As a working mom, I know how hard it can be to plan and prepare meals for my family day in and day out – especially now that the cost of food is a rising. Recent reports indicate that the cost of U.S. groceries has made the biggest jump in 46 years.
Still, groceries are much more affordable than restaurant food. We’re pretty good at eating meals at home but that’s also because I meal plan and shop efficiently.
You can also save money and time by making meal planning a habit as well. Here are 4 ways meal planning helps your budget.
1. Meal Planning Prevents Last Minute Restaurant Tabs
Let’s be honest here. Eating at home is pretty much always cheaper than eating out at a restaurant, especially if you’re feeding an entire family. While the McDonald’s drive-thru may seem like a cheap and easy way out, it’s actually really bad for your wallet and your waistline. Don’t fall into the takeout trap.
Simply sitting down every weekend and writing out on the calendar what you want to serve for the rest of the week can prevent these last-minute runs for greasy burgers and french fries. You don’t want your kids eating that junk anyway.
2. Meal Planning Helps You Minimize Your Grocery Shopping Trips
I used to be horrible with meal planning, which meant I often made lots of last-minute runs to the grocery store throughout the week., Not only is that time-consuming and annoying, but it can also be expensive if you’re an impulse shopper. I really don’t know many people who can go to the grocery store and not pick up a couple of impulse buys.
Because I plan my meals weekly now, the process helps me prevent too many trips to the grocery store and save money in the process. Sure, I still have my fair share of impulse buys when I run to the store, but they are fewer and farther between since I only go once a week. It’s a little trick that does actually help me save some money.
3. Good Meal Planning Can Feed Your Family More Than Once
One of my favorite things to do is prepare meals that can feed us more than once during the week. For instance, I love to make slow cooker barbecue not only because it tastes good, but also because I know I can reheat it for the next evening for another meal.
If a meal won’t quite stretch to include another dinner, I’ll pack up the smaller leftovers to send with my husband the next day at work, which means he won’t feel the need to go out and buy lunch every day. Sometimes I even eat leftovers for my lunch the following day and it’s easy to prepare with me working from home.
My other favorite trick is to purchase ingredients I can use in more than one recipe. If I buy ground beef, I’ll probably use part of it for taco night and the other part for spaghetti night. If I buy lots of green veggies to serve with grilled chicken one night, I’ll use the leftover veggies that aren’t eaten to add to a pot roast another night, and so on.
I also like being stocked up on things like seasonings, pasta, and frozen veggies. We can often make a meal every two weeks with the stuff he already have on hand at home.
This method helps reduce the cost of your meals as well as make sure all the food you purchased is actually used up and eaten. I hate throwing out perfectly good food!
4. Meal Planning Is Simple (Really!)
The best, healthiest foods are simple, unprocessed foods, so keep that in mind when you’re meal planning. No one expects you to come up with fancy, Pinterest-worthy four-course dinners. Keep it simple and don’t bother buying any fancy ingredients or spices you’ll never use again. That’s a waste of money.
Instead, keep a few basic meal supplies on hand for some of your family’s favorite meals. This could be as simple as a jar of spaghetti sauce and box of spaghetti, or my personal favorites of frozen pizza (which I can jazz up with garlic and extra cheese), and eggs so I can whip up a quiche with whatever else I have on hand.
Feeding your family healthy, frugal meals doesn’t have to be a pain. A lot of people think meal planning is too involved and takes too much effort, but I don’t find that to be the case. (I think it takes more effort to feel stressed everyday about what to prepare at the last minute!)
I have a few favorite meals I serve over and over again, and I simply try to rotate them around the month so no one gets tired of them. By knowing what my family likes to eat and how to cook a few meals by heart, I don’t have to run around the grocery store for an hour with several recipe cards in my hand. I like to keep it simple so I can get home and be worry-free for the entire week.
Do you plan your meals as a way to save time and money? What are your favorite go-to meals?