decide on which days you will need to plan:
- An easy prep meal after arriving home from a “crazy” busy day.
- A slow cooker meal with dinner waiting for you after a busy day out.
- Or, one of my favorites, using re-runs (leftovers) for a quick fix meal.
By the way…ask your family what they want to eat and/or help to prepare. If they are not interested in cooking or are too young….they can set and clear the table. And help put things away after dinner.
2. Create a shopping list. Check to see what is lurking in your freezer for future meals, and to keep from buying (yet another) “value pack” of chicken thighs because the price was right…. when you already have two in the freezer. Check the cupboards also so you won’t be tempted to fill your cart with more (10 for 10) cans of soup, veggies, rice mixes, etc. because you cannot remember what you have at home.
3. Stay focused in the market. Now that you have a list you more likely to stay on target and eliminate strolling down a lane where you do not need anything or to be tempted by another “sale” item you do NOT need. Remind yourself that this planned list is to help lower your skyrocketing grocery costs. Shopping just a weekly also helps to eliminate that ‘quick stop at the market after work for a couple items” which can really add up. Typical: You stop for milk and walk out with $35.00 worth of other items you do not need…. but are so tempting, especially if you are hungry.
Which brings me to suggesting that you also never shop hungry. Because everything looks good and there goes your plan for saving money. Hmmm? Have you noticed that the dairy case is usually at the rear of the store? For good reason, you must pass through “luring aisles” to get you to the milk. More temptations and costs lurking there!
4. More money saving ideas:
- Try the store brand products, which are usually cheaper and many times as good as the name brands. Worse case scenario…you go back to your favorite name brand. Best-case scenario…you are saving more money.
- Scan the weekly newspaper want ads for your store, which could influence your meal planning and can also help save money. Consider checking out the weekly drug store ads for store food items. Be careful shopping at more than one store considering the cost of gas! However, if the second store is on the way to your major shopping store go for it.
- Use coupons cautiously. Most stores no longer double coupon values. If manufacturers brand coupon is for an item that will cost more, even with the coupon, than the store brand you may want to consider not using that coupon.
- Shop for seasonal items to save money and to get the freshest produce, etc. Many times they are packed in larger quantities such as bags of onions, oranges, apples, avocados, etc. Be careful when buying in quantities that may not be used before they are no longer good. A definite money waster!
The same goes for shopping at the mega stores where quantity can be a money saver, but not always realistic according to your family’s consumption or use. A huge box of laundry detergent…great! A huge bag of red onions…may not be so good! Realistic thinking and planning is key here. Product wasted is money wasted.
I hope these tips will help to lower your grocery expenses…. it has for me.
See you at the market…..with our list in hand.
© Ann Gambrell July 2013