Last week I introduced a new series here on the blog. The goal of this money saving challenge series is to give you practical tips to save money on your grocery bill, because I know firsthand that groceries can be expensive! No matter your budget or how many people you need to feed, I am sure these tips will help you out. If you haven’t already, I suggest taking some time to read part one of this series.
I hope you found part one helpful! Were you able to make a lot of meals from foodstuffs you already had on hand? I’d love to hear about your experience, so let me know in the comments section below (and be sure to subscribe to follow up comments!). The next step in The Saving Money on Groceries Challenge is to focus on meal planning. I used to plan out each meal, three times a day, for the whole month plus snacks and desserts, but that got to be a bit much. I decided to make a list of foods we enjoy eating and plan to make those a few times, while leaving room for adjustments if needed. I know we will eat leftovers for a bit, so I am not making different meals every single day.
One thing I want to stress is how important I think it is to prepare as much homemade food as possible. If you read the ingredients on frozen dinners or prepackaged meals, you will see a ton of sketchy things that you might not even be able to pronounce, much less identify what they are. I know those kinds of meals are convenient, and cheap, but they are NOT healthy nor are the sustaining to your body. Think about this: if you food that is not nutritious or substantial, you may very well be likely soon because your body is not taking it’s time to digest what you ate, since most of it is empty calories. Then you need to eat more food, which results in having to buy MORE since it take more of that yucky stuff to fill you up.
I am not judging anyone for buying convenience food, but i am encouraging those who do to consider making more meals from scratch. No, that does not mean you need to make your own cheese or pasta! If possible, make homemade tomato sauce using canned tomatoes (who’s only ingredient is tomatoes!). Instead of buying stir fry instant meals, mix your own from thinly cut beef and sautéed veggies. There are tons of easy recipes for from scratch cooking to be found online! If you need a hand finding any, I’d love to help, so reach out to me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Okay, back to meal planning! Think about the foods your family loves to eat, and if they are convenience meals, try to find recipes for making them at home. I am a fan of using Pinterest to plan my meals for the month, that way I have all the recipes in one handy spot. In my experience, vegetarian meals are a lot less expensive to prepare than meat based meals, so consider going meatless a few times a week. I love making chili filled with corn, beans, lentils, and whatever other veggies we have on hand (leeks, grated carrot, and bell peppers went into a chili I made this past weekend), and vegetable soups are just as easy. If eating just veggies is not your thing, then try using it sparingly to help it last longer. Big salads with bits of cooked chicken are filling and budget friendly, as is adding ground or pureed veggies to things like homemade burgers or meatloaf.
That being said, if meat if affordable where you live, by all means keep buying it! The point I am trying to make here is that meal planning can help you save money on groceries because it ensures you are only buying needed items and not just things you see randomly.
Next week I will share my tips for navigating the grocery store efficiently so as not to buy things you don’t really need. Here is a hint: when you make your grocery list, divide it into categories such as produce, bread, dairy, pantry, etc.