Saving money on groceries

How Reverse Menu Planning Saves Money on Groceries

Last week when I shared about ways to save on groceries, my strong admonition was to buy what’s on sale. Today I want clarify and detail what that looks like.

The bread and avocados were grocery store mark downs and made for a delicious breakfast this week!

Of course you want to look at the store’s sites/ads and see what items they have marked down this week. This enables you to purchase items when they are marked at a lower price. You can establish a menu around those items, BUT WAIT!

When you’re at the store, go deep diving into each section of the store looking for their Marked Down items. This would be their
Clearance aisle, the corner of the meat section for meat that’s ready to expire, and also items on shelves that have sale stickers on them.
Kroger and Ingles are two places where I often see these kind of sales.

For example – A couple weeks ago I walked into Kroger’s produce section and found these bags in a large cooler…

The date was for a few days out! They also had the salad bowls for 25 cents! I purchased what I knew we could enjoy before they went bad. Obviously, I hadn’t known to add this to my list, but it was nice to incorporate that into my menu planning when I got home!

Often I find bananas marked down, or yogurt, or beef. Then I go home and make up my menu using those items. If I needed a cake and I found the bananas marked down, I’d make this Banana Cake, rather than one that calls for all kinds of extra ingredients that I would have to purchase at full price.

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This is called Reverse menu planning (thanks for the term, Money-Saving Mom!). I’ve been doing this all my homemaking life, I just didn’t know what it was called!

This kind of shopping and PLANNING is totally opposite of not having a plan and then running to the store to buy needed items for a recipe.

Reverse menu planning is buying what’s on sale and/or marked to clearance, then using what I have on hand to make up the week’s menu.

Here’s a sampling of what’s on my menu next week because I went shopping and got these items when they were marked down!

I always have frozen and canned vegetables on hand for side dishes, though I do purchase fresh fruits and veggies at regular price.

If you are in a place where you only order groceries on-line, you can still get the benefit of the advertised sales, and that will help your grocery budget. But if you’re able to go into the store, keep your eyes open for those good mark downs and don’t be afraid of them. They’re still good for purchasing and consuming!

Have you heard of Reverse Menu Planning? Maybe like me, you’ve been doing it, but didn’t know what to call it?! Tell me about a deal you scored recently!

refreshment at home

Five Ways To Reduce Your Grocery Bill

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Years ago when I was single and living on a teacher’s salary, I sewed my own clothes,I had pasta dishes for supper, and I shopped yard sales for home necessities.  Then when I got married and my husband began ministry, we took on nearly the same tactics in striving to live frugally.  It’s truly been a way of life for me.  I’ve often said that even if I ever fell into a goldmine, I’d still shop the sales!

I recently shared with a group of women some of the lessons I’ve learned to save money in grocery shopping and thought I’d share them with you, too!  There are a ton of great suggestions on the Internet, along with helpful sites that will snag the best deals and do lots of the work for you!  I’ll share a couple of my favorite places to go at the end of this post. But first, here are my best suggestions to reduce your grocery bill:

  1. Don’t start with coupons, start with the store’s sales.  
    • By knowing what’s on sale, you can purchase what you need when it’s at its lowest price.  Try not to buy foods until it’s at its rock bottom amount.  You could keep a running list of what the “bottom” price is so you’ll know if what the store is asking is truly a good deal.
    • Did you know groceries go on sale in cycles?  Usually every 6-8 weeks the most general items are marked down. You can go to Joyfully Thriving.com and download a free guide that will tell you what is cycling on sale every month.
  2. Stockpile items when they are at their lowest price!
    • When things are at their lowest price, purchase enough of what you buy to last you until the next markdown.  If you can’t buy enough to last until the next sale, buying at least couple, will also save you some money!
    • The goal is to have enough foods on hand (that your family will eat, of course) so you can plan your family’s menu around that.  Then each week, you’ll purchase fresh produce, perishable items and the new items that are reduced.
  3. Think hard about your Meat-filled meals. 
    • Having pasta, soups, salads and veggies could reduce the cost of your groceries by $1,000!
    • For the meat you do buy, buy it only when it’s marked down.
    • Don’t be afraid to buy meat that is on sale that day with a red sticker.  If you take it home and either use it immediately or freeze it, it will be safe to use.
    • Buy in bulk and freeze serving sizes in freezer bags.  Don’t forget to save yourself some time by cooking some of that chicken or hamburger and cooling it,  then freezing it so it will be ready for tacos, soups, or casseroles.  
  4. Plan your menu!  
    • When you know what’s marked down that week and what you have in your pantry and freezer, then make your menu using those ingredients.  I used to sit down with my cookbook and find all these great recipes that called for items that were not on sale and quickly learned that was not the way to vary our menu.  I learned to look at what I had, then find a recipe for those ingredients.  Here’s a cool site I just recently found where you can click on all the ingredients you have on hand and they’ll suggest recipes using those items!
    • Without a menu you’ll be scrambling to know what is for supper.  You’ll run to the grocery store at the last minute and have to pay premium price for items, and your grocery bill will be staggering!,
    • With a menu you can prepare a little ahead of time!  Thaw the meat, start the crock pot, etc.  So not only will you be saving money, you’ll also be saving your sanity!!
  5. Use coupons for the store where you shop.  Coupons can help, but it’s the last thing you need to worry about. I love Kroger because using their e-coupons keep me from having to clip them.  Often I buy an item on sale AND I have a coupon for it!  Double savings!!  I bought a pound of butter recently $1.40 because of the sale and coupon deal!

So those are my five best tips, friends.  I hope this will help you reduce your grocery costs!  One more tip I would add is, don’t be afraid of Aldi’s, if there is one near you.  Whitney at Come Home for Comfort has some great tips about shopping there.  Be sure to check out this post.

My favorite site for finding the sales in the stores where I shop is Southern Savers!

What is the most difficult part of keeping your grocery cost down?

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