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Meal Planning & Shopping Hints

By Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Early Years Coordinator

Plan your meals/menus

Include a variety of foods, to provide balanced nutrition. According to Dr. Rex Russell's book, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living, three main factors in food selection should be:

  1. Eat only what God intended for food.
  2. Eat it as close to its original form as possible.
  3. Don't make food an idol.

(The book expounds upon these, plus has lots of other great information.)

If you are having trouble coming up with menus, remember that your family is probably more impressed with eating nourishing food at a regular time each day than with trying a vast array of new foods each week.

To get into the habit of regular, healthy dinner times, consider something as basic as a weekly rotation of the same basic meals. You can work up to scheduling certain categories of meals on the weekdays (for example: meatless meal on Monday, poultry meal on Tuesday, ground beef meal on Wednesday, poultry on Thursday, new recipe on Friday, etc.). Then, as you are more comfortable with menu planning, you could even plan a month at a time, if you have room to store the groceries for that many meals. I found that when I planned/shopped for a month at a time, my cost per meal was significantly reduced.

Grocery shop with a list

I prefer to use a pre-printed list with my commonly used items pre-categorized. I simply check off the items I need, with quantities noted; it is simple to customize a list on your computer. You might ask your local grocery store for a map of the aisles so you can customize your shopping list to the order of the aisles in your store.

I was always terrible at trying to keep track of my grocery purchases with the calculator. I never failed to somehow lose track and get surprised at the checkout counter! I have found the following method helpful for staying on budget at the store.

  1. Determine the amount I am able to spend at the store.
  2. Make my shopping list, based on my menu selections for the week/month.
  3. Jot an approximate price total next to each individual list item. These prices do not have to be accurate; I make a ballpark guess. The key is to give myself a projected total figure with which to work.
  4. Add up all the figures. If the total is within my budgeted amount, I am doing great. If it’s over, I’ll need to decide which items may be dropped; leave them marked, but annotate them as “extras” only to be purchased if I determine later that I will have some extra at the end of the shopping trip. Remember to account for state or local sales tax.
  5. At the store: As I add items from my list to my cart, I notice the correct price and buy accordingly. For example, if my list says “5 cans corn—$3” and I see on the shelf that corn is on sale, five cans for a total of $2, I put the cans in the buggy, cross that item off my list and jot “+ $1” at the top of my grocery list. This tells me that I now have an extra $1 to work with as I shop. So when the next item is “bath tissue—$4” and I discover that it’s gone up to $5, I can still get it; I simply cross off the $1 at the top of the page so I know I am now “even” in my budgeting. If I didn't have that $1 extra at the top of the page, I’d have to choose less expensive bath tissue.

I always round up to dollars in my pricing, so it is not exact, but I will be likely to actually come out under my budgeted amount at the end.

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