By Amy Shepard, CFP, RMA
I love to eat – food is a hobby for me. But, it can also be an expensive and wasteful hobby if I don’t plan for it properly! Below I share some of my tips for meal planning and grocery shopping so that you can eat well but still save money.
1. Meal Plan Each Week
Once per week, sit down and map out your meals for the week. Write them down so you can easily reference what you have planned each day. If you have a clear “menu” each week, it makes it so much easier to prepare your grocery list because you’ll only need to buy the items needed to fulfill your menu.
Some of my favorite tools to help with weekly meal planning are: - eMeals – This is a paid subscription but there are often Groupon deals available. eMeals has many different categories of meals to choose from (30 Minute, Kid Friendly, Slow Cooker, Keto, etc.). You can select the meals you want and the app will automatically create a grocery list for you with the items you’ll need. - Kids Eat in Color – There are meal plans available, some for free and some for purchase. There is also an Instagram page (@kids.eat.in.color) that shares tips and ideas. While her focus is helping parents get healthier food in their kids, her meal plans are still great even if you don’t have children!
- Google – If all else fails, do a Google search for dinner ideas!
2. Online Grocery Orders
Placing your grocery orders online is great for three reasons. First, it allows you to easily select all of the items on your list. Second, it saves time because you don’t have to actually do the shopping. You can pull up, have your groceries loaded into your car, and head back home. Third, and most importantly, it keeps you from impulse buying while at the store. Since my family switched to online grocery ordering about 4 years ago, we have saved so much money on impulse purchases alone!
3. Buy Sale Items in Bulk
Browse the weekly grocery ads and stock up on-sale items that freeze well. For my family, that typically is proteins, veggies, and bread. When meat is on sale, I will buy 10-15 pounds and portion it out in zip-top bags. Then I fill up my chest freezer in the garage and almost always have a variety of protein items to choose from each week.
4. Make Double Recipes
Certain items are really easy to double, like banana oatmeal pancakes, egg and veggie muffins, Mexican stuffed shells, chicken pot pies, and meatloaf muffins. Whenever I can easily make a double batch of something, I’ll eat one portion immediately and freeze the rest for later.
This is super helpful on those inevitable nights when you just don’t feel like cooking.
Like anything, it takes practice to get into a good routine. Starting with these 3 tips should help you avoid that last-minute urge to grab takeout each night and also help you eat better while saving money (and time) at the grocery store.
About the author: Amy Shepard, CFP®, RMA®, BFA™, MBA
Amy Shepard, CFP®, RMA®, BFA™, MBA is a Financial Planner at Sensible Money. She has been working with clients since 2013 and loves helping them create and implement a financial plan so they can achieve their life goals. She is involved in the CFP Boards Mentor Program and previously served on the board of the FPA of Greater Phoenix. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her husband and kids – they have a goal to take a family picture in all 50 states!