Meal scheduling is a key to frugal food buying: You can make the most of sales, for one. To start:
- Decide how often you'll shop. Weekly? Monthly? Reducing trips will help you cut back on expensive impulse buys.
- Start small. If compiling a week's worth of menus sounds too daunting, aim for three or four days' worth.
- Count the meals. Are there some nights you'll be out? Have guests? Plan for these -- and lunches, snacks, etc., as well.
- Take inventory. Check your shelves for foods you already have (say, potatoes), then check the sales (say, roast beef). Build your menu choices from there. (Pot roast!)
- Include cheap meals every week. That could be leftovers, soup and a sandwich, or even breakfast for dinner. Remember: Protein's usually the costliest part of a meal, so go vegetarian once in a while.
- Be ready to substitute. If ground beef is on sale and it can substitute for more-expensive ground turkey, swap it in.
- At least once, compute the cost of each meal. This can be a huge eye-opener. Sometimes an expensive cut of meat paired with a simple veggie costs the same (or even less!) than a casserole with many inexpensive ingredients.
Adapted from Kimberly Danger's Instant Bargains: 600+ Ways to Shrink Your Grocery Bills and Eat Well for Less (Sourcebooks)