As I speak to women about saving money, research latest trends, and listen to all the feedback you wonderful ladies give in the comments (hint, hint), I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to state that meal planning and grocery shopping are two areas with which most women struggle.
But guess what?
Those areas are the easiest and most effective way to see immediate results in lowering your monthly budget.
Now take a deep breath. I am not going to recommend taking on an outlandish challenge like spending $100/month on groceries or just $25 last week. 🙂 What crazy mom does that, but I am going to share my #1 Grocery Guru Money Saving Tip which doesn’t require clipping even one coupon.
(I know many of you are standing and applauding now since you haven’t quite gotten into the groove of thinking coupons are worth the hassle.)
Completely shift how you think about planning a meal.
Instead of asking hubby what he wants for dinner that week or writing out your weekly/monthly meal plan (in my dream life), and then shopping for those recipes, shop the circular ads first and stock up on sale items – then plan your meals.
I know, it’s a rather simplistic technique really, but many of us are not utilizing the easiest way to reduce our food budget….shop, then plan.
This is how I am making the Pantry Challenge work day in and day out. This is how our family can go for an entire month only $100 for the month, and you know what…we may do this for another month it’s that successful.
But it also means a little delayed gratification (ok…a LOT of delayed gratification). The kids may be clambering for lasagna, but your fridge/freezer check reveal that the ground beef is gone and the mozzarella is non existent. Here’s where you begin to save money. Do NOT go out and buy ground beef, cheese or can of tomatoes at the full retail price. These items will go on sale within a week or two, and that’s when you incorporate it into the menu.
Does that make sense? Now don’t worry, once you get the hang of it, you won’t get caught without meat and cheese because you continue to replenish those items every time they are on sale.
If you’re a really savvy shopper, you can take the weekly sales ads the first day they come out and plan your menu, but that is too much work for me. Since I consistently am shopping ahead for a few weeks, I have enough to draw on for my menu planning.
I do not impulse shop EVER in the grocery store. (Now the thrift store, that’s a whole different confession. 🙂 )
Shifting how you think about grocery shopping saves thousands of dollars in the long run.
Ladies, you can do this. We can do it together. Once you get the hang of this step, then we’ll add in the coupons, and you too will begin shopping “for free.”
But right now, first things first. Deal? 🙂 (One of our biggest struggles during this Pantry challenge has been snacks…here’s my best snack sensation.)
So what works for you?
What is your #1 Money Saving Tip?
I have shopped like this for years…my grandfather taught me this. Unfortunately, I do not stick to it as stringently as he did…In other words, I will have some items in my cart that are not on sale. It’s great to get an item on sale and then have a coupon that can be doubled. You’ll feel like you won the lottery.
I have to admit that I tend to flip through recipe books, decide what looks yummy and then shop. I really should shop first, it would save money for sure!
Yes! I actually started doing this with meat a while back – I see what’s on sale (or the cheapest) and buy that. If it’s a really good sale I buy as much as I can! And when I got 15 pounds of ground beef a couple months ago (at 99 cents/pound- amazing for my small, small town) I cooked and froze most of it and LOVED having easy, fast, cheap meals at my finger tips! But I still wish I could get in on the coupons the way you talk about them, but … there’s no paper here with coupons in it, and no big chain grocery stores that do double coupons, so what do I do?
Great advice. I do this off and on, and when I do, I definitely see the the savings.
Good advice. I’ve shopped and planned my meals like that in the past. Now I shop at stores and farmer’s markets that don’t really offer rock bottom sales and loss leaders like you would see in a conventional grocery store. I keep grocery spending down by planning meals with simple and whole ingredients and eating several meatless meals a week. My goal for this year is to also build up a stockpile of organic dried goods (beans, lentils, rice, etc.) to help with savings as well.
This is a great tip. And I AM feeling inspired … I don’t think I can match your $25 a week challenge, but I was caught lingering at our clearance food table yesterday in the store. 😉 I will listen and learn and grow as I use what’s in my pantry and freezer. Thanks!
