It’s meal planning day! (aka: who else hates going to the grocery store??)

We all know we should meal plan – eat better, be more organized, save money…. But how many of us actually DO it?? I began meal planning a few years ago, sporadically. I found that, while I was more prepared to fix meals, I wasn’t saving any money. Sometimes it even felt like I was spending more! And my pantry was always overflowing. I couldn’t find anything in there.

Because my SYSTEM was flawed.

I shopped to the advertisements or coupons from the weekly paper. Or to the recipes that sounded good – and I’d buy every ingredient on the list because I didn’t know what I already had.

Let me throw out some numbers here…

A year ago, my monthly grocery budget was set at $500 per month; for a family of three. And I exceeded it EVERY month.

Four months ago, I decided to redo my budget. I set my monthly budget at $300 for three people. Time to tighten the belt!

In December 2011, I shopped once – at the beginning of the month. I had the month’s schedule, knew what parties I would be going to, everything was set. I had only two spontaneous events come up and I had items built in to accommodate them. I had to go to the store two additional times, but only for milk. (You can only buy so much milk in advance).

I did pick up a few things while I was on these trips, I’m no saint. But they were wholly unnecessary. (They threw off my budget, but the system is a work in progress!)

I shopped next during the last weekend in January, but only because I needed milk and veggies. I was still stocked up on meats, side dishes, and snacks. I had a bunch of coupons including a coupon for 20% off my entire order, plus an additional 10% off non-food items. You know I stocked up! But if I had followed my system, even that trip would have been less than $50.

Between December 1 and January 25 I made two actual grocery trips and four quick stops for milk and such. On February 27 I finally needed to make another major shopping trip. I’ve put in a grocery order for pickup (More about that in later posts).

One big trip per month.

Yes, you read that correctly – ONE trip to the grocery store per month. Healthy, thought out meals all month. I’m still striving to meet that $300 budget. I like specialty food, but it’s pricey.

But in the past four months, I’ve reduced my grocery spending from nearly $800 per month to between $300 & $400 per month. And I’ve saved myself well over three hours per month with the reduced number of trips to the store. What are your meal planning or grocery budgeting woes?

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