Stumped at the supermarket? Crystal Paine, author of The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year, shows you to how to get the best bang for your buck at the supermarket by planning a menu based on what’s on sale and what you have on hand.
1. “Shop” Your Cupboards. Look in your freezer, refrigerator, and cupboards. This simple exercise often yields a great deal of inspiration. If you open up your freezer and find a bag of chicken and a bag of frozen broccoli and you open up your cupboard and see a bag of rice, that could be the beginnings of a Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole. Just add cheese and cream of chicken soup to your grocery list and one dinner is taken care of.
2. Consult the Sales Fliers. When you’re in the middle of planning your menu and grocery list, quickly browse through your weekly grocery store sale fliers (most grocery stores have their weekly sale fliers available online) and see if there are any exceptional deals on things you need or things you will use in the next few months. Most of the time, the hottest deals of the week are listed prominently on the front page of the flier. The more you can plan your menu based upon what is on a great sale rather than going by whatever sounds good, the more you will save. Once you decide which ingredients are on a great sale, incorporate these into your menu as much as you can. For instance, if chuck roasts are 50 percent off, then put roast on the menu. Or, if you see that apples are on sale for 99¢ a pound, it’s the week for making apple pie.
3. Survey Your Coupons. After you have a good idea of what’s on hand and what’s on sale, pull out your coupons and look for any that match up with items you were planning to buy or that would make a great sale even sweeter. In many cases, a sale might not be that great, but when you can match a coupon with the sale, it becomes a fabulous deal. For example, this past week our Kroger affiliate store had Ronzoni pasta on sale for 89¢ per box when you bought 10 boxes. That’s an okay deal, as far as pasta goes, but nothing spectacular. However, I had six coupons for $1 off two boxes of Ronzoni pasta (some from the newspaper and some I’d printed out online), so I was able to get 12 boxes of Ronzoni pasta for just 39¢ per box after the sale and the coupons.
4. Make Your Final Menu Plan and Grocery List. Using your list of recipe ideas and what’s on sale at the store, create your final menu plan and grocery list for the week.
Struggling to come up with meal ideas?
• Create a list of thirty meals your family loves. When you’re lacking inspiration, you can just whip out the list and have some instant ideas of family favorites.
• Have a recipe idea folder. Make a file in your filing cabinet to stick recipe ideas you come across in magazines, newspapers, and on food packages, and keep a running list on your computer of recipes you find online.
• Find inspiration online. Use AllRecipes.com, SuperCook.com, or RecipeMatcher.com to find recipes based on ingredients you already have on hand.