Plan, plan, plan. Everything starts with a plan. If you are interested in saving food dollars when shopping, it starts at home. Last month we discussed couponing and how to save at the grocery store. This month we will focus on strategies for your shopping. We are going to plan for you to save on your food budget. So, where you start in the planning process? You have to know what your end result is and work your way backwards. Think about your ultimate goal: feeding your family healthy food, being able to provide food for the entire week or month, staying within an allotted budget when making your purchases or having extra left at the end of the month. Everyone’s goals are individual to their family and life situations.
When planning keep in mind your family needs….some basic needs to consider may be:
- What does my family like?
- How many of us will be eating?
- What do the kids or older people need?
- Is it too hard to make?
- How much money do I have for food?
- Will we be eating away from home, so that I should buy less food?
- Will friends and relatives come over for meals?
Another important part of food shopping is planning the menus for your family meals. Here are some tips to follow when planning a menu:
- Your family needs
- Good nutritious foods
- Variety of foods keeping in mind texture, color, flavor, and temperature
- Consider wise use of leftovers.
- Weekly specials and seasonal food, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Is a convenience food worth the additional costs or could you make it from scratch?
Using a shopping list saves you time. It helps you control your spending. Lists also helps you remember all the items you need. Here are some helpful hints for making a shopping list:
- Keep paper and pencil in the kitchen. You can write down things you need when you think of them. Keep your list easy assessable – so you will know where it is when you need it. I keep mine on the refrigerator with a pen clipped to it. Encourage family members to write down items when they use them up or they are almost empty.
- Check your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator as you make your list. Make your list based on your meal plan, specials and food budget.
- Add items that you are low on before you run out and you are less likely to make impulse purchases.
- Organize the list the same way the grocery store sections are laid out. You will save time and avoid forgetting items when you shop.
- Look at the newspaper and ads for sales and coupons. I look to see what meats or other items are on sale and try to plan my meals around those foods.
Food tossed = money loss. Avoid throwing out food when possible. If you realize something is about to spoil or expiration date is close, then plan to use it before it cannot be used. Example: if you have leftover black beans from a meal, make a black bean salsa or quesadilla to stretch your food dollars. Mashed potatoes are always great in a potato soup, Shepard’s Pie, casseroles or other dishes. Bananas can be used in smoothies or great in banana bread. If you consistently have items that are spoiling you may want to buy less to reduce the loss and save your dollars. Of course, always keep food safety in mind. If in doubt, throw it out!
Be creative with your food and look for multiple uses for an item. When I have extra time I cook two meals at once, use one and freeze the other. Sure is a time saver and keeps me eating at home when it would be so easy to drive through a fast food restaurant after work. Of course, if you eat out, plan for it when you are thinking about your weekly menu. During the summer months, many families have outside activities that keep them busy. Having a ready-made meal makes it easy and quick to eat at home. It also saves money on your food budget.
It makes $ense to $ave when purchasing your food, it all starts with a plan. Plan what you need, the meals you want to prepare, use your food on hand, plan to use leftovers, plan to eat out, plan to decrease you food being discarded due to expiration, plan balanced healthy meals, plan to take your lunch to work, plan for snacks…….plan, plan, plan. If you do this then you are planning to $ave. Those dollars could be used on other items you family needs or even for a family outing. Now that you have made a plan, next month our series will discuss strategies to shop and safe at the grocery store. I hope that you will look at the resources below to help you make your plan this month.
Some resources to help you plan you can download a Cheap and Handy Shopping list at
Create a grocery game plan. To help for planning and we know planning = savings visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget/downloads/grocery_gameplan_interactive.pdf
For more information on Food and Nutrition contact your local UGA Extension Office. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program teaches “Healthy Eating on a Budget” and free lessons are offered in Spanish or English. For more information contact me at 912.652.7981. Happy Savings.