As we all try to battle inflation and figure out new ways to save, the easiest place to start is your grocery list. The best way to save on groceries, many experts say, is by meal planning.
Two women who own a meal service say you can save a fortune by carefully planning your dinners for the week.
Alison Crowdus and Jen Eisenstein run a meal delivery service called Dinner to Doorbells.
"I'm making a white chicken lasagna," Crowdus said.
The two entrepreneurs are careful to buy only what they know they will use that week.
"There are a lot of people who just go to the grocery store and buy lots of things," Eisenstein said. "We buy items to make a very deliberate meal for this day."
One of the big advantages of meal planning, they explained, is you don't end up overbuying or purchasing too many of some ingredients and having to throw them all away a few months later.
"If you know your budget, you know your grocery budget, then you can plan within that budget," Crowdus said
They say planning each meal in advance can save a hundred dollars or more on groceries each month.
"Coupon Mom" offers tips for shopping
The founder of CouponMom.com, Stephanie Nelson, agrees, saying "when people look at their total spending, all of their spending, the category that always surprises them is grocery spending."
Nelson offered us her shopping tips for saving. First, she said, it is essential to shop with a list.
But don't be locked into one brand at one store. She says to compare prices of common items and grab them on sale.
"You shop selectively," she said. "You pick two to three stores a week, and cherry pick the best deals at each store."
Also, she says, cut back on impulse purchases by limiting how often you shop.
Think about it: If you run in for just milk and cereal, you will probably leave with four more things and a quick $30 bill.
"If you're going four times a week to the grocery store," she said, "you could cut that down to once."
Nelson also says many of us buy too much food that we then have to toss. According to the USDA, the average family wastes $1,500 yearly on uneaten food.
So what can you do? Nelson suggests:
- Buying only the items you need for that week.
- Making smart substitutions for less expensive items.
- Avoiding "quick runs" to the grocery store, where you always spend more than you had planned.
- Swapping at least one restaurant meal for an extra meal at home, can replace a $60 dinner out with a $10 dinner at home.
Jen Eisenstein and Alison Crowdus say planning the week's meals on Sunday can save you money and time Monday through Friday.
And by making more than one item at once, Crowdus says (such as two meals using rice or lasagna noodles), you can have a second dinner for a day or two later.
"We just dump it onto a pan, throw it in the oven and you are ready to go," Crowdus said.
By planning ahead, and buying ingredients for three or four meals at once, you don't overspend on groceries, and you don't waste your money.
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