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By: Angela Caban
A couple of months ago while attending a board of education meeting; a fellow colleague was astounded that I was able to put a hot meal on the table for my family before rushing out the door. She asked, “How do you get dinner on the table on time? How do you have the time to make everything from scratch? How are you not tired?”
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tired. I am a mom of two who works a full-time job and runs a business – I am exhausted by the day’s end. Ever get the feeling while staring in the fridge you have no clue what you will be cooking? It is the dinner planning stress that paralyzes you, you are left just staring into the fridge, focusing on what you have and hoping that something new and exciting pops right out at you.
You don’t have to be a master chef in order to meal plan. Think of meal planning as an organizational tool for planning out your meals. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – it is a plan that you make way before you even step foot into the grocery store. When I didn’t meal plan, it caused me unwanted stress.
I meal plan for dinner once a month and I don’t even step foot into a grocery store. I don’t have time to go to the grocery store the second I run out of something, it just isn’t logical. So what happens next? You will find yourself buying take out until you can make it to the store. Did you know that on average Americans spend $20 per week getting lunch in restaurants? That’s $1,043 a year! Meal planning helps you not only save you time, but also money.
What other benefits are there to meal planning?
Just to name a few:
- You will eat much healthier. If you know what you are cooking for the month, it surely does cut down on the amount of junk food and not-so-healthy options you put together at the last minute. We do tend to eat unhealthy when in a rush.
- No more wasted food. Because you have your list and know what you will be eating for the month, you won’t buy any additional food that you will end up throwing out because it is expired.
- Goodbye impulse buys! Going to the store without a list or idea of what your family will be eating is not a good idea in my opinion. All those impulsive buys add up at the end of the month, and again, usually ends up expiring.
How to get started with meal planning:
- Calculate how many meals you will be prepping for. Will they be all three meals or just dinner? Next, count the meals per person and then how long certain foods will last.
- Make a list of your families favorite things to eat. Looking for new recipes? Look up new recipes online.
- Use a calendar or notepad to figure out the menu for each day. I use a dry erase board that sticks right on my fridge, that way my entire family can see what meals are coming up. If you are techier, use an app! Also – this isn’t set in stone. If Monday rolls in and your family isn’t in the mood for lasagna, switch it out for another day of the week meal.
- Make your grocery list. Buy only what you have on your list, after reviewing recipes and knowing what you will be making for the month. Also – take into consideration while making your food plan that produce and foods that spoil quicker should be made earlier in the month.
Expect there to be some trial and error. Meal planning can really take a few tries before getting the hang of it. In a few months, your spending on takeout is greatly reduced. The money we save by planning our meals is helping us to live debt free. By spending less in this part of your budget, you can split the savings between paying down a debt and adding to your emergency savings account.
Have you tried meal planning? Share with us in the comments below.