Every week I kick myself because I end up spending more at the grocery store than I wanted too. One thing that has really helped me keep a cap on it though is by menu planning. Each week I actually plan out what meals I am going to make. I try to always have at least 6-7 days worth of meals. Now I know this sounds harder but it really does help. I found that once I broke the meals into types or categories it helped. For example I knew that once a week I made a pasta, pizza, soup meal etc. So I start my list knowing in my head the basic categories of foods I generally make in a week. Mine typically looks like this:
Those are my basic categories. Then when I plan my menu for the week I make sure I have the basics to make a meal in that category. Sometimes I have specific recipes I am using so I will write down detailed ingredients that I need for each one. So my next step would look like this.
Pasta - Stuff to make sauce, pasta of choice, parm. cheese, bread, salad
Pizza - dough, sauce, cheese
Burrito - tortillas, salsa, refried beans
Soup - whatever ingrediants I need for the soup I have chosen
Veggie Burgers - veggie burgers, potatoes, frozen veggie
Other - I do try to make something new at least once a week. I save these meals for the weekends when I have more time.
So that becomes my basic list. At least by filling out this basic list I know I have enough stuff to make 6-7 meals that week. I have found by doing it this way I save money because I am buying exactly what i need to make the meals that week. It is also less stressful because I don't have to frett about what I am making each night. I keep the menu plan on my refridgerator so each day I can just pick from the list.
It has really helped me save money and time. Now if only I can get better about all the other stuff I end up buying.