DINNER AND YOUR BUDGET - HOW TO MAKE IT WORK
Sticking to my family's food budget every week is extremely important, but can also be a challenge if I don't plan properly. Here are a few tips for how I manage to stay within budget, but also build up a freezer stash.
I typically shop at Hannaford, BJ's and Walmart. There are a few items I purchase from Aldi (plastic storage and sandwich bags, spices.....) because they're always cheaper, but I typically only need to go there once a month. My every day staple items that I purchase regardless of sales, I already know are usually cheaper at Walmart unless Hannaford is having a sale or BJ's has a coupon that week. ***Depending on where you live, you may have different stores to shop from, but the same idea will still apply***
My weekly food plan starts on Sunday, that is when Hannaford releases their sale flyer and I always start with sales and coupons since this is the start of planning our dinners.
I quickly browse through the Hannaford sale flyer that gets emailed to me and check the meat and produce that is on sale. I then pull up my Walmart app and take a quick scan to see what items they have on rollback that week. All of the items I purchase on a regular basis are marked as a "favorite" which makes the process easier. The last thing I check is online at BJ's Wholesale to see what coupons they have out. Honestly, this all takes maybe ten minutes and I usually do it as I'm nursing the baby to sleep for one of his naps.
Once I know what the sales look like, I then pull up my notes on my phone and start making a list of dinners that sound good for the week. If I'm bored with food or can't think of anything, allrecipes.com is my go to!
With my dinners planned out, I quickly check my pantry for anything I think I might be missing and then start shopping! My Walmart pick up order is first and then Hannaford second. Since Hannaford charges for a pick up order less than $50 and I don't usually make the minimum, I don't utilize their pick up option, however I still add items to my list as though I'm going to place the order because that tells me my total and it also acts as my shopping list. Now I know what my Walmart and Hannaford totals are and all that is left is BJ's. Since I have already looked at their coupons, I know what my approximate total there will be and this allows me to use anyting left over in my budget to purchase items on sale that I might want extra of for my freezer :)
Keep in mind that shopping sales and coupons doesn't have to mean boring meals. As an example, my most recent weekly plan revolved around the sales, but also with the idea that I wanted to be able to add ready-made meals to my freezer since my stash had been depleted. My dinner plan looked like this:
Lasagna Chicken Vegetable Soup Tacos Chicken Stir Fry Chili Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Green Beans Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese with Chicken and Sauteed Broccoli
When you first start planning your weekly meals and grocery list, it might take you a little bit longer, but once you've done this a couple of times it becomes a very quick process. Plus planning is key to staying within budget.