Here is a tip that I learned many years ago that is absolutely timeless. Not only will it save you a lot of money at the supermarket, but it will also help you organize and plan your meals at a moment's notice. Here's all you have to do:
Shop as little as you possibly can. For example, do grocery shopping only once every two weeks.
Figure up how many meals, specifically breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (or suppers as we call it in the south) that you will need during this pay period or grocery shopping period.
On a big tablet or sheet of paper, write those across the top. For example, write "14 Breakfasts," "14 Lunches" and "12 Dinners" (because you may want to eat dinner out one evening a week for the next two week pay period or grocery shopping period).
Next, under those amounts listed on the top, divide your paper with vertical lines drawn into vertical columns for the following items: main dish or meat item, side dish, veggie or salad, bread, dessert or fruit
Next, go through your cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator to see how many items you already have for the main dish or meat item and write that down under that column. For example, let's say that you find you have enough bacon in your refrigerator for four meals, write down bacon and the number 4 beside it under the main dish or meat item and then place a check mark beside it to denote you already have it. If you have enough frozen hamburger meat for three more meals put that down. If you have enough fresh veggies for four salads, put that under veggies or salads with the amount and a checkmark beside it. When you have finished, you will often find you only need meat or main dish items for perhaps only two meals instead of the fourteen you usually purchase. Include such things as a box of Jell-O for a dessert or salad. Rethink how a meatless meal can be had with a can of beans, a little rice and a lot of creativity.
Then add up in each column how many you have. Suppose under the meat/main dish column you see you have enough food already for that item for thirteen meals and you only need to buy for fourteen. That means you need to only buy one package of meat. Now look at your list to see what you have and which particular meat you would like? No fish yet? Add one meal of fish. You get the idea. Do this under each column.
Now on a separate sheet of paper, write down how many meats, veggies or side dishes, breads, desserts, etc. that you need.
Look at your grocery store's ad to see which type of meat is on sale and buy that one. Do you have a coupon in your coupon box for this? Use it now and you save even more!
Always allow $5 to $10 per grocery shopping trip to stock up on some unexpected item in the store that is a great bargain!
Keep a little separate list of "other items" that you want to buy for yourself that are not grocery items. Your list might include a night at the movies, a new dress, a book or a pair of new drapes. Beside each of those items, write the approximate price it will cost. Prioritize the list with a little number or asterisk on the left side. Always include savings as the first priority and set aside at least 1/4 of all leftover money to go into savings for a rainy day.
Now you can decide how much of that "leftover" grocery money you want to spend on extra items at the store you don't really need or if you had rather spend it on the "other things" you really do want or need that are on your "other list." Don't forget the savings category.
Last but not least, buy a big piggy bank, made of glass, that you cannot see through. Glue the rubber stopper in the bottom. Begin to save all of your pocket change and bring it home each day to fill that piggy. When it is full, use a knife to carve out the rubber stopper on the bottom or crack it open and put the change into an automatic change counter or let the family spend one family evening together counting and rolling it. I save all of my change and add it to our vacation fund. Most of the time, the piggy bank has around $500 inside it!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by MyStory@Stretcher.com
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