Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How I Grocery Shop - Menu Plan

I frequently have friends asking how I spend so little on groceries. The short answer is "I shop sales." The long answer includes several strategies that combine to keep the grocery bills low. I'll talk about these strategies over the next week or so in posts titled "How I Grocery Shop." As creative a title as my pregnant, mommy vocabulary allows.

Today's installment describes menu planning.

The first step in saving money on groceries is not to spend it. Before I look at grocery ads, pull out coupons, or check out the deals I can find on my favorite websites I have a look at the food I already have on hand. First up is the produce drawer to determine what must be used immediately and what can wait a few days. Next up I consider the dairy products and their 'best by' dates. I very rarely throw away food - another trick to spending less is not to waste anything. Items that need to be used are incorporated into the dinner plans in the first few days of the plan.

Usually I have enough food to make at least a week's worth of dinners. I make a list of those meals and a list of the few, if any, ingredients I need to make them. For example, the two week plan I made today includes beef stroganoff and baked potato soup. We also have quesadillas at least once a week for lunch. I only have enough sour cream for one of those meals, so sour cream is on my list this week. I asked DH what he wanted for dinner on Father's Day and he's requested sausage gravy over egg noodles. I don't have sausage or egg noodles so those are both on my list.

Next I consider what I have on hand for breakfasts & lunches. These meals are much more flexible, as you might guess, but there are a lot of staples I buy all the time. Bananas, whatever fruit and/or veggies are on cheap enough sale, and yogurt are on my list every week. This week I also have Coffeemate, non-sugar cereal, cream cheese, and jam on my list. I am not out of Coffeemate, cereal, or jam yet, but I am low so I've been watching for sales. I am out of cream cheese so I'll likely just buy that at regular price.

Here is the dinner plan for the next two weeks incorporating lots of milk due to the great deal I got on milk a few days ago.

Monday (last night) - Cheesy Chicken Casserole w/carrots & broccoli in it
Tuesday - Beef Stroganoff w/corn on the cob
Wed to Sat - Out of town (leftovers for DH)
Sunday - Birthday Party BBQ & snacks
Monday - Baked Potato Soup
Tuesday - Meatloaf
Wednesday - Egg casserole
Thursday - Lasagna
Friday - Dinner Out
Saturday - Dinner at a friend's house
Sunday - Sausage Gravy w/Noodles (Father's Day)
Monday - Beefy Enchilada Casserole

My grocery list for these meals and what I'll be watching the ads for include:
Sour cream
Hamburger patties & buns
Hot dog buns
Pop & Lemonade for punch
1# sausage
Egg noodles
Raspberry sorbet

Staples I always watch for good prices on:
Bell Pepper
Any fruit

Other things I'm low on & need to buy soon:
Cream Cheese
Caesar dressing
Non-sugar cereal

Next up: Using the Grocery Ads


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