Everyone can use a little help paring down the grocery bill. A two-pronged approach can really help you both control your budget and prepare meals in a snap. All you need to do is follow a simple shopping plan and work creatively with leftovers.
Basic Blueprint for Meal Planning and Shopping
You wouldn't try to remodel a room in your home without using a carefully considered plan. Yet many of us spend thousands of dollars feeding our families haphazardly, wasting cash we could be using instead for that cozy dining nook we covet in our kitchen.
Strategize by using these five approaches to slash your grocery bill:
- Plan all your meals for a week, including snacks, treats and beverages.
- Determine exactly what you need to buy to cook each week; check your fridge, freezer and pantry as you make your list to see what you have on hand. Stick to the list, stick to the list, stick to the — you get the idea.
- If you clip coupons (and you should), check your stash and take along those that will help your save during this shopping trip. Bonus tip: Check your local stores for double coupon savings dates — that is your new shopping day!
- Eat before you shop, seriously. Bring along a refillable bottle of your favorite beverage to avoid the temptation at the checkout line soda cooler.
- Build in some flexibility. If products you use frequently are on sale or the mega-sized package of chicken saves you dollars per pound, go ahead and buy. Make sure you repackage and store these extras appropriately when you get home to use for future meals. Spoiled foods forgotten at the back of the fridge are certainly no bargain.
Be Your Own Sous Chef
Forget the concept of leftovers. Instead, plan future meal foundations with savvy prepping. It is all in the way you use the food remaining at the end of a meal.
Two key concepts will make the second act seem like the premier:
- Never overcook your food.
- Keep meal components separate as much as is possible.
When done with the first meal, assess what you have left. Sort the bonus food into sauces, proteins, veggies and starches. Now put your creative chefs' hat on, and delight you and your family's taste buds. Here are some gourmet treat ideas:
- Spaghetti becomes Thai shrimp or chicken salad with spicy peanut sauce.
- Friday's fish fry becomes elegant date-night fish cakes.
- Roast beef satisfies as beef barley soup.
- Steak or chicken encores as fajitas or enchiladas.
- Homemade rolls star as French toast or supporting roles like homemade croutons or breadcrumbs.
- Mashed potatoes and gravy are halfway to a gourmet shepherd's pie.
As you train yourself to shop smart and cook with an eye for the next satisfying, money saving meal, your savings will accumulate, but not as fast as compliments to the chef. Bon Appetite!