Just wanted to share my methods for grocery planning, and hear from some of y'all about the methods you use.
Hubby and I are both paid biweekly, during the same week. Our finances are set up for this, so I do dinner meal plans for two weeks at a time. When making the meal plan, I keep in mind what we have on hand in the pantry and freezer, and try to make plans that use up things on hand.
So I have a 3 step process for making my grocery list, and it ends up with a list with 3 different levels of priority so I know which items I can cut from the list to keep us at or under budget.
First I make a list of items needed for the meal plan. These are the most important items, that I will get, usually no matter what as they themselves never add up to enough to break the budget.
Second I go over the list of staples I keep in my kitchen. Anything that we're low on goes on the list, and most of the time I can get all of the items in this part of the list.
Third I go through my coupons. I match up as many as I can to items already on the list, and then check for coupons that need to be used this trip, as they will expire before I go shopping again. These are the things that get cut if they'd make us go over budget.
I don't swear by coupons as the best way to save money. I use them on my first and second priority items only when the coupon provides the best deal on the item. The third priority items are items that we use in the household, we're just not out of them yet and the coupon makes them a better deal, so I stock up on them then. As often as I can, I match any item on the list to a sale as well as a coupon.
We manage on a $250/month for 2 adults and a 6 year old. $150 for the list items, about $50 for our Angelfood order, and about $50 for Sam's Club.
So how do you others out there plan your groceries and meals to keep to a budget?