A meal plan (menu plan) is a good way for you to save time and money on your weekly shopping and cooking costs. It involves sorting out your budgeting, grocery lists and menus for each day of the week in the hope that you can get your food all at once, and often at discounted prices.
There are many readily available blank menu planning sheets that will let you do this, but in our case – we suggest that you use a blank piece of paper and write down each day of the week on it. After that, you can fill out what you feel like eating and set a budget required for each meal to adhere to your overall budget scheme for the week.
Here are some simple tips to follow which can be easily added to your routine which will not only save money but also make your household more organised.
Work out your meal budget
Before you start planning any of your household meals it is a good idea to sit down and decide on your monthly or weekly shopping budget. This way you can work out what meals will be suitable to stay within your money restraints and help you to avoid buy items that will exceed this amount.
It is also a good idea to keep in mind whether or not you may be having guests over that week which may mean you may need to set aside more money.
Make a list of possible meals
Once you have your budget it is helpful to work out what meals you are going to prepare for that week. Keep a list of running ideas which you can pick and choose from for variety each week. Try flipping through magazines which often have a couple of quick, easy and affordable recipes each issue which could be added to your list.
Work out family schedules to see who will be having each meal so that you do not waste any food (you wouldn’t want to make a big meal one night when everyone in the family is out). Also remember to plan for other meals such as breakfasts and lunches that may be taken to school or work. Also cross check meals-if say you needed to use fresh basil one night work out what other meals you could make which use the same. This will help you avoid wasting money on ingredients which will just go bad before you can use them.
Make a list of needed ingredients
Once you have your meal plans, you can then create your shopping list of needed ingredients. Try to go through each recipe/meal and make sure that you either have the staple goods like sauces/spices in the cupboards or add everything else that you don’t have.
By having a thorough list you will avoid having to duck down to the more expensive corner store to pick up random items you have forgotten! It could also be a good idea to work out whether your meals can be bought as bulk items. For instance say three of your meals involved using mince, you may be able to save money by buying a bigger amount.
Freeze your meals
This is especially helpful if you are a working mum and do not have time to spend making a full blown meal every evening or you happen to be running late home from work. If you set aside a couple of hours on your weekend you can make most of your weekly meals by cooking them up and freezing them in Tupperware containers. Also because you are freezing your meat you could save money in the supermarket by buying the older (yet still good) packets and cooking them up straight away.
There is a couple of added bonuses by making your meal plan each week. For one you avoid impulse shopping and therefore keep to your weekly grocery budget. Secondly you eat healthier because you can plan healthy meals and avoid buying items to snack on all the time. Lastly and the most important is that just by doing some simple planning you can make cooking and shopping a stress free event rather than another chore to add to your already huge list.
How do you plan ahead for your meals?
Do you write down a week or two in advance what you are going to be eating? Share with us your methods of saving money by planning your food.