According to WebMD, who was quoting Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
In that particular instance, the article is discussing strategies for more healthful eating habits. However, planning your meals doesn’t just help you get fit, it can also save you time and big bucks!
The Huffington Post found that by planning your meals for one week, you benefit in several ways. Firstly, you know exactly which recipes you are going to prepare and when, which saves the stress of putting together a meal on the fly. Also, you make one trip to the grocery store instead of multiple trips for an item or two here and there.
Thirdly, you save money in the store because you are only buying the ingredients that you need. You are also helping to reduce food waste because everything you buy has a specific purpose. Lastly, you save your health by cooking real food at home rather than getting dinner from a drive-thru or ordering delivery.
So how can you begin reaping these benefits? Check out the following tips!
Dedicate time each week to choose your recipes for the following week. Maybe every Friday evening you choose your recipes for the next week before going to the grocery store on Saturday.
Make a list of the ingredients you will need for each of your chosen recipes. Don’t forget to check your fridge and pantry for ingredients you may already have. This saves food and money! You can even choose your recipes based on foods you have that need to be utilized.
Also, don’t forget to check your grocery store circulars, and coupon websites to see which ingredients are on sale. You can do this before selecting your recipes and maximize your savings by choosing to prepare ingredients that are on sale.
Designate a place where you keep all of your recipes. Whether you print them out and keep them in a binder, write them down in a journal, or break out the old Rolodex, keep them all together and easily accessible.
After you prepare the recipes for the first time, scribble a little review in the margins. For example, “next time add a little more oregano to the sauce.” You can also mark your family’s favorites with a star or heart, so you remember which ones were real winners.
Speaking of family, ask your dining companions for help with choosing the next week’s recipes. This not only spreads the responsibility around, it makes the chooser more likely to favor their recipe. For example, give your picky eaters the task of choosing two meals for the next week (they will be much more willing to try something they chose themselves!)
For easy accessibility, log your recipes in a calendar. You can keep the calendar electronically and share it over email with family, or write it down and put it on the fridge. This prevents the old “What are we having for dinner?” interrogation you face each evening.
Try assigning one type of recipe for each night of the week to get you started. For example, Meaty Mondays (Beef Stew one week and Sloppy Joes the next) and Taco Tuesdays (beef tacos one week and chicken or shrimp the next.) For salad night, buy a variety of fresh vegetables and let everyone make their own Mason Jar Salad. This way you get used to choosing a type of recipe for each day of the week, and can branch out from there.
Buying ingredients in bulk and cooking large portions is also a budget-saver. For example, if you are cooking for only 2 people, but double your recipe, you will have a ready-to go meal for the future. Stash these extra portions in the freezer and if the budget becomes especially tight one week, it’s freezer leftovers to the rescue!
Do as much preparation for your meals as you can. Wash your vegetables upon returning home from the grocery store. If you only plan to use half of that pound of ground beef this week, go ahead and put the other half in the freezer. Roast that whole chicken today, have it for dinner tomorrow, then use leftovers for chicken salad lunches later this week.
As you can see, planning your meals not only benefits your health and your budget, but your stress levels, as well. By investing a few minutes of your time, you will reap the savings many times over. Happy planning!