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Where Money Really Does Grow on Trees
Derek Allen
Derek Allen
May 21, 2010


I used to always grocery shop with a list. It helped me remember everything I needed at the grocery store. But I still found myself navigating almost every aisle of the grocery store. Except those 2 or 3 in the middle that are always empty, who uses those? By the time I ended up in the checkout line my cart looked like it belonged to a contestant in a shopping spree. It was chock full of stuff that I didn’t need. If you don’t believe me, open up your fridge and take a look at the inside door. How many different salad dressings do you have? Way more than you could ever possibly need. I was wasting valuable money on unplanned purchases. I finally decided to try something I have been putting off for a while: grocery shopping with a menu.

A grocery menu is an explicit list of ingredients that are used in a planned menu of meals. I planned out meals for two weeks, and only included a few healthy snacks (with appropriate portions). By having everything I need for the next 2 weeks completely mapped out, I no longer needed to swim through each aisle. I went straight to the items I needed and didn’t end up with a single product that I didn’t plan to buy. Grocery stores are meticulously laid out to get the customers to buy stuff they don’t need. Don’t grocery shop hungry, and stick to the aisles where the items you need are located.

Cheaper Grocery Bills

Grocery shopping with a menu is not just cheaper because you buy less items. Have you ever had something go bad because you let it sit too long before you went to eat it? I know it has happened to me almost every time I grocery shopped. By planning your meals ahead of time, you can cook the meals that use fresh/time sensitive ingredients first. This allows you to avoid wasting money on produce that goes bad before you use it.

Grocery shopping with a menu is also a great way to make sure you stick to your budget. You can get a good estimate of your grocery bill before you go to the store and make sure it is within your budget. You can also coordinate your menu with items that are on sale or couponed. This allows you to fully take advantage of the grocery store’s weekly deals, instead of buying the same old groceries and hoping something is discounted.

Healthier Meals

The number one expense I hear people wanting to cut back on is eating out. Eating out is expensive and unhealthy. What happens when you go to make dinner and you open the pantry door only to find that is full of random items that don’t come close to qualifying as a meal? You go out to eat. This will never happen if you prepare a menu of meals ahead of time. You will know when you don’t have any meals left beforehand. Save your wallet and waistline at the same time, and don’t eat out.

The only way to know a 100%  that you are eating healthy and losing weight, is to actively monitor your calorie intake. Its simple logic: eat less than you burn and you will lose weight. When you plan out your meals, make note of the nutrition facts. Plan healthy meals that are low in calories and fat. Combine this with a simple exercise routine and you can guarantee yourself that you will lose those pounds, or continue a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to include snacks and drinks in your calculations. Buy healthy snacks and portion them out ahead of time. Make Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers with the appropriate servings.

I challenge everyone to stop grocery shopping with a list, and start grocery shopping with a menu. Compare your receipts before and after. It saved me upwards of 30% on my grocery bill and helped me keep on track with my fitness. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing meals from my menu that I enjoyed, stay tuned!

Photo Credit: R.B. Boyer

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Posted Under: Ways to Save

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