Erin has mastered the art of frugal meal planning and she shares her menus and advice on her blog $5 Dinners. It’s a great place to visit for inspiration when you are wondering what in the world you will make for dinner that won’t break your budget.

My goal at $5 Dinners ( is to make a healthy and delicious dinner every night for my family for $5 or less! Many of my meals would cost much more than $5 if I purchased the ingredients at their full retail value. To do that, I must have a plan and I must stick to it! Here are some tips for getting the most bang for your buck at the grocery store.

1. Menu Plan. Having a menu plan for the week allows you to save money, time and brain power.

2. Coupons. Clip, clip, clip from your local paper. Print, print, print from money saving websites like Freebies 4 Mom, Money Saving Mom. Load paperless “ecoupons” onto your stores rewards card. Match the sale price on a product with a paper coupon and an “ecoupon” for the best deal.

3. Circulars. Start by making a meal plan for the week based on what’s on sale at your grocery store’s circular. The front page of the circular will often show the best deals for the week.

4. Shopping List. Write out a list, separate your coupons and STICK TO IT! Only buy what you need, not what you want!

5. Budget. Start by using cash only, and leave your wallet at home. This will help you better discern the needs from the wants. How embarrassing to not have enough when you go to checkout. I often go to the store with only my driver’s license and gift card. (I purchase a gift card for my monthly grocery allowance at the beginning of each month and use it as if it were cash. This allows me to take advantage of the rewards points on my credit card without “using the credit card”.)

6. Shopping on the edge. The healthiest foods in the grocery store can be found on the perimeter of the store. Fresh produce, meats, breads, dairy and the deli are all located “on the edge” of the store. Be sure to watch for the lowest prices on your favorite cuts of meat and favorite fruits and vegetables. Coupons are hard to come by for many of these fresh products, so purchasing them when on sale is crucial. Meat, chicken and pork can be frozen for use in future meals. I recently purchased 6 packges of boneless skinless chicken breast when it was on sale for $1.88/lb, and it regularly costs $4.99 lb. I now have “stockpile” of one of my favorite cuts of chicken.

7. Never Pay More Than. As you get better and better at saving at the grocery store, start making a list of the best prices for the products that you buy. I started a “never pay more than” list that is a guideline for spotting good deals. For example, I never pay for toothpast
e, toothbrushes or shampoo. I typically get these free. I never pay more than $.30 for hand soap or $.50 for dish soap. I will not pay more than $1.88/lb for fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast. Create your own list based on the products you love and the price in your region.

8. Practice, patience and discipline. Over time you will learn there are lots of freebies to be purchased (or not!) from the grocery store. Some weeks are better than others, but don’t lose heart. With a little practice, patience and discipline, you too can get some freebies from the grocery store!!!

9. Other Savings Tips and Tricks- Shop early in the morning as many products from the meat department and bakery are marked down for quick sale. Sign up for your stores rewards program and get on their mailing list for mailbox coupon booklets. Know how much your family eats and be creative with your leftovers!

The key to healthy eating on a budget is to save as much money as you can on other products like household cleaners and toiletry items. This provides more room in your budget for you to purchase lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh meat, chicken and pork. These raw and natural ingredients are the foundation of a healthy and delicious meal. For more shopping strategies and frugal dinner ideas, come visit me at $5 Dinners I’d love to hear your success stories and all about your new grocery store savings!

Please a comment and tell us which of Erin’s tips are working or you want to try for your frugal meals. I’m a big fan of using coupons for deep discounts, I also love to check-out the mark-downs at the grocery store.

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