Reverse Meal Planning
Primarily, reverse meal planning is what has so dramatically slashed our grocery bills each month. For our family of six, we used to spend $1500/month on groceries, now we spend $233/month. Last month we spent a couple dollars less than even that.
And the shocking part? We’re eating tastier than ever.
How It Works and What’s the Point
Groceries are expensive, and by in large, they are a forgettable purchase, meaning they don’t stay in your memory for long. Can you remember what you bought three weeks ago at the grocery store? Nope, me either. My point with reverse meal planning is to save money so that it can be spent on much more unforgettable things than groceries, for example, international travel as a family that is cash flowed (meaning we’re debt free and our savings can easily absorb spending on a trip occasionally as a family of six.)
Back to groceries being expensive and such a large part of the average American family’s monthly budget – what if you could slash it drastically? What would you do with those savings? While you ponder your personal answer to that. I’ll tell you how I’ve made it work for us.
Where to Start
Call your grocery stores in your area. Ask each of them what time they clearance their meat, bakery goods, canned goods, and produce. (My store clearances organic produce every day.) Choose ONE store you would most prefer to shop at. For me, I didn’t choose the cheapest store, but the one who had the best prices ONCE clearanced. For example my Kroger chain store nearby my house often clearances bacon from $7.49/pound down to 99 cents/pound. Yes, I bought 23 pounds at that price, and then realized they do it often enough, I didn’t need to stock up and freeze that much.
Assess your day – is there a day in your week when you could make time for stopping by that grocery store near to the time of day that they clearance food? Visiting the store two to three times per week is ideal, but less or more frequently works too. Whatever works for you, whatever helps you stick with the budget is what’s going to be the thing to do consistently.
Don’t waste any morsels of food. Most everything can be repurposed or reinvented. Something we used to have a hard time finishing were the back pieces of bread in loaves we’d buy. Now I toast, butter and sprinkle them with garlic and the kicker is, I cut them into three or four strips, and serve them as “garlic breadsticks” – we go through those so much faster alongside a pasta dish than we have the back pieces of bread to toast!
Be forgiving of yourself. When you’re starting out with reverse meal planning, you might still be learning prices and learning what’s a great deal and what’s not. Extend grace to yourself if you “mess up” and get something that wasn’t the most outrageously good deal. Within a week or two of doing this, you’ll have honed this skill.
Facebook and Savings
Like your grocery store on Facebook. Most large national chain stores offer one day per week that they post a free item to be claimed, but it’s only able to be claimed if you follow the simple instructions from their Facebook post about it.
I don’t coupon very much, but when I do combine coupons with clearanced items, there are times I’ve gotten paid to acquire the item. It’s wild and it feels like a game I’ve just scored at. A friend pointed out also, that when you’re getting astonishing savings, it makes giving to the homeless or to others in need more affordable. That’s a wonderful byproduct of living a frugal, below your means lifestyle (meaning you’re spending less than you’re bringing in each month), the ability to be debt free and able to give.
One Store Shopping
Don’t get discouraged. It might feel overwhelming at first, but keep the goal in your mind. Maybe the first two days you checked your store’s clearance, the selection wasn’t great, don’t give up. It’s going to be worth it! I shop one store for most of my grocery needs with the exception of one time a month buying a certain vegetable in bulk (one month I did 50 pounds of onions, next month I’m doing 50 pounds of potatoes. I go to a bulk grocery store for that item one time per month. 50 pounds for $9.99 for the onions is their standard.) And the other exception is eggs – I get those at Walmart. I rarely if ever go to Aldi, as I’ve struggled with bad experiences with their quality control, but if they work for you, wonderful!
This can be looked at as a game! Get into the game mindset in which the winner of the game is you, your family and your budget….and if you write your goals with the savings you make, whether it be to pay off debt, grow your wealth or simply waste less, look at that list often and remember the wins you’ve already made at this challenge! You can do it! And it’s going to be more worth it than you can even imagine!
We were shocked at how much tastier than ever we began to eat once we applied this challenge to our grocery budget. It’s not even a challenge any more but a simple habit we live by. Most every dinner of the week is a meat-focused dinner. We are not denying ourselves delicious food. Recently we had a date night-in, we enjoyed a clearanced 2.2 pound rib eye steak for $7.68 (usually $33), a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake that was being discontinued so it was on sale for 50% off ($8.49), and a bottle of wine that was part of a buy one get one free promotion ($8.99). We ate like a king and queen, rented a free DVD and books from the library, and it was a really special date for under $25 (as we also served the leftover rib eye pieces with rice for lunch the next day and cheesecake the next day as leftover dessert)!
Remember the saying, “Whether you do it or not, the time will pass anyway.” Start today. Give it a try! You might just fall in love with this way of shopping, saving and meal planning.
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