If you’re looking for ways to save money, you may be overlooking one of the easiest ways to do it. It might surprise you to learn that the average American spends more on groceries than anything else, except for housing. Our grocery budget is quite literally eating our lunch!
While that may seem like a hopeless situation, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, grocery budgets often have the most room for improvement, meaning a little tightening up in this area can mean big savings down the road for your overall budget.
If you’re needing help getting out of debt, don’t overlook menu planning as a way to save money.
Menu planning doesn’t have to take long, either. To start with, you can simply write down what you’ll have for dinner each night for the week. Keep breakfast and lunch very simple so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need for those meals and head to the store with list in hand. If you’re in the habit of shopping without one, you may need to employ all your willpower to stick to your list and not grab things you think you need but aren’t actually part of your menu. (That’s a quick way to blow your new budget!)
By taking the time to plan your meals each week, you’ll be able to take advantage of store sales as well as ingredients you already have on hand. This way, you can create your entire menu out of ingredients that keep you within your budget.
You’ll also be able to look ahead at your schedule and plan meals according to what’s going on that week. (Afternoon soccer games making it hard to get dinner on the table? Plan a crockpot meal that has dinner ready when you are!)
Don’t stop there, though. Once you’ve got the hang of creating budget-friendly menus, you’re ready to take your money-saving lessons to the next level.
Even though you’ve started saving money by planning your groceries, chances are good there’s more you can do to create additional savings. If you’re serious about saving money, especially if you’re in debt, this is where the magic happens.
Begin this next step by re-evaluating your menu plans. Where could you make improvements? Since dinner is usually the most expensive meal, maybe you incorporate breakfast for dinner once a week or embrace Meatless Monday. Look for ways to cut your grocery budget by at least 10% and begin creating weekly menus with this new amount as the goal.
Now, take that 10% savings and apply it to one of the bills you are trying to pay down. By adding this amount to the payment you were already planning to make, you’ll be that much closer to paying off your debt.
Once you feel like you’ve got that new budget amount under control, strive to tighten it up yet again by another 10%. Make it a goal to see how creative you can get while still planning meals your family will love.
If you are seriously in debt, you may want to consider using a service such as debtconsolidation.com to help you get a solid plan in place. You’ll still be able to use your new menu planning skills to save 10% (or more!) on your groceries. Apply that savings to continue paying off your bill and you’ll be debt-free in no time!