Since my maternity leave ended and I went back to work half-time in April 2008, we’ve been on a pretty limited budget. We have student debt and a line of credit to manage, as well as rent and our other bills. This leaves us not a lot of wiggle room, and every time we relax a little, we pay for it big-time. I admit we’re not pros at this, but I like to think we’re getting better.
One of the things that really saves me a lot on groceries is making a meal plan for the week, and limiting grocery shopping to only once or twice per week. I use my Moleskine planner which has a handy days-of-the-week page on the left, and a lined note page on the right to keep track of my meals (written at the bottom of each day) and my shopping list (written down in a column on the far-right side of the note page).
One un-planned benefit of this is that I have a record of all the meals we’ve had over the last months since I started with this. If I am ever stuck for ideas, I just have to flip back a few weeks and see what we’ve been eating. It’s amazing how often I forget what we like to eat!
My strategies include making sure to factor in left-overs for lunches, and even next-day dinners. And if I am ever really stuck for ideas, I have a category list for five days of the week: one pasta dish, one bean dish, one meat dish, one vegetarian dish, and one fish dish. I figure the other two days will be covered by either leftovers, or something simple I can whip up from staples.
This saves us money no matter where I shop, as long as I plan thoroughly so I’m not tempted by things that I suddenly realize I forgot!