Monday, June 8, 2009

Top 10 Tips for Frugal Menu Planning Newbies

Last week I received an email from a reader. She is new to planning budgets and making menu plans and wanted some advice. Inspired by her questions here are my Top 10 Tips for Frugal Menu Planning Newbies:
  1. Make a realistic budget with your spouse. Whether setting up a budget for all your spending or only your groceries, be realistic about what you currently NEED to spend.

  2. Use the sales flyers for local supermarkets. Weekly sales are full of "loss leaders." These are heavily discounted items intended to get you in the door and spend money on non-sales items. Ask if your favorite supermarket will price match other stores in your area.

  3. Use coupons ONLY if the product is something you will need/use even if you didn't have a coupon. Also make sure the coupon product is the best deal.

  4. Buy generic or store brand. Generic products are often similar in taste and quality to that of name brand. For example: Did you notice a couple of years ago when Peter Pan Peanut Butter issued their recall that Wal-Mart brand peanut butter was also recalled? Because it was made in the same plant! I'm thinking it's the same stuff with different packaging!! Except one is significantly cheaper than the other.

  5. Keep it Simple. If you have never planned a menu before don't start with a month! Start with one week. If your budget is for 2 weeks, consider repeating the menu a second week until you are comfortable with menu planning.

  6. When writing your list of meals, ask other household members to contribute their favorites. You might be surprised by what they do and don't like.

  7. Use the weekly sales flyers to plan your menu. For example, if chicken is on sale this week then plan to have several chicken meals.

  8. Stock up on meat sales. I rarely pay more than $1.99 lb. for boneless chicken breasts, 80/20 ground beef and steak/roast. I buy it on sale and freeze it in meal sized portions.

  9. As much as possible, cook from scratch. It's cheaper and healthier. For example, a box of Hamburger Helper Stroganoff will cost about $2 with a coupon. You get 1 meal from the box. For $1 I can buy a box of pasta that will make 2 meals. Add $.70 for cream of mushroom soup and I spent less for the more food.

  10. Plan to not cook. Keep 1 -2 frozen meals in the freezer for days that you just can't cook. A frozen pizza is much cheaper than take out!
What are you top tips and recommendations for frugal menu planning newbies?

Are you a newbie with a question? Please ask and I'll try to answer it!

Note: Feel free to use my any of my recipes for your menus. I just ask that you leave a comment if you try one and DON'T publish them for profit. Thanks!

Photos by rick and Simon Shek.


Carrie said...

I. am. a. newbie.

Part of it is that our schedules change (I think this is still because we only have one kid) and I'd rather keep things more flexible.

Instead of menu planning, I typically just buy bulk. That frequently doesn't make sense with only three people in the house, but we have large groups of people over all the time and so I always know that I have plenty of food on hand to serve lots for less.

Maybe it's also that I"m just not organized enough.

Amy said...

Very helpful!

The only thing I might add is: shop with a calculator in hand! You'll always know how much you've spent and this will help stay within your budget. I can remember (before 3 kids, I no longer shop with a calculator but really no longer need it either) coming to the end of my shopping trip and putting things back on the shelf to stay within my means. It was so good for me! I learned some things that we just didn't really need and got creative, too!

Very helpful reminders!

Jenn said...

Thanks for the advice. I am having difficulty finding time to plan. My goal is to cook in the crock-pot during the week... hopefully I can get started soon. It's also a little easier for me, since I don't have to plan around purchasing beef... One day we can ship to you! :-)
Keep the advice coming... love reading it!

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