Conventional wisdom says that, in order to save money on groceries, you should plan your meal around your store’s ad based on what ingredients are on sale that week. Though I definitely seek to save money, I’ve found a different method that works for me. Instead of starting from the ad, I start with what I know I have on hand in my fridge, freezer, or pantry.

Here’s an example: when I sat down to make my meal plan for this week, I knew I had some ground turkey, fish, and pork chops in the freezer, a partial package of P.F. Change’s frozen dumplings, half a package of firm tofu, a few eggs, and the ingredients for a crockpot barbecue sauce (Italian dressing and barbecue sauce). SO, I planned to make turkey meatballs and spaghetti, pan-fried pork chops, fried rice with baked tofu and dumplings, fish tacos with chipotle lime slaw, and crockpot barbecue chicken. I rounded out the week’s meals with a crockpot butternut squash chili, which just sounded good to me. Since I already had the main ingredient for each meal, I only had to buy a few supplementary items, which still allows me to keep costs down.

My shopping list for those meals consisted of:

  • split chicken breasts for the barbecue, on sale for $1.19/lb
  • 1 can of black beans, 1 can of white beans, an onion, and a butternut squash for the chili
  • 3 limes, chipotle pepper in adobo, and cabbage for the tacos (I have tortillas and yogurt for the sauce already)

I use coupons for any of these items as I can, or buy the store-brand or sale option to keep costs down. I definitely peruse the ad for good sale-to-coupon matchups as well, and I picked up a few staples for these recipes that will get used for other things, like a new jar of mayonnaise, a bag of white rice, and some tortilla chips to have with salsa, but that’s all pretty trivial once you have the main meat portion taken care of. In addition, I buy other things that are on sale or have a good coupon (like this week I bought All laundry detergent and Chi Chi’s products that were at a great price). But by “shopping” from my stockpile to plan my week’s meals, I’m able to save a lot of money and a lot of thinking!

What’s your meal planning and grocery shopping tactic?

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman