Frugal Living 

Plan Meals And Save On Groceries

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Grocery StoreCNN Money ran an article today explaining the benefits planning out your meals and preparing them yourself may have on your budget. Even without this article, everyone knows that cooking your own food is much cheaper than eating out or even buying prepared food but sometimes it’s hard to sit down and plan your meals a week in advance. Planning meals will reduce the amount of food you end up throwing away, which in most households is 14% of their food, up from 7% twenty years ago.

Before my girlfriend started a second shift job, we planned a week’s worth of food in advance and went grocery shopping on either Saturday or Sunday. Since at most grocery stores the new week’s sales start on a Sunday but come with the Saturday paper, we could decide which day we wanted to shop to save the most amount of money while having two week’s worth of information.

We avoid prepared foods because they’re bad for four reasons:
1) Expensive – The less preparation I need to put into making the meal, the most someone else had to and they want to get paid. Even with sales, those box meals are just not worth the money.
2) Sodium – Look at the amount of sodium in most prepared foods, it’s enough to send your blood pressure to the moon. It’s not a healthy long term strategy.
3) Fat – Along with sodium, most of the prepared meals are loaded with fat as well and you’re really not getting your calorie’s worth.
4) Taste Like Crap – Let’s be honest, you can have a nice grilled chicken breast that you just pulled out of the over or you can have a microwaved pre-processed “chicken breast” made from left over chicken parts bleached white. One tastes like chicken, the other tastes like a huge chicken nugget shaped like an emaciated chicken breast.

Preparing a menu also means less trips to the grocery store which for us costs us only time, but most folks can’t walk and need to drive to the store which means gasoline.

The thing we don’t really do, which a lot of frugal shoppers do, is comb through the coupons and circulars trying to match up the great deals. We do look through the coupons that come with the paper but usually they’re for prepared foods anyway which we are ultimately trying to avoid. We also don’t stockpile large quantities of anything. We’ll buy a few extra cans of soup when they’re on sale or a couple more boxes of pasta, but we’re not talking filling up shelves worth of goods we’ll use maybe a year from now.

Consumerism Commentary does a great job discussing the article as it relates to his personal experience and plans, so I invite you to read his take on it.

(Photo: lyza)

{ 8 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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8 Responses to “Plan Meals And Save On Groceries”

  1. Jane Dough says:

    I agree with everything, but would add that it is best to restock some pantry items at certain times of the year. If you can, try to buy your years supply of flour, sugar, salt, spices, etc. in November and December. Stores seem to have large discounts on staples right before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ketchup, B-B-Q sauces, etc. seem to be discounted in the summer months.

  2. Amanda says:

    Agreed, Jim. Planning your weekly meals/groceries saves bundles. When you go to the store without a list, the temptation to just throw whatever looks good into your cart is high. If you’ve planned it out, you’re a lot more efficient, and whats more, you have more time to spend comparing prices of the specific items your buying.
    As for coupons, I never use them either because I shop at Jewel, a grocer here in Chicago that is a discount store in the first place. If you go to a discount store and sign up for a preferred shopper card, then the coupon deals are basically yours for the taking – you just have to look out for the marked down prices in the aisles.
    Whenever my fiance and I go shopping we always make a game of it to see if we can get all the items on our list and come in under budget…

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  4. Gem says:

    One free website I use to help me plan my meals for the week is Mary gives menus for a week, recipes, and a downloadable grocery list complete with pricing. I can tell at a glance about what the week’s groceries are going to cost me, plus or minus a little for pantry items I’m out of or weekly sales. The best thing to me is that they are pretty ‘normal’ recipes — nothing too gourmet or fancy, just simple (but delicious) cooking.

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    Spending less money on food is something I probably should have listed as one of my 2006 goals. I don’t even need to look at my Gnucash (accounting software) reports to know that I spend too much on food.
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  6. kb says:

    Good info Jim. is a website that rates the grocery sales from your local stores and applies a rating to them based on that products history. It then matches coupons to the sales and puts them into a shopping list for you to print and take to the store.

    I used to track products, but now when I see 4 or 5 star products at, I stock up. I really only buy 4 and 5 star items and save a lot doing so. I have learned that every product cycles. Stock up when it is cheap, and pass it by when it is not. They tell me when to buy or pass. It is soo easy. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

  7. Danny says:

    I am not a cook and I am using my George Foreman to cook Ground Beef on a daily basis and Thowing in a Can of Pinto’s ever now and again so I can stay under $10..I also cook Breakfast sausage and eggs every morning.

    Can You give me any other menu ideas so I do Not have to stick to Ground Beef all of the time.?

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