I know a lot of people don't/won't like this one. Some are adamant that making a list makes you spend more because I guess... well... I don't know. For me I find the exact opposite. I make my list, plan it around things I already have on hand, and then buy ONLY WHAT IS ON MY LIST . Yes, you read that correctly. No impulse buys. But that's OK, because I make sure to have things like Joe-Joe's (think Oreo's) on the list. Or ice cream. However, it is on the list. As for the meals I plan each week, they go along with what is in my kitchen. Have a half used jar of pasta sauce? Better get some pasta. Have some celery sitting in the bottom of fridge next to carrots? Vegetable soup with dumplings it is. The list, then, isn't too long, but just the things I am lacking.
What do I mean by shopping smart? For me it is mostly Trader Joe's. Lots of people look at it and think it is pricey, but I have been a price-tag-checker for quite some time, and for most things, a trip to TJ's will save you cash. But it doesn't have to look like that -- it could be stocking up on commonly used items while they are on sale OR (and this is a big one) not buying things just because they are on sale. (Seriously, just because that stuff that you never needed before is $1 off, you still don't need it. I promise.) Price check, guys. Realize you have options, and go for them.
I am not a vegetarian. I was for several years, but I like meat too much. And my husband? Yeah, he is vegetarian -- from midnight until 6am! But just because we eat meat doesn't mean we eat it every night. We have this sort of plan worked out: Fish-ish meal once a week (salmon or tuna, it matters not), chicken or turkey once, red meat once, maybe a dish with sausage or bacon (usually chicken/turkey again), and then the rest are usually centered around other proteins. Beans and nuts and mushrooms are great sources of protein, plus they taste great and are easy on the wallet. Meat costs a lot of money. Cutting back on it a bit saves some of that money.
This is huge! Leftovers = easy lunches and weekend meals. We are a small family of two, but I cook for four. You know how it goes, most of the time doubling a recipe doesn't cost twice as much, but a fraction of the price. So I cook like there are four of us, and we automatically have lunch the next day or something to eat on Sunday night when I am too lazy/tired to cook.
And last, but not least...
Yup, you heard me. Except for our Joe-Joe's and the occasional carton of ice cream, we don't buy packaged food. What am I talking about? Chips, crackers, fruit snacks, etc. I like 'em, but I don't need 'em. And I am sure you could say the same. When I want a salty snack I make toast with garlic salt; when I want something sweet I have a banana with peanut butter. Not only does it save me money, but it saves me grief at the gym. It's a win-win if you ask me.
So there you have it. It may not be a perfect list, but it works for me. I eat well, and still have money left over at the end of the month to live well, too. All in all, I like it.
Have anything you would like to add to the list?