Meal planning is a great way to cut costs on grocery spending. By making a cheap meal plan, you shop with a list and can cut down on unnecessary shopping impulses. In fact, there are a lot of ways you can be grocery shopping wrong and thereby spending too much money on food.
What’s better for your grocery budget?
Meal planning by the week or by the month?
There are 2 styles of meal planning:
The Traditional Way- where you shop with a pre-made plan, avoiding impulse buys and sticking to your grocery list.
Reverse Meal Planning- This is where you shop first and then compile a list of meals based on what you just bought.
Personally, I often choose reverse meal planning because I enjoy looking at the clearance section, manager markdowns. I also shop at discount produce and bread stores where they don’t have a sales flyer to prepare me for shopping ahead of time.
Both styles of meal planning are great, and it’s important to find which one works best for you and your budget.
How Long Should You Meal Plan For?
Is it cheaper to make a weekly meal plan or a monthly meal plan?
The jury is still out on whether or not it is cheaper to meal plan by month or by week, but both do have some great advantages and disadvantages.
Weekly Meal Planning:
You can make a cheap weekly meal plan by utilizing the store sale flyers. Stores sale cycles change on a weekly basis. Not to be confused with monthly sale cycles.
These weekly changes in store sales allow you to shop weekly, grabbing the best priced items every time.
The negative side of weekly meal planning:
Unfortunately, with weekly meal planning, you are at your most vulnerable. It’s easier to go over your grocery budget when you are at the store so often.
Impulse buys, clearances and food cravings can have you adding unanticipated items to your shopping cart.
Monthly Meal Planning:
You can make a cheap monthly meal plan and get your shopping done all at once. This is great for a budget but does require more space, time, and planning on your part.
By doing a monthly meal plan and grocery shopping you are able to reduce your exposure to the stores, removing tempting purchases and your likelihood of overspending. You can remove even more temptation if you did your grocery shopping online.
The negative side of monthly meal planning:
To meal plan and shop for the entire month at once can be a daunting task. You have to compile a list of meals and make sure they all fit within your budget.
By shopping monthly though, you may be overpaying for an item that could be on sale the following week.
After shopping you will have a house full of food and may feel like over eating or over snacking. Similar to the urge you get to spend money when you get a large sum handed to you.
Large tax refunds are often spent within the first 2 weeks of receiving them, and were mentally spent before they even arrived to your bank account.
This means that as the month drags on, you’ll start noticing yourself getting hungrier and feeling like your house is empty.
This can mean your next shopping trip will be overspent to accommodate the food you feel is missing from your life.
Or it could go another way and have you quit the meal plan before the month is over because it took too much work to stick with it.
It doesn’t reduce your grocery shopping
As confusing as it may sound, meal planning by month doesn’t really reduce your grocery shopping experiences. While it may remove a few trips, you will still need to venture out into the supermarkets for fresh milk, eggs and produce.
These things will either be used up or spoiled by the end of the month, so when you make your meal plan, you have to take them into consideration.
While you do still have to make shopping trips throughout the month, you can combat the impulse buys by doing this-
When you set your grocery budget and do your monthly shopping, set aside a cash amount of money in an envelope for each week.
Label it for specific food items and make sure there is enough to cover ONLY the cost of those items.
This allows you to go shopping with a game plan and stay in control of your finances.
No matter how you choose to meal plan, it’s ultimately up to you. Only you know what can work best for YOUR situation. Just knowing the positive and negatives and staying aware of the risks can make you well aware of your grocery budget.