If your grocery bill has gotten out of control, it's probably time to start planning meals better. This job is often something people avoid because it takes time and effort. But you can save much more than you put into meal planning once you get going. Here are the 4 steps to learning to plan your meals for a better budget and better meals.
Look Through the Ads
Make a habit of getting your hands on the flyers and ads for your local grocery stores. In addition, most stores offer online ads that can be printed or downloaded to your phone. Look for good deals on staples like meats, vegetables and cooking products you regularly use. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are more likely to be on sale, so focus on what's fresh and local for more cost savings.
Once you've identified what's on sale, start forming recipes around these items. Many apps and websites help you locate a variety of recipes that contain one or more specific ingredients. Start compiling a list of easy (and tasty) recipes for common meats and vegetables, lessening your work load later on.
Avoid Prepackaged Items
Prepackaged items not only drive up your grocery bill but also tend to be less healthy. When shopping the store coupons, try to limit the amount of packaged and prepared items you buy. As you develop a collection of your own recipes for staple foods, your prep and shopping time will be reduced, making packaged items unnecessary and eventually unwelcome. Your waistline will thank you as well.
Shop Your Pantry
A lot of waste that occurs in most people's food budget occurs because it's easy to overlook or forget what's already in the pantry. Before planning your meals for the week, go over what you have on hand already -- both in the pantry and in the freezer. Keep an eye out for foods that are close to expiration, have been in the freezer for a while and fruits or vegetables that are getting older. Try to use these first, so you don't waste extra money.
Plan Meals in Writing
After looking at all your food options -- in the pantry, in the freezer, and in the store -- you're ready to make a real meal plan for the week. Write down what each meal will be on a calendar or list by day of the week. Create a separate list for the ingredients you need to buy so you won't forget anything. Be sure to include some planning for breakfast and lunch as well, especially on the weekends.
Meal planning sounds like a lot of work to begin with, but it quickly becomes routine and your time investment will decrease. As you build your master collection of meals and learn how to identify what foods will be reduced at the store, you'll begin to not only save money and time but also to enjoy the process more. For assistance with meal planning, talk to a professional like Colorado Nutrition for Health Fitness & Performance.