I love the grocery store. I really do. I could push a cart up and down those neatly lined aisles for hours if not half a day in quite the joyous state. It's an exploration of new food, a search for menu inspiration, a chance to kibitz with kindly strangers about the unit price of cereal. I probably know the supermarket staff in an oddly intimate way. And having lived in four states in one year’s time, I know the price differences of product brands and markets so well that I should probably consider a trip to The Price is Right. I could really use a six piece dinette set. Think of me as a supermarket maven, if you will. As you can imagine, this supermarket love can veer dangerously close to an empty bank account. In recent years, I've gotten better at making a list, checking it twice, and...well, meal planning. Here are my 4 best tips to make your grocery haul budget-friendly:
1. Browse the sale circulars. The night before you plan to shop, browse several of your local stores’ circulars for sales. Make a quick list of sale items that interest you. Clip any coupons for products you frequently use.
2. Spend 10 minutes dreaming up 5 recipes incorporating those sale items. If chicken thighs are on sale, but you have never cooked them before, do a quick search online for recipes using them. Try to tap into what flavors or cuisines you’re craving and build a meal around that. You should also think about ways to connect these meals through similar ingredients, so that one food can work double duty- meaning less fuss and less waste when it comes time to prepare the meals. For instance, if I roast a small chicken, I’ll be able to use the meat in a number of recipes. And if I roast root vegetables along side the chicken, I can use those leftovers in a casserole, a pasta dish, or even a sandwich.
3. List the ingredients you’ll need. Put the list into your smart phone or write it on a sheet of paper. Having a list, and sticking to it, means that you'll spend only what you need to, and avoid any impulse buys.
4. Recycle Old Meal Plans. Save old grocery lists and meal plans and use them in a rotation every few weeks. You know what worked in the past, so likely it'll work again (and save you time and energy).
What are your best tips for meal planning? The Hunger Challenge is an exercise of empathy—to live in someone else's shoes for one week and learn how we can help fight hunger.
How you can help: volunteer, learn more about the Hunger Relief Now! Plan, encourage your friends and family and make your voice heard, donate to your local food bank. If you're participating in the Hunger Challenge, consider donating what you save this week on food.