Saving Time and Money
As a homeschool mom, I’m always looking for ways to stretch a dollar. I am sharing some of those ideas here in talking about meal planning. I also help support my family through affiliate marketing. That means I may share links to external sites where you can purchase, if you choose, suggested items. Making such a purchase doesn’t cost you more than the normal purchase price, but I will get a compensation for my marketing. Thank you for supporting Great Peace Academy.
Meal planning should begin where your supplies are located. For me, my supplies are stored in my pantry, fridge and freezer. To keep those stocks full I go to my supplier, the grocer. You see I don’t want to think of the grocery store as the place that keeps what I need, I want to consider it the place where I get what I need. It’s a subtle difference. Here are some shopping tips where meal planning without a plan is important.
10 Tips for Grocery Shopping with Pantry Stocking in Mind
- Limit the Number of Times you go to the Grocery Store.
I can’t stress this enough. Don’t rely on the grocery for your meals, learn to rely on your pantry, fridge and freezer for your meals. If you shop once a week you are using the grocery to store your meals, you just go there to get the food. If you shop one time every four to six weeks then you store the food in your own home and the grocery becomes your supplier. By shopping less often you save both time and money.
- Your Pantry List
I rarely make a grocery list. Even when I do I often forget it at home or leave it in my purse. Why? Because I know what I keep in my pantry. I know what I can use and what I don’t use. So I keep those supplies stocked. When I’m in the grocery I think about what I’m running low on and then purchase based upon that. Knowing your pantry is key. Keep a running pantry supply list, if you must you can make a grocery list based upon that.
- Shopping with a different mindset.
When shopping for a stocked pantry I go to the grocery with the intention of stocking up on items that we are running low on. This is a different mindset than going to the grocery for things you run out of. Generally speaking, if you keep a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer you are not running out of items. Oh yes, occasionally you will use the last of something and you will get more during your stock up trip but by keeping your stock maintained, you will have the items you need on hand throughout the month.
- Save money by shopping less often.
If you are new to this way of shopping you will have sticker shock the first few times you do this. Why? Because if you shop every 4 – 6 weeks there will be a big number when you ring up the sale. But think of it this way. If you shop one time a week and spend $100, then you are spending $400 a month. If you shop 1 time every 6 weeks, buying basic pantry stock items, you might spend $400. Which averages out to about $66 a week. Also the fewer times you are in the store the fewer times you choose to buy impulse items.
- Buy Sale Items.
Look for items that have been deeply discounted or on clearance. Look for bulk sales, like 10 for $10. Instead of buying just one or two go ahead and buy 10. Boxed, jarred or canned items will last a very long time. Once home rotate the new items to the back of the stock and older items to the front so that you use the oldest first. Whenever possible buy the larger package, it will last longer and most likely is a better deal.
- The clearance sections are my favorite places in the store. I find very good deals on bigger ticket items such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices. I also ask the butcher what days they discount their meats. This way I can buy good quality meat at the lowest possible price. Since I’m going to be freezing it anyway the near sale date won’t matter.
- Avoid pre-packaged meals.
Many pre-packaged convenience meals are very simple to make. By keeping a well stocked pantry you will have the supplies on hand to make a similar, probably better, meal at home. For example: Instead of buying a pre-packaged cheeseburger macaroni meal just make your own. The reality is you have to supply the meat anyway and you have to brown the meat. You also have to cook the pasta from the package. So in about the same amount of time you can make your own version.
Brown 1 lb. of ground beef with salt and pepper to taste.
(If desired you can add chopped onion for more flavor about 1/2 an onion will do).
Follow instructions on the box of elbow macaroni, cook pasta to al dente.
In the meantime, in a small saucepan add 2 T butter, 1/4 cup of milk and about 1/2 lb. of Velveeta cheese sliced. Melt the cheese, stirring constantly.
Drain pasta, add browned meat and cheese and just like that you have made your very own cheeseburger macaroni.
- Whenever possible avoid name brands.
Admittedly, there are items that are just better from a name brand, I have a specific preference for my mayonnaise and for my ketchup. But whenever possible I buy the store brand or generic. I will also shop at places like Aldi’s or the local hometown store to find better deals. But I also shop at the BIG name grocers and when I do I buy either store brand or generic whenever possible. Not only will get a better deal you can afford to buy in larger quantity. If an item such as the ketchup I want isn’t on sale or the sale price isn’t enough, I walk away from it. I would rather wait and find a better price. When stock shopping I most likely am not out of the item, I am simply shopping for reserve items.
- Buying Meat
Buy your meat when it is on sale and buy in bulk. You pay a premium for meats that have been butchered and packaged in convenient portion sizes. By buying the larger item you can separate at home to convenience size portions and save money in the process. I buy whole chickens and cut the meat off the bone, I divide it into family size portions, in my case 3 portions and freeze in freezer bags. I do the same for pork loins, cutting them into butterfly chops. For ground meats, I separate the meat into 1 1b. portions for the freezer. If I buy meat that is pre-portioned I still buy a larger package than I need generally, for a family of 3 I can split a 6 portioned package into 2 meals. I also wait for sales. If the grocer doesn’t have beef roast on sale, I don’t buy it. When it is on sale I buy several. Keeping a freezer filled with meats that you bought on sale and portioned yourself can save you many trips to the grocery store, thus saving you time and money.
- Maybe you are thinking: But I buy Organic!
So do I. I would say that about 70 percent of what I buy is organic or all natural, especially fresh veggies and meats. You have to be willing to stock up, and be willing to wait until the right sale to save when buying organic, but it can be done. Also stores like Aldi’s and local grocers now carry many organic and all natural options. So keep an eye out for the best deals. Once or twice a year I make a trip to stores that specialize in organics and stock up on freezer items like waffles, hash browns and veggies.
- I don’t coupon shop.
I tried this, I really did. I gave it my best effort when I was doing it. I found that doing coupons caused me a lot of stress, a lot of time and little reward. I found myself frustrated that my pantry was filled with items but they were not items that I generally use in cooking. I also found it to be more expensive because I was buying name brands to get the good coupon deals when store brands were cheaper without the coupon. I also had to shop more often to keep up with the expiring coupon, which put me in the store more often, which led to more impulse buys.
Join Me as I explore Meal Planning without a Plan.
I love using my slow cooker for stock cooking. I can put together a meal and then freeze the leftovers with such ease. I’m sure this book Slow Cooker Batch Cooking, written by my friends at Southern Hodgepodge, will give you some great tips for stretching your pantry further.