I’m one of those odd ducks who really enjoying grocery shopping. Our local market is less than a mile from home and quickly become my store of choice. In fact, my grocery store and I are such great friends that we’re on a first name basis. I call him “Freddy’s” but he’s known to the world as Fred Meyer, part of the Kroger chain of grocery stores. Anyone from the Northwest, and Alaska especially, will recognize the name Fred Meyer and agree that it’s one of the best grocery stores available. From great customer service with hardly any waiting in line (the manager will personally open a new checkout if there is more than 1 person waiting), Freddy’s not only keeps their shelves stock and produce fresh, but they run fantastic sales, specials, and markdowns.
Due to our close proximity, I’m able to make multiple trips a week, shopping off of my grocery list while snagging the best deals. This has allowed us to keep our grocery budget quite low for Alaska, where food prices are notoriously high. Last year we were spending nearly $700 a month on groceries, which was excessive for a family of four with young children. This year, my goal was to cut that monthly bill in half, and we’ve been able to consistently stick to that goal and even come in even less some months.
In another post, I’ll share in depth on how we’re saving money on our grocery bill, making creative meals, occasional splurges, and lots of fresh produce while spending $75 or less a week (with NO coupon clipping!). For now, we’ll start at the foundation of all smart shopping and that’s the all-important Meal Plan. After trying out dozens of meal plans downloaded from various blogs over the past few months, I finally sat down and created my own Weekly Meal Plan Worksheet that has the best flow for planning, with a familiar calendar layout, and ample space for notes and my favorite feature: a shopping list that can be cut off to take with me to the grocery store!
So what ARE the benefits of meal planning?
1. Having a plan means spending less
money on needless groceries or junk food.
2. Since you’ll know quantities in advance,
there’s no danger of buying too much or too little.
3. Checking your pantry while meal planning
keeps from double-purchasing items.
4. Meal planning allows you to plan meals around
what’s on sale or even use coupons for extra savings.
5. By planning in advance, you’re able to cook once,
use twice to stretch your time and budget even further.
6. Less stress when planning meals allows you to be more creative and
adventurous. Try out a new recipe each week, you might find a new favorite!
7. If dieting or clean eating, making a meal plan helps
keep you on track and promotes healthy nutrition.
8. Knowing your schedule in advance allows you to break out the crock
pot, use up leftovers, or plan to splurge on “Friday Night Pizza.”
9. If you’re home late or have unexpected company, you can quickly
switch around meals since all the groceries are on hand.
10. Planning encourages you to be more intentional and
consistent about having meals together as a family.
Each weekend I sit down and plan the meals for the coming week. With our lifestyle, we tend to be a bit spontaneous with last minute hiking trips and afternoons spent fishing if the weather’s good. We’ll come home just before dinnertime and the next hour+ will be spent with fish guts spread across my kitchen island and a hoard of hungry people. By prepping ingredients in advance, like chopping vegetables or cooking a double portion of rice earlier in the week, I’m able to continue on with my meal plans even though my kitchen smells like fish and I’m picking scales out of the diced onions. Or, we’ll have friends or “the uncles” drop by and suddenly I’m needing twice the amount of food as planned. Since all our groceries were purchased in advance, I can switch meals around to something that can be stretched or borrow from another meal so everyone goes home with full bellies. With no meal plan, I would be left scrounging the pantry with more stress than I’d like.
Click the image above or follow this link to download the Weekly Meal Plan Worksheet.
Happy Meal Planning!