Grocery shopping can be where the budget breaks down, but it doesn’t have to. With a little planning, you can shop without breaking the bank.
When I go grocery shopping I never seem to be able to buy the right amount of ingredients and food for my meals throughout the week. What would you suggest is a good way to plan your grocery shopping to your weekly meal plan?
Basically it sounds like you’re having a tough time figuring out portion sizes for your meals so you don’t buy too much or too little. That’s really common, especially since most of us have a tough time with portion sizes, or weren’t raised in big families that budgeted tightly.
List What You Want
Before you’re going to shop make a list of what you want to eat that week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you just grab toast and coffee, that’s great, but at least you know to buy bread, butter and coffee, they’re on the list.
Are you going to carry sandwiches or salad, or eat out for lunch? The ingredients for those go on the list. Figure 2 oz of meat and 1 oz of cheese per sandwich. The rest is lettuce, etc. See where I’m going?
There are some things you just know you’re going to need every week, and you know what they are for you. Apples, bananas, yogurt, spinach, potatoes, coffee, tea, whatever. Put them on the list.
Check What’s On Sale
First of all, what’s in season? If it’s summertime, check out local farmer’s markets or farm stands for fresh corn on the cob, blueberries, cherries, you get my drift. Yum! But keep in mind that even though corn is 10 for a dollar you don’t have to buy 10, unless you’re planning for friends to come over or you’re going to freeze it. Check store sales, and plan meals so that leftovers can be reincarnated.
Find Recipes Based on Sale Items
Look up some recipes that use whatever is on sale and also things that you already have. If you go to allrecipes.com you can enter your ingredients and up will pop recipes using those ingredients, and even excluding others you don’t have or want. You can make a list using those recipes to go shopping, and they’ll even tell you what stores near you have the items in that recipe on sale! It’s amazing.
It also gives you the ability to double or halve a recipe according to how many people you need to serve. That way you’re not cooking for 8 when there’s only 2 of you. You’ll know exactly how much each recipe takes, so you’ll know how much to buy. You are not tempted to eat more than you should, and less goes to waste. Or waist.?
Don’t Cook Too Much
So this leads to something that can be a touchy subject, and that’s portion size. Portion size is not how much you can eat, it’s how much you should eat, and it can really add to your food bill. If you need to fill up, eat an apple, not a drumstick (whether chicken or ice cream).
If you need help in figuring out portion sizes, a website and app like My Fitness Pal can help you understand portion sizes. I know I was surprised by how many calories I was actually eating, especially of meats. Most Americans eat way more meat than is good for them, and not coincidentally, meat is a major part of most people’s grocery bill. A healthy portion of meat is the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. Yeah. That small. As a matter of fact, here’s a great graphic from the Manitoba, Canada government site.
And before anyone objects, yes I know a man’s hand is bigger than a woman’s. Usually a man eats more, too. Bigger size, bigger caloric intake. Makes sense, right?
Outside of Sale Items
Some stores have a certain good deal all the time, like the roasted chickens at Costco for $5. You can’t even cook them for that price, and you can tear them up and make everything from quesadillas to chicken pot pie, chicken salad sandwiches, or cut up on salad. Be sure to serve the amount that adds up to an appropriate portion, then put it away in the fridge so you’re not tempted, You have to think about tomorrow. That’s the difference when you’re an adult: Planning ahead, instead of relying on someone else (mom) to cover it. Eat more vegetables, not meat.
If you shop the freezer section for real food, (not just frozen pizza and waffles) you can buy individual portions, from salmon fillets to stir fry veggies. It’s time-saving, convenient, and healthy. It also helps you get used to seeing how big an individual portion should be.
All of these steps will help you plan how you eat, which is really going to do good things for both you and your budget. Eating healthy will make you feel good, look amazing, and even be able to think more clearly. Look at other people shopping in the grocery store. Find the healthy looking ones, and check their carts. Then check the carts of people who don’t look so healthy. You’ll see a big difference. Choose foods that you can pronounce and recognize as ‘real’.
Have you found a particular habit or recipe that saved you money or time? Please share!