Have you tried reverse meal planning? Learn how I use reverse meal planning to make a HUGE dent in our weekly grocery budget without having to clip coupons!
Over the past several years, I have discussed here on FFF how I truly feel that the “secret” to saving money on groceries is meal planning. Meal planning can make an enormous difference in your grocery budget.
The difference between walking into my local grocery store with a list and without a list is absolutely measurable. I spend so much more money if I walk in without a plan!
Meal planning in general is one of those tasks that can initially seem super challenging, but once you get into a flow and have a few weeks of plans under your belt, it can become incredibly effortless. OR, you can also just outsource meal planning to a service like eMeals, Eat at Home, Six Sisters, etc.
Even though I do find meal planning to be a huge money saver, the biggest money saver I have found regarding grocery shopping is REVERSE Meal Planning! Oh, and I RARELY use coupons when I reverse menu plan…only if they are right there next to the product and stupid easy to grab!
Oh gosh, what is this fanciness you might be asking?
Reverse Meal Planning is not for everyone.
Reverse meal planning might not be for you if you don’t have:
Time – It involves shopping multiple stores, or at least going to one store more often than you would typically go grocery shopping.
A lack of brand/store loyalty – If you REFUSE to give up your favorite brand, or maybe you have specific dietary needs so you CAN’T buy just any kind pasta, etc this might not be the form of meal planning for you.
Creativity – Okay, you don’t need a ton of creativity, but some weeks you might only find foods on sale that are not in your typical wheelhouse! You need to be okay with hopping on to AllRecipes or Pinterest and finding a recipe for something that is potentially outside your family’s typical rotation.
Storage – If you don’t have a lot of storage for both perishables/non perishables, this might not be the meal planning option for you. However, you CAN do Reverse Meal Planning without a lot of storage, but you likely will not be able to build up too much of a stockpile which means you will have to be very inventive in the kitchen from week to week as you will have less of an arsenal to pull ingredients from.
Okay, now that we have established who Reverse Meal Planning is NOT for…
Reverse Meal Planning might be for you if:
- You don’t mind stopping by Kroger on your way home. HEB once over the weekend. Aldi a few times a month. Checking the store ads at Walmart/Target/Amazon Subscribe & Save/insert other grocery store here. You will go to the grocery store more often with reverse meal planning.
- You enjoy being a bit creative in the kitchen!
- You have room to store extra items for when you find a good deal and you are able to stock up!
You Still Want To Give Reverse Meal Planning A Shot?
Well, here goes…first off, you walk into the store without a list.
Are you shocked? Are you wondering why I just harped on always entering a grocery store with a LIST above and now I’m telling you to walk into a grocery store without a list?
Are you concerned I am going crazy?
Here’s the thing, Reverse Meal Planning is about creating your meal plans based on what is on sale and what you have in your pantry/fridge/deep freezer.
The longer you Reverse Meal Plan, and the more you build your stockpile, the more money you will save!
How to Reverse Meal Plan
First off, you’ll walk into your local grocery store and raid the markdowns! Look for the loss leaders (the top half of the store ad is usually the loss leaders. These are the items that your grocery store is selling for dirt cheap to get you in the door in the hopes that the rest of your cart will be filled with full priced items).
My biggest hint is to look for Manager’s Specials in the meat department. 90% of the proteins I bring into our home are either on sale or Manager’s Specials that are 25-75% off the retail price! Use good judgement here, if the meat already looks iffy…it won’t get better looking at home. I ONLY buy markdowns if they look just as good as the full priced meat.
Often these proteins are so deeply discounted only because they are close to their “sell by” date.
Guess what though? I have a deep freezer! I package all of these proteins in freezer friendly bags and write the date on them (FoodSafety.gov has a great chart for how long items can stay refrigerated/in a typical freezer/in a deep freezer).
Then I scan the rest of the store for good deals. The signage for markdowns in most stores is generally pretty clear. You can usually whiz down aisles pretty quickly and the markdowns will stand out.
You HAVE to be able to resist impulse purchases. Adopt the motto, if it’s not marked down…it does not go in my cart!
Do this at as many local stores as you have access/time to visit. At first, you’ll still have to menu plan a bit traditionally.
I recommend trying to use Week 1 and Week 2 of Reverse Meal Planning as “clean out the pantry/fridge” weeks. As you gradually build your stockpile, you will be able to menu plan based on what you have on hand. You will rarely be shopping for THIS week’s groceries each week.
Instead, this week’s grocery shopping trip will be for fresh produce (on sale if possible), fresh dairy for your family and finding markdowns to stockpile for future menus. You will also likely have to buy a few items here and there to flesh out your meal plan.
I might have a dinner of pork chops (found on markdown and frozen a couple of weeks ago), mashed cauliflower (frozen bag of cauliflower found on sale about a month ago and stashed into my deep freezer) and a spinach salad planned for dinner one night this week.
This week, I will put a bag of spinach for my spinach salad on my grocery list, but otherwise, everything else for this meal I already have on hand!
Reverse meal planning will not be for everyone. It requires time and effort. There are many other alternatives to reverse menu planning that will also save you money and cut down on your grocery bill. I encourage you to give it a shot though. Or do a hybrid!
Leave a couple of days of the week unplanned until after you grocery shop. Use your grocery store markdown finds to play your own personal version of Chopped based on what you find.
Do you reverse meal plan? Are you considering it? Comment below and let me know what you think!
Grandma Betty says
Missy Heather, I’m a 66 yo grandma, not a lot of income, but like to eat good southern food
I have a freezer, plan my meals by what I find in marked down meats/poultry , dried,canned, & frozen clearance, day old baked goods and reduced for quick sale produce I shop mainly at two stores and know my best times to hit them. I repackage ,freeze or cook meats, poultry,produce I can’t cook or use with two days. I freeze baked items too if I need to.
I just know I was reverse meal planning I make myself individual meals in divided containers
That’s great! I get so excited to find markdowns. I bet you do too!
Gee, I have been doing this since 1970 and didn’t even know it.
I never had a name for this method but I’ve been doing it most of my adult life. I always love to find marked-down goods and will fill my deep freeze with meats and baked goods if they are cheap enough. It seems like we always have a stockpile of pasta, rice and packaged side dishes like noodles and stuffing mixes so meal planning is simple. We only do big grocery store shopping once a month but check out clearance racks and sales regularly. Great info, thanks for the post.