Frugal Friday’s – Meal Planning

menu planning pic photo came from

Happy Friday!! In the spirit of frugality I’ve decided to start a new series entitled Frugal Friday’s, it’s going to include a variety of money saving ideas. Some that work for me personally, some I’m in the process of trying and some that I plan to try soon. As well as some websites and apps  I find helpful. I love a good craft or DIY project just as much as the next person but I also love saving money. I figure the money I save on groceries, household items and clothing can be funneled to other things like fun money or craft and décor money. Now, I’m no expert but over the past couple years I’ve incorporated some practices that work for my household. I’m not extreme by any means, and believe me there are some extremes out there that I’ve read about or seen on TV that I have no interest in. Have any of you ever seen the show Extreme Cheapskates on TLC? Those people take cheap to a whole new level… If you have Netflix and some time to kill I’d suggest watching an episode or two. My son and I saw an entire season during the course of a weekend this past winter.

We all have busy lives so I don’t like spending too much time on this but you’d be surprised how much you could save with an investment of one or two hours per month. I usually spend an hour or so for the entire month, about 30 minutes at the beginning of the month and another 10-15 minutes each week writing lists, checking sale circulars and going through coupons. It may sound time consuming in the moment but just think about how much time is wasted looking in your cabinets trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

I start by creating a meal plan for the month, Sun-Wed are fresh food nights, Thu and Fri are left over nights and Saturday is quick dinner/take out night. I usually need about 18-20 meals for the month. You’ll need a decent amount of recipes and meals to choose from, I also surf the web for new recipes. We don’t eat any beef or pork in my house and it’s pretty easy to get tired of chicken, turkey and sea food if you don’t change things up. Now, you may be asking, how does meal planning for the entire month save you money?  Well I’ll tell you, once I know what we’re eating I do an inventory of the cabinets to see what we already have and what I need to buy. This way my shopping list only consists of the things I need and I’m not buying food I already have. It also means I have all the ingredients I need on hand so I don’t have to make any quick trips to the grocery store while cooking because something is missing. Those quick trips usually end with a cart full of items I didn’t need but picked up because they were on sale, because the kids wanted it or maybe I wanted it. Planning in advance also allows me to look through sale circulars, the coupon insert in the Sunday paper, visit one of my favorite websites and surf the Cartwheel app from Target for additional deals. At the beginning of every month I make a massive shopping trip to pick up the bulk of what we need from stores like BJ’s, Target, Wal-Mart and Trader Joes. Then I make small weekly trips for milk, fruits, vegetables and other perishables. I also shop at the local Farmers Market when in season; they have great produce at reasonable prices.

Okay, now it doesn’t stop there and this may not be for everyone but it’s what I do and it works for me… I fold my paper into four boxes and write my list based on where the items can be located in the store. What I mean by that is, I write down all the things I need from the fridge/freezer section in one box, all the grain and canned good in another box, all the household items like paper towels and garbage bags in another box and so on. This way I’m not walking back and forth through the store wasting time. I get everything I need from one section and then I move on to the next. The last thing I do is highlight all the items on the list I have a coupon for. That way I make sure to pick up the correct item and give the coupons to the cashier. I hate going through all the trouble of looking for, cutting out and saving them just to forget I had it. I mean that’s counterproductive people. The most money I’ve ever saved was about $60 but that is not the norm, on average I save between $25-$40 a month. It varies based on my coupons, whose doubling them, what’s on sale and how much I buy. I look at it like this, that’s a movie for me and my son, a case of diapers, an afternoon in the park with Ferris wheel rides, ice cream and junk food or a trip to Michael’s with lots of goodies for my next craft or project. However you slice it, it’s money I saved with a small investment of time. I usually sit in the living room while getting things organized with the boys running around so I’m not really missing anything anyway.

I hope you found this post helpful and it inspires you to create a menu plan, clip some coupons or find other ways to save money based on your own needs and lifestyle. Do you currently have any money saving ideas your using? I’d love to hear about them!

Have a great weekend.

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