Meal planning can be easy if you follow these tips.
With the economy at a low point, and some big expenses after the holidays it’s smart to turn your focus to saving money. One of the easiest ways to cut costs is by taking the time to sit down each week and meal plan. Meal planning helps save you money because you are more aware of what you have and what you need, and are less likely to make impulse purchases.
Make a List of Your Regular Meals – Grab a scribbler and jot down all the dishes you eat most. Having a list of meals your family enjoys eating makes it easier shopping from the specials available in flyers. You can separate your lists into categories as well. I use lunch, dinner, snacks, and sides. Breakfast is always a chaotic and I don’t try to plan ahead aside from having plenty of eggs, breakfast sandwich makings, cereal, and oatmeal.
Take Inventory – Take the time to go through your pantry, freezer, and spice cupboard and take note of items you need each week and those of which you have a lot. Shop in your pantry before heading out to the grocery store.
Write it down – Write your meal plan down on a piece of paper or a calendar, then be prepared to move things around. I guarantee that at least one of the nights you aren’t going to feel like having the pasta you have planned. If you have everything on hand to make those last-minute changes you are less likely to order in when you just don’t feel like cooking.
Think about the week ahead – Plan your meals around activity levels. If you have soccer or swimming, chances are very good that you won’t have the time to prepare an elaborate meal. When planning your weekly schedule make those busy days the days you cook easy meals or utilize your favourite slow cooked meals.
Shop the Sales – Sit down with some flyers and plan your meals around what you have already and what’s on sale. This is especially helpful when it comes to meat and dairy products which can be pricey. Head to your favourite store with flyers in hand so you can price match those items on your list that are on sale at other stores. Using an app like Flipp keeps all your flyers in one easy to navigate place. If you write your shopping list in the app it will even tell you which items are on sale that week to make price matching easy.
Cook in Bulk – There are some things that make great freezer meals. By spending an afternoon cooking in bulk and freezing meal sized portions you have an easy meal on those nights when you just don’t feel like going all out. Some great make ahead meals include chili, Shepard’s pie, spaghetti sauce and lasagna.
Freeze Leftovers – This falls into the category of do as I say, not as I do. If you have leftovers skip the inclination to just pop them into the fridge to eat later. To avoid food waste spend an extra 10 minutes and separate your leftovers into individual portion sizes and freeze them. Leftovers are the perfect lunch to take to work or school, and if you have a leftover day built into your meal plan everyone can easily have something different.
Try Something New – Get the whole family involved in finding new favourites. Each week, or each month try a new recipe. This will help keep you from getting bored with your meals. It’s also a great way to have a little fun. Make your special meal on a day when everyone can take part in preparation. After dinner rate the meal as a family and decide if it is the next recipe to be added into menu rotation or if it should be moved to the “never eat again” list.
Planning ahead pays off not just by saving you money but by making meals easier to do and more enjoyable.
Do you have a tip you’d like to add?