When it comes to saving money on groceries, I’ve done it all. I’ve shopped in season, I’ve shopped at farmer’s markets, I’ve signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture), I’ve scoured weekly grocery sales inserts, I’ve clipped and cut hundreds upon hundreds of coupons…to the point where friends and family were saving their coupon inserts for me. But finally, after all this time devoted to saving money at the grocery store, I’ve figured out the easiest, fastest, and number one way to save money at the grocery store: Meal Planning.
It seems so silly, really. I’ve had people tell me countless times to meal plan, but it always seemed like so much work. Finding recipes, deciding what to cook ahead of time, then compiling a list of all the ingredients I would need….how was I supposed to know what I would be in the mood for five days in advance? In reality, these were all excuses. I didn’t want to try out meal planning, I didn’t want to contribute even more time to my coupon clipping. For me, I found that saving money and saving time did not go hand in hand. If I wanted one, I’d have to give up the other.
I was so wrong. I have finally jumped aboard the meal planning bandwagon. In order to dip my toes into the proverbial water, I signed up for a meal planning service. There are countless meal planning companies out there, and I ended up signing up with The Fresh 20 after doing some research in what I wanted out of a meal plan. This service focuses on creating five dinner meals that can be prepared in under 30 minutes, and focus on buying local and organic. To top it off, the grocery list for the week focuses on 20 ingredients (hence, The Fresh 20).
Each Friday, they would send me my grocery shopping list, as well as the menu for the week. I’d shop for my ingredients on Saturday and I’d be set for the rest of the week. It was wonderful because we were eating healthy and we were trying new dishes every week.
Things started to get crazy though when Eric would work several days out of the week. The meals are made to provide enough for a family of four. With two of us, I would take the rest for lunch the next day, but I found that I was making way too much food on the days that Eric wasn’t working. I am also pretty picky about some popular foods, like tomato and avocado, and while it was pretty easy to make substitutes, I found it to be an inconvenience.
SO I slowly started to wade into creating my own meal plan. I would pick a few recipes that used similar ingredients, were low in calories, and sounded yummy, and I would add their ingredients to my shopping list. I would then put the menu for the week on the fridge.
Recipes included meatless meatloaf, mushroom soup, spinach lasagna rolls…the more adventurous I got with my recipes, the more fun I was having!
Meal planning allows you to save money by not buying unncecessary ingredients that go to waste because you don’t use them. By planning ahead of time what you’ll be having for the week, you buy exactly what you need, eliminate numerous trips to the grocery store (which OFTEN result in impulse purchases!), and none of your food goes to waste. I’ve been able to drastically cut back on the amount of food that goes to waste, because by the end of the week our fridge is usually bare!
And the biggest misconception, that meal planning takes up a ton of time, is just plain false. It takes me about 15 minutes, if not less, to find some recipes I want to try out (Pinterest, anyone?), and then write down their ingredients on my shopping list.
Meal Planning: You Can’t Afford NOT to do it!