Want to slash your food bill? Plan a menu.Your grocery and takeout/restaurant spending maybe not be the largest line-item on your budget, but it is one of the easiest spending areas to adjust. 

Trimming things like housing or automobile expenses requires major life upheaval, like relocating, but you can cut back on food spending without turning your life upside down.

Now, if you've been thinking you need to take up extreme couponing in order to spend less on food, fear not!  You can save hundreds of dollars on your food bill every month without clipping a single coupon.  How?

Make a menu plan.

I know-that seems way too simple.  But menu planning really can help you keep your food spending in check.  Here's how.

1. A menu plan helps you spend less at the grocery store.

You know how it is when you walk into the grocery store without a plan?  You throw groceries into your cart rather randomly, and you end up buying more food than you actually need (which means you spent more money than you should have!)

On the other hand, if you walk into the grocery knowing what you're going to cook that week, you can buy exactly what you need...no more, no less.

2. A menu plan helps you waste less food.

That willy-nilly grocery shopping we mentioned a moment ago?  It typically leads to over-buying, and over-buying leads to food waste.

Without a plan, it's so easy to stroll through the produce section, virtuously throwing all sorts of green leafy things into your cart.  The problem is, if you buy too many leafy green things (and other perishables), they won't last long enough for you to use them all up.  At that point, they have to hit the trash.  And throwing food in the trash is like throwing money away.

3. A menu plan helps you to avoid takeout.

In case you hadn't yet noticed, takeout is crazy expensive compared to home cooking.  So, if you need to cut costs, buying less takeout is a great strategy.

The problem is, takeout food is really convenient on busy days, or days when you've run out of dinner-cooking inspiration.  That's where a menu plan comes in.

Half of the cooking-at-home battle is deciding what to make each evening, and if you've got a menu planned out, the deciding is already done.

Plus, if you based your grocery shopping on your menu, all the necessary ingredients will be in your kitchen, and that makes it much easier to resist takeout (Realizing you're missing a key ingredient will send you to your local pizza joint almost every time!)

So, go grab a pencil and paper (Or your laptop. Or an app!) and make a plan.  Your bank account will thank you.

Kristen Guest Blogger for Leading Provider of Debt Relief CareOne Services, Inc.



Kristen writes about cheerful, frugal living at www.thefrugalgirl.com

On her photo-filled blog, she encourages her readers to spend mindfully and live a sustainable, simple lifestyle.