Lists, the pantry and your recipes.
Lists are imperative in sticking to a budget. It's when we go off list, go by our emotions or stomach, or have poor planning that we spend way too much on the food budget. Start with lists and keep them up and you'll be saving every day!
First let's start in the pantry. You need to know what you have on hand before you know what you can cook and what you need to shop for. I don't have a pantry with a door like some of the newer houses do. I don't even have enough cabinet space for a good stock of groceries, so what I did was make my own pantry downstairs. I simply put up some of those restaurant type wire shelves in the entry from the garage. I can see at a glance what I have....and of course it's pretty organized. All the cereal is on top. Next shelf is boxed goods. Next is canned goods. Next is goods in jars and condiments, and the bottom shelf is for drinks....bottled water and pop.
To get your pantry in order, go to the "save time and money" page and go through the posts about the pantry. Then once it's in order, if you have a door, place a list of everything you have on hand (since you have to stack things five deep sometimes and can forget what's there) you could use paper on a clipboard and hang the clipboard, or maybe you already have a corkboard inside that you could pin it to.
You also need to know what you have in the freezer. Clean it out and only put back what you will eat and isn't totally ruined by freezer burn. Have a list on the outside here too. I have a magnetic white board on the big freezer downstairs so I don't open the door and stare and it's easy to wipe something off once I've used it. Upstairs I use a magnetic shopping list tablet.
Now you need to look at your recipes. Take some time to go through them. What are you really good at making? What does your family really like? Keep those recipes. Have a bunch in there that were epic fails or maybe you always wanted to try but haven't in the last ten years? Get rid of them! Unless you are going to be the next Iron Chef, you don't need a ton of recipes. Have a smaller amount and get really good with them!
Now compare. What is in your pantry and freezer that will make some of your recipes? Items that are missing to complete those recipes are what should go on your grocery list. I know that may sound like a lot of work, but once your pantry and freezer are organized you simply need to keep it that way, which is actually very easy to do when you put your groceries away neatly. Once this up front work is done, making weekly, bi-weekly or monthly grocery lists are a breeze!
Let me know if you have any questions!
Until Next Time.....