How often have you walked into a grocery store with a budget in mind only to leave having spent nearly double the amount? It happened to me so many times until I figured out the solution. It may seem like a no-brainer, but having a meal plan works. Here are 5 ways a meal plan saves your budget.
Meal Planning Helps Avoid Impulsive Purchases
We’ve all been guilty of seeing that new product on the shelf and tossing it in our carts as we head for the items on our list. These impulse buys add up over time. This is true especially if you have young children to carry along to the grocery store. We may find ourselves grabbing a package of snacks to hold them over until we grab what we need and get out of there. Planning your trips in advance will reduce the cost. The less you are in the grocery store, the less you will spend.
Meal Planning Helps You Avoid Eating Out
One common struggle we all face is the question “What is for dinner?” This can lead to running through the drive-thru if we don’t have something planned or available. Having a meal plan means knowing what is for dinner before you get to that question. The best thing is, you don’t have to stick to eating tacos on Tuesday if you want to have spaghetti instead. You can mix and match your planned meals to fit your lifestyle needs. I recommend making room for a few easy meals that can be thrown together in no time. It comes in handy when you are running late or just need a quick dinner.
Meal Planning Uses What You Have
It’s good to get in the habit of going through your pantry and freezer and taking inventory of what you already have. Many times I have found myself with leftover meat at the end of the week that could be made into an entire new meal. Leftover BBQ chicken gets made into BBQ chicken pizza. Ham can be put into a soup. Build your meal plan off of what’s available and you will find yourself saving money.
Meal Planning Reduces Food Waste
Not only should you plan according to what you have, think about all the food you have thrown away over the last month alone. It may include bananas past their prime, lettuce that has turned to mush, bread gone stale, or even that bowl of leftovers that got pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about. With a meal plan, you can work these items into your meals, reducing the waste. Once a week, I schedule leftovers on our menu. There may not be enough for everybody to have the same items, but by dishing them out “buffet” style, everybody gets exactly what they want and our waste is reduced.
Meal Planning Means Meal Preparing
Not only is preparing a meal plan important, preparing your food is equally important. If you have meat that needs to thaw, lay it out in the morning. Prepare your ingredients for the crock pot the night before. Packing your lunch the night before, or even preparing lunches a week in advance will lower the chance of you heading to the nearest deli on your lunch break. And preparing ahead of time for dinner lowers the chance of you finding yourself in the drive-thru.
One of the hardest things about meal planning is committing to the meals, especially when you find yourself in the mood for something not listed. One way to beat this is to keep a list of your cravings and add them to your next menu. This way, you are sticking with your plan, but also allowing yourself to indulge in those cravings. By budgeting for the cravings, instead of giving in on a whim, you can save considerable amounts of money.
The next time you find yourself in the grocery store without a plan, turn around. Come back when you are prepared with a budget and a meal plan in hand. Find out how you can save more with these thrifty grocery shopping tips.