Saving Money with Food Planning

A large part of our “saving money” plan is considering how much we are spending on groceries, take-out, etc. At times, we go through lazy periods where we get busy during the week and just order take-out. This is a HUGE dent into our savings plan and it is not a good thing for us! I began planning out every meal that we would eat: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. We don’t assign meals to days, however, we know exactly what it is that we need when we go to the store. We have a list, and we stick to it! Not scheduling a specific dinner to each day allows us the freedom of cooking a simpler meal on a day that we got caught up at work later than normal, so that we don’t lose valuable time.

On weekends, we go through the sales at our local stores and markets, find coupons, and plan our week’s food around what the sales are. If you live in an area where there is a local produce market or Farmer’s Market, I highly recommend buying all of your produce there. It is MUCH CHEAPER, BETTER QUALITY, AND YOU ARE ABLE TO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY! Same goes for local meat markets!

My work hours do not always allow me the ability to do this though. I try to make a point to do all of my shopping at once, when I know the markets are open, and when I can plan out the week’s meals. This is how we try to do things to cut costs on a normal week in our life.

NOW, however, that we are facing this pandemic, this process has changed significantly! We went to our local grocery store on Sunday and bought SIMPLE STUFF to keep on hand while we hibernate ourselves from everyday social interaction. These simple items mostly consisted of non-perishable items to keep on hand in order to be able to use them as we need to over the next few weeks.

This does NOT mean that we HOARDED everything in the store for ourselves! Not at all! We only bought what we realistically would go through within the next 2+ weeks. Note that a lot of things were already gone. We bought some Organic canned soups, chicken stock, beef stock, canned vegetables (so that we could easily make soup ourselves), some good quality protein that was on-sale, which we froze for when we need it. There was ZERO organic chicken or pork - so we bought more grass-fed beef and lamb products.

We bought grains such as quinoa, which is an excellent source of protein in itself, and it’s a whole grain! We bought canned beans and rice. If it comes down to it, canned beans and rice is a complete protein and you can survive off of it if we had to. This is not a fear based activity, just a prepared one, and no, I don’t think it will come to having to live off of just beans and rice.

Buying whole grains and organic products are a little bit more costly, however, I do not condone processed food. I believe in honest, natural, healthy, organic food…we are what we eat. I’m not perfect at this, and no one else is either, but, I do the best that I can in the situation that I am in. You can still save a lot of money by purchasing the better quality and more nutritious products. As I said before, pay attention to the sales prices and which stores or markets to purchase specific items. It’s a little bit more work, but I promise you WILL save money for doing it!

You don’t need to stock up on all frozen processed foods, like pizzas, chicken strips, mac n’ cheese, ramen noodles, etc. There is a way for you to buy healthier non-perishable foods that can provide you with the nutrients you need to stay healthy and sustained while we all stay home. Plus, this could be a fun family project for everyone to sit down and look at these things the next time you have to plan a new grocery trip or online order. Remember that we are in the midst of a crisis, so it’s about frugality, necessity, and health, rather than luxury now! I am somewhat of a food snob and very rarely will you catch me ever eating canned fruit and vegetables. I always use seasonal, local, and fresh. Now, however, that’s a luxury that I just cannot afford.

Think about what you realistically utilize for meals for your family over the next couple of weeks. Start simple and build off of that. You don’t have to limit yourself everywhere. Think about things that can be used for multiple meals or utilized for different recipes. If some of these items are on sale and you know that you’ll use them, get more to keep on hand. Think about the least amount of waste possible. Once you start paying more attention to these things, the more you will start caring about how much of a product is being used and how much money you’re spending on a particular item. Then, you can look at how much you WERE spending on food cost for a week and how much you are spending now! If it’s working for you, stick with it and make necessary adjustments as you go. It’s an ongoing learning process! I used to say to my partner, “what sounds good for dinner?” Then, I would go out and buy whatever it was I needed to make an elegant dinner that he was in the mood for and I know that he would like. Now, I buy what we need for the week and I cook what it is that needs to be used up before we lose items. Since I am the one that does all of the cooking and planning, I quit worrying so much about the luxury of ‘what sounds good’ and focusing on ‘what we need’. Plus, he quit caring about what it was that we were going to eat each night because dinner is just as good as always and we’re saving more money by doing it this way!

Being frugal with your groceries is a HUGE way to cut down on family spending! You might not always be excited about what’s for dinner, but I promise, you WILL be excited about how much extra money you have to put into savings or pay off debt, etc. It gets easier the more you do it and soon you’ll get into a routine where you won’t even be worrying about it anymore!