I was over reading the Hillbilly Housewife blog (Oh yeah, tomorrow is the last day to vote for your favorite "hillbilly housewife", so if you haven't voted already, please go vote for my blog! You can follow the link at the top of my sidebar.), and this week she's been talking about menu planning.
I read her article that explains the process of menu planning better than I ever could, so I'm just going to pass the link along to you here. Menu planning has changed my grocery budget. If you're looking for ways to help your budget, just give it a try.
I don't plan my menu around what's on sale like she talks about in one part of the article, but I do make sure I check the sale papers to see if any of the things on my grocery list are on sale, or if they are running a huge loss leader sale on some item that is just so cheap you can't help but stock up on it.
Even if you aren't ready or don't have time to jump in head first, try sticking your big toe in... maybe start out by planning only a few meals a week. Then you can ease yourself into it. For now I just plan dinners, and that makes it really easy. But I do have ideas in mind for whenever I would need to plan breakfast and lunch, too. Right now breakfast is whatever I make for myself (Daniel get his usual), and lunches are leftovers or something simple for me and a sandwich for Daniel. Dinner is really the big, time-consuming, thought-requiring meal, so that's all I plan in my menu.
If you have little kids (or even bigger kids) that you need to feed - I hope you feed them! - than planning breakfast and lunch menus would be a big help, too. That way you don't crawl out of bed, wipe the sleepers from your eyes, stumble into the kitchen and think "what should I make for breakfast today?". You can look at your menu, see "oh yeah, we're having scramble eggs, muffins and grapes ... and the muffins are already made (for a previous breakfast in the week), so I just have to make the eggs and warm up the muffins". Or for lunch, "should I make Billy a Peanut Butter & Jelly, or a ham'n'cheese? Do we even have Peanut Butter? Oh shucks, I don't have PB"... instead, you planned to have PB&J for some lunches this week, so you bought some more PB when you did your grocery trip (or sent your hubby for groceries). And while you're looking at the menu you see that you planned to have blueberries with your lunch so you don't forget to give the kiddo his fruit.
Oh, and last but not least... menu planning really helps cut down in-between trips to the store. Like it eliminates them. Since I started menu planning, I've been able to figure out that we drink about 2 1/2 cans worth of frozen orange juice each week. So I know how much I need to buy to last however long I'm buying for. You could also do this with milk and other "need to buy fresh" items. If your husband does your shopping for you (maybe it's easier to send him to the store than go by yourself with the little kids), you can send him with the list of exactly what you need. You could even write in what brand you want him to buy. The list will also let him know (or should anyway, if he thinks about it) that this means that you have everything you need written on the list, and if you don't have ice cream written down that means he doesn't need to buy it because you either still have some, or you have other desserts planned that don't need ice cream.
Those are my thoughts from the peanut gallery. Come back tomorrow to see how I did with my October budget!!