Love your tips! I linked. ~Lanie
I couldn’t agree more. I am *about to post about this very idea on my blog because I am so excited how much this has saved us in the last three months.
*as in the next week or two as I get around to it!
This is really good advice. It’s what I used to do and then got away from it when my daughter went off to university. Being here by myself most of the time I got into the habit of just going to the store and buying whatever struck my fancy at the time, no matter the cost but even then I would get home and waste much of it because then I was no longer in the mood for it. Now my plan is to shop the sales and put away what I can in single servings in the freezer – I’ll save money AND I’ll have what I want right there when I DO crave it.
I actually plan our upcoming weeks meals from the pantry and freezer so that I am using what we already have and don’t “have to” purchase anything from the store for that menu. Then, I shop to stockpile for upcoming weeks. This way I never have to pay full price for anything.
well… unless of course the pregnancy cravings begin to take over and I send my poor hubby to the store for some strangely flavored chips that I would have never eaten otherwise.
Okay, I know, too much info. 🙂
Thanks for hosting Tasty Tuesday and for the shopping tip. Best wishes in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge.
Those are great tips! I do 90% of my shopping at Aldi’s, so I usually buy the same items week to week, but I do need to look at the sale flyers more often for meat sales.
Thanks for hosting!
Umm, I’m going to say it every time so hope you don’t get sick of hearing it. Thanks for the post, great advice and I always learn when I click on your blog. 🙂
Also thanks for showing up for my linky party. 🙂
Sidenote: I’m homeschooling Kade again…so excited about it. 🙂
Well actually I do plan meals have been doing it a while now and I also chip coupons but I don’t do the grocery shopping my husband does says he does it better than me, may be so. But the one thing we do want to do is to lower our grocery bill and stock our extra panty. So your idea of shop the circular ads first and stock up on sale items – then plan your meals is what our family needs to do, will start on that ASAP. Thanks a bunch!
Yes. But even better than the advertised sales are the Markdown Specials. Today, I bought
* Organic ground beef — half-off.
* Natural ground beef — half off.
* Name-brand pantyhose marked down to $0.80/pair. (originally $4.79/pair)
* Kroger-brand meatloaf marked down to $1.99 — about 2 lbs for each meatloaf.
* Clam chowder pouches (each pouch makes 24 oz), for $0.99
So, this week’s menu now includes clam chowder; meatloaf; and sloppy Joes, all bought on markdown.
Hi Jen! I’ve been enjoying your blog since I saw your vlog on making 4 meals in 4 minutes! I forgot to write my recipe name next to my name so I have two entries above–could you please delete #56? I’m sorry for the mistake!
Thank you so much for hosting, and for all of your amazing frugal idea’s!
Great shopping tip!
1st time linking – thanks for hosting such a great way to see so many different cooking ideas!
This is pretty much what I do, too. I also keep a stock of frozen chicken and hamburger (usually precooked and portioned), so I can come up with a number of menu options at any time using what I have on hand. Saving $$$ at the grocery store has been my lifestyle for years! You are doing a great job helping others learn these valuable skills. Blessings!
I am so glad you’re doing this in baby steps…because i so need baby steps. I don’t have nay wonderful recipes to share today, but as I was shopping the “reduced for quick sale” breads…I thought of you today.
Totally how my mom taught me to shop. I don’t always do that, but she still takes all the circulars and goes to each grocery store, buying the best deals.
You know…I used to do just that. I’d try to menu plan around the circulars. Then I got lazy. Thanks for the reminder…I really need to go through the sales flyers again.
I keep an eye on the sales to plan my menus also. We live a bit in the boonies (kind of like you, maybe?), so sometimes I have find myself buying non-sale items just to avoid another trip into town. I figure it saves me on gas money!
We’ve started making a switch to local/organic/whole foods, which can be a challenge on a tight budget. We’ve found a local source for free range eggs and pasture raised beef – both a bargain prices, compared to the grocery store. I’ve found that just by asking around, I can learn about new sources. I’ve found some small, local groceries that offer some real deals.
