Do you ever feel like all your income goes towards what you eat?
Most blogs and articles will tell you that cooking at home is the less-expensive option. It’s true, but a trip to the grocery store can often leave you over budget before you realize what’s happened.
Plus, the last-minute struggle, day in and day out, to decide what you and your family are going to eat is not only a pain, but a decision that might be costing you more than you think. Life brings about myriad stresses without your families diet being one of them. That’s where meal planning comes in.
When it comes to saving money and sticking to your budget, planning your meals will also help you do that. Here are five ways meal planning saves your budget.
1. Helps You Stick to Your Shopping List
If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping while hungry, you know that the items in your cart have a tendency to accumulate far beyond your original intent. Hungry or not, however, grocery shopping on a whim or sans a solid list usually equates to more grocery items than you really need.
Most stores, grocery included, set up aisles and end-caps in a way that promotes impulse buying. They arrange items with the sole intent of catching your eye and attention all in the hope of ensuring that you purchase more.
Meal planning helps eradicate the temptation of impulse buying and simply purchasing those things that you don’t really need. When you meal plan, you usually create a list of all the items you need. Walking into a grocery store with a list, serves to help you stick to only buying those specific items. A list in a sense provides you with the mission of finding the ingredients on it, and in turn, keeps your wondering mind and eye focused. Ultimately this will save you money.
2. Impulse Eating is Non-existent
How often do you ponder what to have for dinner, only to find yourself with no plan at 5:00? Like most people, at a certain time of day, you likely scrap any idea of cooking at all and simply opt to go through the drive-thru instead.
Without a solid meal plan in place, the idea of going to the grocery store and then going home to cook after a long day at work, just seems exhausting. Fast food, on the other hand, is quick and all too easy of an option. Nonetheless, while most fast food chains might seem like the cheaper decision, constantly eating out actually costs you more in the long-run.
Putting health aside, meal planning and cooking at home is cheaper. When you actually break it down, you’ll likely spend less per meal. Furthermore, you’ll have leftovers, which will keep you from being forced to go out for yet another meal later in the week.
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Meal planning eliminates the guesswork when deciding what to eat and, because you probably go grocery shopping at the beginning of the week, you’ll already have the groceries on hand.
3. You Eradicate Waste
It’s no secret that even with a family, the likelihood of you putting all your produce and perishable items to use is slim to none. Before you know it, most of your fruit and vegetables have gone bad and turned mushy.
Unfortunately, said items don’t exactly come cheap and when they go to waste, you’re simply losing money. When you meal plan, however, you learn to plan in a way that utilizes what you have and accounts for a day or two of leftovers.
By doing so, you’ll not only use up all your perishables before they have an opportunity to turn, but actually plan on eating your leftover meals, so those don’t go to waste either. You’ll inadvertently save money simply because you won’t be forced to throw away unused food you spent money on.
4. Buying in Bulk is Cheaper
Meal planning per week tends to utilize similar ingredients so that you ensure you use up what you have. That being said, most people that meal plan have a tendency to purchase certain items, like chicken, flour, and other meal staples in bulk.
After all, when you know you’re going to need and use some of the same groceries on a regular basis, it only makes sense to buy a surplus. While the price tag might not seem cheaper initially, buying in bulk actually comes at a cheaper price when you break it all down. Moreover, by purchasing in bulk, you’ll also yourself from constant trips to the grocery store, which inherently saves you on gas as well.
5. You Can Plan Based On What You Have & What’s On Sale
If you’re truly hoping to save with meal planning, one of the key aspects to helping you do so, is to plan your meals around what you already have and what’s on sale.
Since you’ll already be taking the time to sit down and plan out your meals, you’ll have more time to review your inventory and find recipes around ingredients you already have. Additionally, you can also allot some of your meal planning time to browsing the paper and websites to see which items are on sale.
Again, by not waiting until the day of to decide, you have the luxury of organizing your meals around those factors that are going to save you money.
Initially, meal planning can seem like a lot of extra work, especially if you’re used to figuring things out on a whim. Once you start, however, I think you’ll find just how much meal planning can alleviate the stress and hassle that comes with figuring out what to feed your family on a daily basis. More importantly, meal planning is the surefire way to ensure that you stick to your grocery budget, and even save on your grocery bill. After all, there are likely more important things to put your income towards that aren’t food.
Have you tried meal planning? What are some of the tools and tips that you’ve found helpful?