Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Grocery Budget: Part I Meal Planning

A lot of my family and friends have asked me multiple times how I keep my grocery bill and budget so low for a family of 5 without couponing. This is a series of posts that I hope will help everyone learn to cut back without having to coupon.

The very first thing that comes to mind for saving money on the grocery bill is to meal plan. Seems so simple, but yet, so many of us just wing it (there are times I'm still guilty of this!). Which means multiple trips to the grocery store each week. This usually leads to a lot of impulse buying, which means you're going over your budget. Or worse, you just skip cooking at all and just eat out.

Some people like to paper plan, and if you follow me regularly, you will see that I love to bullet journal. However, I like meal planning to be quick and easy. So, instead of paper planning, I started using a program called "Plan to Eat" back in 2014. Simply put, Plan to Eat is a meal planning site. There are a lot of benefits to using Plan to Eat, but I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail. Here are the key things that I like about it:
  • Only costs 3.99 a month or $39.00 a year. Also, on Black Friday, the yearly cost is only $19.50 (which is what I do). This means I pay about $1.63 a month for this service. 
  • They offer a 30 day free trial. It requires no credit card to sign up. You either keep using it or you don't. It's up to you. 
  • You can save recipes to your online cookbook in multiple ways. There is a tool called a "recipe clipper" that allows you to be on a page with a recipe and directly import it (my favorite). You can also import from a URL or you can just type the recipe in yourself by hand.  
  • You can "friend" others to share recipes. My username is LisaLangley.
  • They have started doing monthly "themed" recipes with giveaways and a Facebook group to share ideas. One month was a Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge where we focused on making meals that could be frozen for later. Another was a grilling challenge and currently, they are doing one for the Instant Pot. I'm not always thrilled with the recipes because some use obscure ingredients that are very expensive, but I usually try most of them and it's fun to try new recipes.
  • Once you have some recipes saved, you can literally just drag and drop them in calendar format using the "Plan" section. It will take me about 5 minutes to plan two weeks worth of meals. 
  • After you have used the "Plan" section, you move onto the "Shop" section where you specify the dates you want to shop for, and your grocery list is formed from the recipes that you planned. 
  • It has always been mobile friendly through your browser, but they are rolling out an app that is pretty cool (I've had the pleasure of testing it!)
 You can see below a sample of what my menu looks like this week.

There is a lot more to the site with many other cool options, but this is the general idea. The site has many video tutorials that are short and fun to watch to help you get started.

So, I challenge you to start meal planning this week. You don't have to use the same site I do. Before I used this site, I would often just a sticky note and hand write my grocery list. And it is important to remember that meal planning is not about some elaborate meal that takes hours in the kitchen. It is okay if you simply put "frozen pizza and salad" or even "Eat Out". As you can see above, both of those things are on my menu this week because I know we are going to eat out Friday and I'm not sure what our plans are Saturday, so I don't want to plan something that needs to be cooked. Be real with yourself and don't give yourself goals that are not going to get accomplished because you had a long day at work.

If you would like to try out Plan to Eat, I would love it if you used my affiliate link either in the PTE Logo above or by clicking this link 



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