Cooking more meals at home is a great way to save money and eat healthier, but it can be challenging to plan, shop, and prepare meals every week. To help, we’ve come up with a budget-friendly meal plan featuring quick and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Plus, we’ve included some meal planning tips for reducing food waste and sticking to your budget.
Even people who enjoy a trip to the grocery store have been making fewer trips this year following CDC advice for limiting exposure to the coronavirus. Many have stopped going altogether, choosing to order groceries online, over the phone, or through a grocery delivery app. The benefits in terms of maintaining good social distancing practices are obvious, but there are many possible health (and budget) benefits as well.
“Ordering groceries online can help you be more purposeful with your food choices,” says Rahaf Al Bochi, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here are some other benefits and strategies to get the most out of your next (or your first) order.
More time to plan meals
You may know that planning your meals in advance is a way to promote good nutrition. Research has shown that people with diabetes who follow a meal plan have better blood sugar management than those who don’t.
Ordering groceries online means you can plan your meals while you shop, or adjust your meal plan around what’s on sale.
Before you start shopping, look over your favorite recipes as well as any new ideas you’ve saved from magazines or online. Diabetes Food Hub has a handy meal planner tool to help you organize your recipes and make a grocery list.
Don’t forget to look at your calendar to see if there are any nights that will call for quick and easy meals or others that lend themselves to a little more time in the kitchen. Then slot meals into the week ahead.
Make your list while you shop
Making a list is essential when going to grocery store. It’s also helpful when shopping online, but there’s a lot less pressure to get it perfect. “Online ordering makes it easy to search for what you want and add it to your online cart,” says Al Bochi. It also makes it easier to remove things from your cart without having to reshelve them.
Once you’ve added your groceries to your online cart, it’s easy to review your purchases and compare them to your list. Since you’re still at home, you can also refer back to your recipes and check your cupboards to make sure you have everything you need.
How many times have you come home from the grocery store to discover that you accidentally bought something you already had in your pantry? Shopping online means you can easily check your cupboard while you are shopping!
You are much less likely to buy duplicate items or excess ingredients that you won’t have time to use before they go bad. The average American family throws away $1,600 worth of produce annually. Online shopping can be an effective strategy for bringing those numbers down in your own household.
Less impulse purchases
Perhaps the biggest benefit to online grocery shopping is in what you don’t buy. When you come face to face with your favorite pint of ice cream, bag of chips, or box of cookies, it can be hard to resist putting it in your cart.
“Online grocery shopping dramatically reduces the likelihood of impulse-buying foods,” says Al Bochi. You can still decide that you want a treat and what it will be, but choosing it in advance is a much smarter strategy than pulling snacks off the shelves in the moment, especially if you are hungry. Snack foods are much less tempting on screen than they are in person!
Stick to Your Budget
Delivery fees and tips can deter people from ordering groceries online, but savvy online ordering can easily drive your usual grocery bill down.
First of all, you can watch your total bill adding up as you shop, helping you stay on budget by swapping out or eliminating high-priced items as you add them to your cart.
“Many grocery stores have online flyers that you can browse through to catch weekly deals or promotions,” says Al Bochi. If your store has an app, be sure to use it—it can bring you extra savings.
It can also be easier to compare prices between brands and package sizes on your computer screen than standing in the store.
Don’t Forget to Tip!
The people who deliver your groceries are essential workers—be sure to show your appreciation with a generous tip.
Most online platforms will automatically add a tip, but sometimes it’s for less than you might want to tip, so be sure to check. A good rule of thumb is to tip at least 5%, and up to 20% if you can. Even for smaller orders, it’s courteous to tip at least $5.
Often people prefer a cash tip, but this is more challenging during the pandemic. A lot of delivery is contactless now, which means you likely won’t even see your delivery person. So, use that online option for tipping.