Many people go grocery shopping with no idea of the meals they will be making that week or month. Entering a grocery store without a plan of attack can cause the household budget to skyrocket. A list of needed items is great, but just replacing the things you typically use doesn't go far enough. Unless you already have a stockpile and can raid it for the things you need, using a meal planning strategy will slash your budget.
To create a meal plan, think of the foods your family likes to eat. Create a list of meals for the week. After you have created the list of meals, think about the ingredients you will need to make those meals. Don't forget to check your fridge and pantry for the things you already have. Leave anything you don't need off the list. If you have an empty pantry, try to buy the ingredients in double portions. You won't need to buy that ingredient during your next trip.
Once you have your list of ingredients for the planned meals, hit the grocery store. Don't go in hungry or you'll end up being tempted by all of the ready-to-eat items. Avoid the snack aisle until you've found everything you need for your meal planning strategy. Once you have everything on your list, check your budget. If you came in under, feel free to buy some extra items for snacking. For extra dollar power, plan out some snacks before entering the grocery store. You can make your own snacks at a fraction of the prepared snack cost. Snack on veggies -- a great choice for everyone.
Once you become more confident in this manner of shopping, try out monthly meal planning. You'll be surprised at how much you save each month. There are many ways to make this way of shopping work even better. If you have the room in your pantry, place all of the ingredients for each meal in the same place. Use dollar store baskets to hold the "meal" in your cabinet, shelf, or pantry. For example, for spaghetti night, include these items: sauce, seasoning, noodles, black olives, and parmesan cheese. Label the basket "Spag Night." You'll always know what goes with what and where it is!
Be a health advocate for your family by providing them with healthy food choices, and they'll grow to understand that you really are what you eat. By giving them the ground work for a healthy lifestyle, they will teach their children the same healthy habits, creating generations of healthy eaters. Healthy meal planning starts with you and can give long-lasting benefits to your children and your children's children. The United Way has plenty of information on nutrition and healthy eating.