What Exactly Is Meal Planning?
You have probably heard the term “meal planning” thrown around quite a bit, but what exactly is it. There is no play on words here, meal planning is just what it sounds like, it is planning out your meals.
By planning out your meals, you can do two things. You can make sure that you have all of the ingredients that you need to cook with and you can simplify your life by knowing what you will be making during the week.
Even if you are not on a budget, meal planning can make your life so much easier. When on a budget and trying to save money, it can allow you to save hundreds of dollars a month. The average family of four needs 900 dollars in groceries, but this number can be cut in half or more with meal planning and frugal choices. Here are some things that you need to do if you want to meal plan to save money.
1) Cook What Is On Sale
If you want to make the most of your food budget, you need to plan to cook what you can get the cheapest. Most stores will release their circulars online at the beginning of the week and the prices will go into effect mid week.
Take a look at the circulars and plan your meals around them. If chicken will be on sale, plan some chicken dishes. If pasta is buy one get one free, you might make a few pasta dishes that week.
Make your list of items that you want to prepare, being certain not to buy more than you need. One of the goals of meal planning is to limit waste to save you money. So, stick to what is on sale and only buy as much as you need.
2) Check The Fridge Before You Shop
Once you know what you are going to cook, check your fridge and your pantry and see what you have. Chances are that you have some of the ingredients already in stock. If your goal is to save money, you want to eliminate buying ingredients that you do not need.
If you want to save even more, you should make some of your meals exclusively from what you already have. Focus on ingredients that could be getting ready to spoil or are near their expiration date.
3) Cut Out The Meat
Meat is expensive and as Americans, we eat too much of it. If you want to cut your food budget with meal planning, you should be throwing in some meatless meals. If you need a protein, there are other sources such as beans. Just cutting out meat a few times a week can get $200 back into your pocket.
Consider adding meals like spaghetti with a no meat sauce, bean tacos or a nice vegetable stir fry with rice. Cutting out the meat a few times a week can drastically lower your food budget and it might just make you a bit healthier.
4) Plan Your Snacks
Don’t forget about the snacks. If your family is like most, you snack a bit between meals. This is especially true if you have kids.
If you fail to plan for the snacks, you could find yourself at the convenience store or in the drive thru line which could wreck your food budget. Plan some healthy snacks like seasonal fruit that is on sale, being careful not to buy more than you can use before it goes bad.
5) Add Some New Recipes
Don’t be afraid to try something new by adding a new recipe. Putting something new into the mix will keep things fresh and allow meals to remain interesting.
When selecting new meals, try to stick to cheaper meals to keep your costs down. Think of inexpensive staples like rice, beans and potatoes for the base and go from there.
Benefits Of Meal Planning
Meal planning has so many benefits that just about everybody should be doing it. If you are in desperate need of money, it is the first thing you should do to save. Take a look at what meal planning can do for you.
- It saves you money.
Planning your meals helps you make the most of what you have and helps you buy just what you need. When people shop without a plan, they buy countless items that they do not need. Best case scenario, these items end up stacking up in the pantry. Worst case scenario, they spoil and get thrown away.
- It simplifies your week.
It is a relief to have things planned out for the week. No more wondering what you are going to make tonight and stressing about whether you have all of the ingredients that you need to make it.
- It can make you healthier.
If you do not meal plan, you might wind up with nothing to cook some evenings. This can leave you at the mercy of fast food and meal delivery. Not only is that expensive, but it can be unhealthy as well.
- It saves you time.
Having everything on hand to make a meal saves you time. You are prepared to cook efficiently and you do not have those emergency trips to the grocery store to pick up a few things. You can even multitask by cooking multiple meals at once. Grill some extra chicken for a future chicken salad or make an extra burger to be used in tomorrows spaghetti sauce.