I started hearing about the concept of Meal Planning a few years ago. Back then however it came from my extremely fit and active friends. Today Meal Planning at least in my circle has been coming more and more from my mommy friends. You see as I have discovered Meal Planning is not only a key to weight loss and/or a balance lifestyle; but it is also a key tool for efficiency and household money management.
If there is one luxury that I was always willing to spend money on it was food. Austin and I before Morgan loved to eat well – very well! We dined at the finest restaurants in Los Angeles and on our travels. And we made sure that we used the best ingredients when we cooked at home. When Morgan arrived we didn’t skimp on the ingredients in fact they became almost exclusively organic and natural. However we did cut back drastically on going out. You would think that would have meant that we were saving more. In fact the opposite happened. Because I was cooking more we were spending more. Our monthly grocery bill was soon becoming outrageous.
After a few months in denial, thinking it was just the increase in prices. I slowly started to realize that my additional spending was attributed to not having a plan! This is when Meal Planning entered the picture. Once I started Meal Planning I was able to drastically reduce my weekly grocery bill from roughly $160-$170 per week for a family of three to $100-110 a week. Today I am going to review with you 9 of the best Meal Planning tricks that I have learned along the way that has saved me on average $240 a month or $2880 a year!!!
Number 1 Have A Plan/Checklist: Before I go grocery shopping I have a few recipes in mind. Each recipe uses mainly the same ingredients, either the same proteins or the same sides. This way I can ensure that I am not spending too much on several different items that will go to waste.
Number 2 Take Inventory: The biggest thing that has changed the way that I shop is that I always take an inventory of what I have before I leave the house. This ensures that I know what we need to stock up on and what I can use in a recipe that I am going to buy key items for. Before I started taking inventory I realized that I was buying things I already had over and over again and letting them go to waste such as veggies, salads, potatoes, etc.
Number 3 Check For Sales: When I enter the store I shop strategically. I keep to the walls and avoid the aisles until the end. Most of the processed ingredients live in the aisles, this will also keep you from buying the “junk” and sticking to the natural/organic and wholesome ingredients.
Another reason for sticking to the walls is because you can see which proteins are on sale. When Jenny O’ Ground Turkey is on sale at my local market for $2.99 a package I stock up! It’s usually upwards of $5.99. This also allows me to plan what I will cook for the week. Yes I entered the store with recipes in mind but I also keep an open mind to what is on sale and adjust if needed.
Number 4 Buy Seasonal: Yes I can buy a mango year round in California just like I can buy an avocado year round. But during the summer months my avocados are miraculously cheaper so I do a lot of recipes with avocados in the summer. Same with fruits and certain fish’s, they are seasonal. You can easily Google what is in season of just walk through the store and see what is in abundance and what is on sale. Buying seasonal ingredients helps the environment, sustainability of certain fish and helps your wallet!
Number 5 Focus/Focus/Focus: The biggest distraction in the super market is the illusion of savings. Buy one get one free. Buy five get a 50% discount. Some of these sales are worth it and some are not, do you really need five of that item? If you don’t, or you notice the price has been marked up to support the overall discount, then avoid the illusion of a deal and just buy what you need. In the event that the deal is a good one such as when organic chicken breasts are two for one then go for the deal and freeze the excess. You will always find a use for that chicken at a later date.
Number 6 Calculate As You Go: I add up everything as I go. I started doing this just a few months ago and since then I have not gone over my budget once! The reason I do this is because of impulse buys or buying in excess items that I don’t necessarily need. This also ensures that I stick to the basics, what do I need for the recipe and what do I need so that we have breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next six days before my next shopping trip.
Number 7 Allow Yourself A Treat: Sometimes you need to indulge. If you have a lot of leftovers in the fridge or frozen deals then give in and buy that steak. As long as you are on budget, or you feel as though you are managing the weekly grocery bill well, then include that extra indulgence. Every now and then we all need to splurge.
Number 8 Stick To Your Schedule: Have you ever gone shopping and instantly wanted to go out because you didn’t feel like cooking. Me too!!!! It’s extremely common however if you stick to a budget and a schedule you should be ok. I cook most of our meals for the week on one day. This way when we come home during the week we aren’t exhausted and trying to rush dinner. This also allows us to stick to a pretty good schedule. I know that we have chicken for Monday, salmon on Tuesday, left overs from Monday on Wednesday, and so on.
Number 9 Enhance And Embrace Leftovers: Left overs get a bad rap. Left overs don’t have to be terrible if you make them with having left overs in mind. For instance I make ground turkey with shaved brussel sprouts. I use taco seasoning on it and most of the time use that mixture for taco bowls. We add black beans, rice, shredded cheese, and a baja sauce (ranch/tapatio). It’s absolutely delicious! The next day if we are having the same thing I minus the rice. I then add all the same ingredients into taco shells with fresh cilantro, salsa and avocados. Feels like a totally different meal!
Let me know if you have any Meal Planning tricks I would love to hear them. I would also love to hear about your go-to recipes. My favorite one lately is rosemary parmesan oven baked red potatoes. It is the perfect side dish! Plus Morgan loves it, win-win!!! Thanks for reading.