My favorite ‘recipe’ when we clean out the pantry is what we call kitchen sink soup 🙂 It’s like the ‘campfire soup’ I would make as a girl scout (Every girl would bring a can of something and the leaders would bring a broth base. We’d dump it all in and warm it over the fire…tasty every time!)
Anyway, kitchen sink soup is everything but the kitchen sink…all those frozen leftover veggies? Leftover noodles or those last two lasagna noodles that never get used when I make lasagna? Extra stir fry rice? That can of creamed corn that I still don’t know why I bought? In it all goes, with any leftover meat sitting around.
I can’t tell you how much money this has saved me by making do or just redoing our plans. 😀 I try to save any leftover meat, rice, potatoes and use in a total separate dish. 😀
Hey girl! I just wanted you to know that I’m now 5 months into my couponing adventure, thanks to you and the talk you gave at the Lysa Terkeurst conference in August. Stockpiling, doubling, and BOGO are now part of my regular vocabulary. : ) I just did a post telling me story and how you got me started. Wanted to let you know! Hope you and your family are doing well!
First of all, I just LOVE your site and have been subscribing for several months now.
I do base most of my meals on what is on sale as far as meat goes. And when I can score a great deal on meat I stock up and freeze it to have for weeks to come. I also “stockpile” shop (or whatever phrase you want to call it) so that each week I am only buying what is on sale (plus produce and milk). Since I have been shopping like this for quite a while I usually always have a well stocked pantry and can pull ingredients from there.
I do have to admit that over Christmas I did get a little lazy with my coupons and deal shopping but have gotten right back to it in the new year.
Had a great trip to Harris Teeter today for Super Doubles!!
My first time linking up…I’ve been meaning to for AGES!!! Somebody slap me next Tuesday so I remember! 😉
So glad you linked up. 🙂 That happens to me all the time…carnivals come and go and I remember two days later. 🙂
I remember reading this in the Tightwad Gazette years ago and thinking “duh!!!” but I only shop this way about 50% of the time. But I know that even this much has saved me much money over the years. I am glad you reminded me1
That really is an excellent idea – since I have been working full time the last 2 years, my attempts for frugality with mealtime have greatly weakened. I guess I thought I have more money and less time, so I should just buy what I want when I want. I realize that is not being a good steward of money, and I don’t do that in the other purchases I make. Thanks for the reminder – I will apply it this week!
I do this all the time and it works awesome for us!
Have you ever heard of angelfoodministries.com? I am able to “shop” once a month, especially for my meat items, at a great price and just have to use my pantry to round out a meal. It really helps with the budgeting, too.
I found out about their ministry a few months ago…it is amazing. I haven’t done it yet but actually have thought about being a location that does it for others. Everyone should check it out. thanks for mentioning it. 🙂
Great post! This is exactly how I shop and I know it has saved my family tons of money. Each week I always stock up on the loss leaders and plan my meals by what is already in my freezer from previous weeks.
I have to brag on my husband for a minute. He went to the store yesterday armed with two coupons from our closest grocery store, free chicken and free bottled water with a ten dollar purchase. He spent $11 and something cents and just from looking for specials around the store he got: the chicken, bottled water, two jars of premium pasta sauce, three apples, two cans of beans, 2 lbs. of carrots, 1 1/2 lbs. of new potatoes and two 2 c. packages of shredded cheese. Great, huh?! It fed us a wonderful spaghetti dinner last night, fried chicken with green chile mashed potatoes and carrots for dinner tonight and meals and snacks still to come! Kelly
Great tip! I shop at Aldis and us Angel Food & try and plan my meals around what I know I can get for cheap from them and also around what I have, try not to ask what they want to much:) But they benefit because it saves money which is better for our family, maybe it saves enough to help us afford things or activities for my kiddos…
Jen, where do you find all of your coupons? Also, what grocery store to do shop? Unless, I’m taking the wrong approach to savings, I’m not able to compare my savings to yours. We are not a brand sensitive family, however my savings are sometimes depressing. Thanks for all of your help and also for your inspiring website!!