A couple of posts back I shared how our family plans a monthly meal calendar. Today I’d like to share a few more tips about how monthly meal planning helps us financially.
On the first weekend of each month we journey from Our Little Town to The Big City. Now, I’m all for supporting the local economy, but at this point our trip to The Big City saves us more money than shopping our local grocery stores.
In our pocket we have our monthly food budget in CASH, less $100 (more on that later), and our grocery list. We visit the big box store first (Costco in our case) and what have become our monthly staples which are cheaper there, than at the grocery store. For us, this includes things like olives, dairy products, paper products, applesauce, chicken, baby formula, etc. We longingly pass by the books, DVDs, clothes, and pre-prepared foods, and stick very strictly to our list.
STICKING TO THE LIST is KEY. Very rarely do we buy something that is not on the list. However, sometimes we buy a “non-list” item that is a needed bargain just too good to pass up. For example, a couple of shopping trips ago Spud left Costco with 3 new much-needed pairs of Carter’s pajamas because we couldn’t have found them for less anywhere else.
Once the nice people at Costco have boxed up our purchases, we’re off to WinCo—the least expensive grocery store in our area. Not only do they have low prices, but they also have a great bulk food section that often helps cut down on the grocery bill. You have to bag your own groceries, but it’s worth it.
At WinCo we buy everything remaining on our list for the month that we weren’t able to purchase for less at the big box store. I don’t hesitate to slash things off the list if I know they’re not crucial to our menu for the month, or if I think I might be able to find it for less on sale back in Our Little Town.
In addition, we also save a little money by buying our bread in bulk from NatureBake, (a healthy bread company outlet store) and freezing the loaves until we’re ready to use them.
We use the remaining $100 (mentioned above) from our monthly food budget throughout the rest of the month for things we don’t want to purchase far in advance (like produce) or things that we run out of or need unexpectedly.
Shopping this way can definitely be a challenge, and, yes, sometimes we cheat and spend out of our budget; but for the most part it works. Something I haven’t done for awhile, but would highly recommend, is to track the prices of items you buy from month to month at the stores you shop. For example, see if the price for a 20 lb. bag of potatoes is the same next month as it is today. Sometimes the results will surprise you. Also, before buying in bulk (either at the big box store or the bulk foods section of the grocery store) double check to make sure you are really getting a better price over the same item prepackaged in smaller amounts on the store shelf.
UP NEXT: What’s for Dinner, Part 3—Tips and Tricks in the Kitchen