Which came first: the menu or the list? I have planned menus based on my list and written my grocery list based on my menu. It doesn’t matter the order, but I find it’s easier to start with a menu.
An easy way to list what you need is by first listing what you have. I shared how to get organized for Christmas in a previous post. Two of the free printables for the Christmas planner can also be found on OrganizedHome.com and used year round: the Pantry Inventory and Freezer Inventory. They are self-explanatory. (There are many other great ideas and free printables. Cynthia Ewer is an organizing genius!)
Plan a menu before you make a list. In order to stick to your new grocery budget, you should know exactly what your family needs before you head to the store. The best way to do that is by menu planning which serves two purposes. It keeps you from spending more than you intend and it simplifies dinner time.
Most of us make the same meals every week with a few new ones and a couple nights of take-out thrown in, so planning a menu is easy. Write down your family favorites and maybe one new recipe, then create your grocery list from this menu. Having a menu also helps your husband or older children do the shopping and cooking for you if you’re sick or need a night off. My daughter loves to cook so this has been a real blessing except for the mess. I tease her that she needs a sous chef or a gopher.
Make a list of what you truly need and stick to it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I bet you’ve found yourself spending more than you meant to and realized half the stuff in your cart was not on your list. This would be a good time to point out when not to shop: anytime you, or your family, are hungry! It’s nearly impossible to get through the store without impulse buying if you go on an empty stomach. I’m speaking from experience. We typically grocery shop on Friday nights now after eating dinner out. This way everyone is full and not nearly as tempted to purchase those items not on the list. Another plus about Friday night shopping is that hardly anyone is there so we don’t have to fight crowds.
If you’re a foodie like me and like to try new recipes regularly, it can get expensive buying all those ingredients. I usually improvise with what I have on hand and substitute ingredients. So, I’ll find a recipe I can tweak without changing it too much. Pick recipes that only require you to purchase a few new items. If you must make that fancy dish–that has twenty ingredients–to impress your family or friends, then plan ahead and purchase a few of the ingredients each week so you don’t bust your budget.
Speaking of busting your budget, allow only one splurge per person. Put a limit on the amount like $10-20 for the whole family per month. I like to purchase a new wine every once in a while and it lasts me a few months depending on how I’m using it (in a recipe or for sipping). Ice cream and cookies, however, tend to disappear faster: in one or two days. Make sure your family knows once the treat is gone, they have to wait until the next month.
Tomorrow: shopping for deals at wholesale clubs, buying more generics and clipping and clicking for coupons.