Grocery bills are growing larger all the time for just about everyone. Record inflation and shipping and supply chain issues push up the price of groceries, and your regular trip to the grocery store is probably a lot more expensive than it used to be. That’s especially true if you’re feeding a family that includes growing kids.

There are several ways to try and keep your grocery bill down, but one of the most effective is to plan your meals for the week ahead of time. This will save you money at the grocery store, and it will also save you time throughout the week because you’ll already have everything you need for your family’s meals right there at home.

How does meal planning work?

Meal planning is as simple as it sounds. Start by setting aside some time on Saturday or Sunday each week to think ahead and decide which meals to serve your family this week. You can make a simple list on notebook paper or buy a notepad that is specifically made for this purpose that lists the days of the week and each meal throughout the day. As you list out the meals, make a second list of which ingredients you need for each meal, keeping in mind what you might already have in your kitchen.

Use common ingredients

Planning your meals allows you to think a little more carefully about how you’re using the ingredients in your kitchen. Creating a list makes it easier to overlap your ingredients in different dishes throughout the week. For example, if you’re having stir-fry on Monday, you can make rice with your tacos on Tuesday. In addition to saving you money, this technique allows you to use things before they go bad and minimize space use in your cupboards and refrigerator. Plus, you can buy in bulk — which also saves money.

Take advantage of deals

Another benefit of planning your meals this way is that you can consider the various deals and coupons available from your local grocery stores. Most grocers release a weekly circular that tells you which products they’re putting on sale. If you don’t receive one in your mailbox, you can search online for one in your area. Take a look at which products are on sale and try to plan meals that incorporate those products. You can also comparison shop to find the best price and use store or manufacturer coupons to save even more.

Avoid temptation

Help yourself avoid the temptation of eating out by making a meal plan and purchasing the ingredients ahead of time. Doing some meal prep to give yourself a leg up on the actual dinner preparation is another way to do this. Eating meals at restaurants is costly, especially for a family. Swinging through the drive-thru or bringing the family to the nearest restaurant for a dinner you don’t have to cook or clean up after is easy. However, by planning ahead, you’ll take away some of that temptation, saving you money and helping your family eat healthier in the process.

It may take a bit of extra time in the planning process and require more forethought, but once you get into the habit of meal planning, it’ll come as second nature. You’ll save money by buying in bulk, finding the best deals, and avoiding restaurants. And you’ll save yourself the headache of multiple trips to the grocery store during the week by planning ahead to eat healthier, home-cooked meals.

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