Meal planning takes time and effort, but it is definitely a rewarding exercise. The benefits include:
- saving money
- staying within a food budget
- wasting less food
- reducing the stress of making meals on the fly
- losing weight
- being prepared when short on time
- less likely to get take-out
Meal planning can help save money by creating a more targeted grocery list that will help shoppers focus on the items needed and will be less likely to buy unnecessary things.
From finding recipes to finalizing the grocery list. The following are some time and money saving tips to implement and turn into a weekly routine.
How to Start Meal Planning
1. How many meals are you planning for this week?
Lunch and dinner are typically more stressful when it comes to meal planning. Lunches aren’t difficult to throw together, but many people crave some variety. Once the number of meals for the week has been determined, consider any days of the week that are busier because of activities. Leftovers or meals with minimal prep and cook time are best for those kinds of days.
2. Choose the Meals
Its best not to cook a new recipe more than once a week. Think about what meat and vegetarian dishes you can make and what appliances you can use such as instant pots, slow cookers, air fryers and ovens.
3. Make an ingredient list
Check off what you already have at home and then transfer what you don’t have to a grocery list. Its best if some ingredients can be used for multiple meals.
4. Spend Time Meal Prepping
Since the school and work week begin on Mondays, Sunday is the day to do all the meal prep. This will help make your dinner prep easier when you are tired from work. Washing and cutting vegetables and cooking some meats ahead of time can really help make weeknight dinners quick and easy.
How to Save Time
Research Meal Ideas
With so many free resources at our fingertips, its relatively easy to find recipes that look appetizing and easy to make. But if you don’t know exactly what you are searching for, it can become very time consuming. Narrow your search as much as possible to make it easier to sift through some recipes. Here are some ideas and keywords to filter and target your search:
- recipes with specific ingredients you already have or are on sale
- ingredients that are in season
- meals that cater to a specific diet or allergy such as gluten free, dairy free, nut free etc .
- search for one pot recipes, instant pot recipes, slow cooker, 30 minute meals etc.
- quick chicken dinner ideas are popular, ground beef, chicken and turkey are versatile a quick to cook
Bookmark the websites where the recipes were a hit with the family or continue following the same food bloggers who helped produce tasty dishes.
Plan to Cook a Double-Batch
Most people don’t feel like cooking every day. There are also days where you had to work late or rush off to kids activities and didn’t have time to make a meal. Rather than resort to eating out every time this happens, cook a double batch of the family’s favorite meals and put the other portion in the freezer for these kinds of days.
When its time to use the frozen meal, put it in the fridge the night before or leave it on the counter for a few hours. Warm the meal up in the microwave, or in the oven on low heat or in an air fryer.
Check out these easy meals to double-batch:
Another reason to cook extra is so that you can kill two birds with one stone and take the leftovers for lunch one day that week.
Make Multiple Meals From One Item
Consider all the options you have just by making one item. For example, making a large batch of ground beef like this keema recipe can make multiple different meals. You can eat it on top of Basmati rice, make tacos, put it on top of pizzas, put it in a dough or pastry and make samosas, make an omelet or frittata with it and more.
The same goes for chicken, especially oven baked or air fryer chicken breast . You can eat it with a side of vegetables, put in soup for another meal, make quesadillas, put it on top of pizza, make a pasta dish, eat it with a salad etc. Its unlikely with all this variety that anyone will feel like they are eating the same meal just because the meat is the same.
Tips for Saving Money with Meal Planning
Use Ingredients You Already Have
How many times have you reached to the back of the pantry or a cupboard and found a food item that you didn’t know you had? The same thing might happen when you reach to the back of the freezer. Check if there are already food items at home that can be used before buying more. That ingredient can be inspiration for finding a new recipe to try and using older items can help prevent food waste. Its also a great idea to clean out and organize food storage areas in case something is on sale and you want to stock up.
Look for Ingredients on Sale
Consider making meals that have the main ingredients on sale. Some ways to find sale items include going through fliers and online for coupons, discounts and sale prices, cook with fruits and vegetables that are in season and look for different brands of the same product. The ingredients may be the same but the cost may be less.
Download Shopping Apps
There are many free apps available that allow shoppers to earn rewards points for their purchases. Apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards require shoppers to scan their receipts for their eligible purchases in order to earn points. The points can then be used to purchase gift cards that can go towards saving on other expenses.
Once you have some meals that have been approved by all family members, put them in regular rotation either weekly or bi-weekly. Before you know it, you will have a regular routine for meals planned out. Continue to try different meals of course to add some variety. But once you have a menu of go-to meals, it will save you the time and the stress of planning meals at the last minute.