Meal planning and shopping with an organized list saves you more then you could ever imagine! It is seriously one of the easiest things you can do to make your life easier and save you hundreds of dollars. It can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but I promise if you stick to it, it gets easier in a matter of weeks. I wrote a guest post on Little People Wealth not to long go on meal planning and I want to just highlight a few things from it.
The idea of meal planning is that when you have a plan you stick to it, don’t have to run to the store a bunch every week, don’t impulse spend by going out to eat, and you cook at home in a low stress situation. It can seem like a lot of work to cook at home, but even those who work full time can do it with a little bit of planning. Crock pots are wonderful for those who work out of the home. you can set them and leave them for the day and come home to a to meal. It just takes some planning to get it ready the night before so you can just turn it on in the morning when you leave.
There are a few pointer to meal planning that make it worth it. First you need to be sure to meal plan regularly. This could be weekly, monthly, or bi-weekly. It really is whatever works for your family, but you need to write it down. we use a calendar and do 1 or 2 weeks at a time depending on when I want to shop. We also do not plan lunches at this point because it is leftovers or sandwiches. my goal in the next month is to get a list of lunches together so we can do a better job of planning them.
It helps in your planning if you have a list of meals your family likes When I first started doing this we had a new recipe every week so we could make a big list to choose from. This isn’t the thriftiest thing sometimes, but I think it is important because when you have that list, meal planning is so easy! and when yo have a months worth of meal in a list you will be able to cut back on that and know what are staples in your house for your recipes.
Plan meals around the sales as much as possible. this isn’t always going to work, but it is important to try to do that. This is where the savings really begin to add up. You can also shop in your own pantry. Doing the money saving challenge has really helped me with this. when making my meal I always look in my pantry first and try to plan with what I have and then get a few extras if needed. There are some weeks I don’t go shopping. this is because we have enough here at home that I don’t need to. we just need to use what we have.
Using leftovers is very important. I did a week of beans and rice in my home a few months back. I saw it on another blog and wondered if I could come up with 7 meals that had beans and rice and that tasted good. I started the week with 3 pounds of dry beans and soaked and cooked then all. then I used them through the week in different meals. we had only 1 day of meat that week and it was mixed with beans. I plan on doing it again and having others join me so be thinking about if you want to do it. But I digress.
When you use your leftovers you can cook new meals with them ( like I did with the beans) or you can just have a leftover night and use it all up. either way is fine, again it is what works for you. The point is just to use what you have. you save tons with this and it helps to keep you fridge smelling nice!
So you have your meal plan now. so you now have to make a shopping list to get what you need. It helps for you to have an organized shopping list so you are going to the store knowing where things are. To do this you need to get a store map and make you list according to this. this will keep you from going down lots of aisles and seeing all the food that looks good that you don’t need to buy. It cuts your shopping time while saving money. both great things!
There is a bit of preparation for both these things, but when you do them regularly you will really begin to see your money stretch it further and it will leave more change for you to keep!!!