Budget Menu Planning 101

Planing your meals for the week before buying your groceries can save a TON of money.  Here's how I go about planning mine.  :)

1. Become a coupon fanatic!  Clip coupons from the Sunday paper and mailouts, snag them from your grocery store's circular ads and website, and print them from online.  You can also get a lot of deals by going to the website of the manufacturers and signing up for their newsletters and such.  Only clip coupons for items you want in your diet.  Clipping a coupon for bulk colas is counter-productive if you're trying to cut back sodas.  You should also find out what your store coupon policy is.  Many of them take competitor's' coupons, but each location may vary on which ones they accept.  Organize your coupons by item type (produce, dairy, etc.)  I try to quickly flip through them every week and throw out the expired ones as I add the new.

Check these out!
Publix Coupons
Ingles Advantagemail

2. Look at your grocer's circular add. What's marked down this week?  Do you have any coupons you can stack on top of the sale?  For example, a $5 item is BOGO for the week and you have a coupon for $1 off.  That means you can get $10 worth for only $4!  That's saving 60%!  Don't forget to take inventory of what you already have at home too!

3. Search for recipes based on the ingredients you have and that are marked down.  Make a shopping list based on what you need and pull the applicable coupons as you make the list.

4. Have a healthy snack before you shop and stick to the list.  Grocery shopping while hungry is always a bad idea.  If you stick to what you have written down, you'll spend less and waste less.  If an item is on sale, don't buy it unless you have a plan for it!

5. Prep when you can.  Gather, wash, chop, put in snack baggies for lunch, etc.  Doing most of the prep in advance will save you precious time on weeknights and in the mornings when you're packing lunches.

6. Be smart with leftovers and plan for them in your weekly menu. Take them for lunch, freeze them, or transform them into another meal.