Easy Cost Effective Meal Planning

Establishing A Grocery Store Game Plan

Recently I took a hard look at our financial situation and decided it was time to lower the cost of our food and household goods. At first this task can be quite daunting and maybe even a little annoying. I am finding that I’ve been enjoying the challenge of coming in on budget or perhaps lower. I’ve simplified our meals to come up with an easy cost effective meal planning strategy! But first let’s talk about how we aligned our goals to help save our family money.

Because everyone will have a different goal in mind it is important to sit down and create your own personal goals. For us we wanted to cut our cost of food and household goods as much as possible to allow us the opportunity to bolster savings and pay off debt faster. Our goals centered on lowering the amount of money being spent at the grocery store.

1) Create a simple, cost effective meal plan

2) Come in under budget

3) Eliminate waste

4) Stop purchasing duplicates (shampoo and conditioner, windex, dish soap, etc).

5) Stick to meal plan deviating only when necessary.

Meal Planning Made Simple

In the beginning of our marriage Brian was in the United States Navy and our income was considerably lower than it is now 15 years later. When it came to our budget for food and fun we had just enough to get by. I would meticulously meal plan and found significant joy in doing so. For whatever reason I got away from this practice of creating a meal plan and grocery shopping weekly.

Fast forward to my recent evaluation of our finances (February 2018). I found that our food bill was both unpredictable and out of control. It was at that point that I decided something had to change. A plan needed to be put in place to help us lower our food and household goods cost and it was going to take a concentrated effort. I immediately went back to what I had done in those early days of our marriage – meal planning. With a little bit of effort I was able to decrease our food bill almost in half!

Evaluate What You Have

Knowing what you have in your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer is important to cutting costs. Creating meals around what you have eliminates the need to purchase all ingredients. I typically center our meal plan on what we have, traditions we’ve established and how often I will have to cook.

Typically speaking I usually plan meals for Monday through Friday and allow flexibility for our weekend. Right off the bat I know Tuesday we will have Tacos and Thursday we will have Pizza. On most Friday’s my husband works late so my kids get to pick what’s for dinner and that usually consists of either chicken nuggets or corndogs while we watch a show together. This makes meal planning a breeze.

In our home an average week looks like this:

Sunday: Carnitas, rice chips and guacamole

Monday: Leftovers from Sunday

Tuesday: Tacos

Wednesday: London Broil or Chicken Stirfry – rice, veggies and maybe pineapple

Thursday: Pizza

Friday: Chicken nuggets or corndogs. Leftovers for Brian and I.

Saturday: Flexible usually no plan.

 A lot of times I’ll make shredded chicken in the Instant Pot on Sunday and have it for the week. If I do this our meals may look more like this:

Sunday: Shredded Chicken prepped

Monday: Chicken Stirfry – rice and available vegetables.

Tuesday: Tacos <– Always tacos.

Wednesday: Chicken Noodle Soup with leftover chicken from Sunday…

Thursday: Pizza

Friday: Chicken nuggets or corndogs unless my husband is home in that case we have London Broil, sweet potatoes and rice.

Winging It Doesn’t Cut It

We have managed to cut our cost by meal planning and creating lists. I literally create a list for Costco, Sam’s Club AND Target/Giant on Sunday and we run through these 3 stores pretty fast. In the past we were grocery shopping primarily at Costco and Target. I have found that I love both of these stores but by only shopping at these stores we were missing out on great deals at our local grocery store.

*Keep a list going during the week of items you need as you run out of them or notice you are going to need a given item. This way you have an easy point of reference with regards to household goods and other staples as they run out.

Costco/Sam’s Club

Typically speaking my list for Costco now has decreased and mostly has milk, chicken breast, lunchmeat, bread, asparagus and peppers, butter, paper goods and cereal. Our Costco bill has been under or at $100 a week which is excellent for us. There are certain items that we purchase at Sam’s Club (eggs, bananas, random produce, milk, etc.). I’ve noticed a lot of times Sam’s Club will come in lower in cost versus Costco. I prefer Costco meat and veggies over Sam’s Club.


Target is a little more tricky. I’ve taken to shopping at Target only once a week. Target always has something I “need” that I didn’t know that I needed until I got in the store. So in order to decrease our costs at Target I’ve resorted to making a list and reviewing cartwheel prior to entering the store. I still buy random things sometimes but, visiting Target once a week versus running in for errands a couple times a week has decreased our weekly Target bill considerably.

Grocery Store

Weekly I browse the flyers of our local grocery store. Lucky for us we have many surrounding us. On Valentine’s Day Brian and I wanted to do something special but wanted to stay in and celebrate with our kids. We were able to find Lobster tails for $5 and NY Strip for $3.50 a pound. We ended up making an awesome meal for our family for under $45! Knowing what’s on sale helps me evaluate the cost at Costco and Sam’s versus going to a 3rd store. Sometimes I find really awesome deals at the grocery store.

Sticking to Your Plan

Honestly sometimes it’s not always convenient to sit down and create a meal plan and I understand that. If you are looking for a way to decrease your food/household goods this is the way to go. Sitting down and planning out your meals and creating a shopping list is essential. It’s so easy to get distracted or to forget what you went to the store for… it happens to me ALL the time. Target does this to me. They always have the cutest things and I always get distracted. Knowing how distracted Target gets me makes me want to create a list even more.

I understand that sometimes life happens and we deviate from our meal plans by going out to dinner. No worries. Sometimes I just do not want to cook and neither does Brian. Last weekend we enjoyed a nice lunch/dinner out at a local BBQ joint and boy did we enjoy that. I didn’t feel guilty one bit… well, maybe a little because brisket isn’t essentially on the 21 Day Fix. 😉

Make Meal Planning a Habit

At first meal planning may be a challenge but once you get in the swing of things it will become a habit. I notice personally when I meal plan and have a list going in to a store not only do I spend less but, I am more focused and can get in and out of a store in no time. A little bit of planning can go a long way for meeting financial goals. Give yourself grace, some weeks you will stick to your meal plan and do better than others. Enjoy the process. Keep things simple. Eat more at home and watch the savings roll in.

Do you have any easy cost effective meal planning tips or tricks you’d like to share? Please comment below.

meal planning easy and effective at reducing grocery bill.

*photos courtesy of pexels.com and unsplash

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  • Reply
    Lacy G
    March 1, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Evaluating what I already have is usually my weakness! Such a great reminder to start there; oftentimes I re-buy ingredients I’ve already got in the pantry just because I forget to look before going to the grocery store. 🙄 Probably already have several meals just waiting in there to be prepared! Haha. Thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    March 1, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Great info! Meal planning helps save so much money.

  • Reply
    March 1, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    When I make the time to plan my weeks meals, I always save money and time. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Reply
    Brandi Michel | FamilyFelicity.com
    March 2, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Meal planning is totally something I struggle with. I’m the queen of winging it, and it’s not really working. These are great tips to help me get back on track! Thanks!

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