Am I the only one that feels a bit unsettled when a bag of lettuce goes bad in the refrigerator? I just hate wasting food, but most importantly I hate the fact that I am throwing my hard-earned money in the garbage. What’s the secret? It starts with becoming a monthly meal planner.
Did you know that almost one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted every year, which contributes to about 8% of the world’s greenhouse gases? Not to mention the natural resources that are wasted along with it. Food production calls for massive amounts of natural resources.
Cutting down on food waste isn’t just good for the planet, but for your bottom-line too. Studies show that you can save an average of $746 per person per year by cutting down on food waste. Over the course of a 4-year education, that’s almost $3000!
One way to reduce food waste is by using a monthly meal planner, which can help to prevent food waste, save money, and time. Not only will creating a monthly meal plan help your budget, but it will also take out the stress of wondering what’s for dinner tonight. You’ll know exactly what you are eating every day and can even prepare a good amount of meals in advance.
What is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is deciding upfront and on purpose what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks throughout the week.
When you plan a meal, you won’t buy food you don’t need. That’s because you’ll look at the recipes you’ll be using, see what’s on sale, and know what ingredients you already have in your pantry. Then you’ll make your grocery list for only what you need.
10 Tips For Meal Planning On A Budget
The following tips will walk you through the process of how to meal plan on a budget. These tips will show you how you can save money on food and how to plan out your weekly meals.
1. Know What Food You Already Have
Make a list of the items in your pantry, fridge, freezer, and deep freezer. By looking through the food you currently have, you’ll be able to make sure you’re not buying duplicates of food you already have plenty of.
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2. Make a Menu
Decide which recipes you will make for lunch and dinner and make a list of the items that you will need from the grocery store. When you have a plan, you will be less likely to spend money on fast food or convenience meals.
3. Buy Food on Sale
Check store flyers, newspaper inserts and coupon sites online. You may be surprised at the good buys available. Just be sure to buy and plan for foods that you will actually use so that they don’t go to waste. Remember the aim is to save the planet and your pocket!
4. Make a Grocery List
After clearing out the current food in your cupboard and refrigerator you are now ready for a fresh start. Writing up a quick budget grocery list or on your phone, or pen and paper before leaving for the store will effectively prevent you from buying any unnecessary items as it keeps you on track.
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5. Choose Inexpensive Foods
Some groceries are less expensive than others. Typically, meat, dairy, and fresh organic produce are the most expensive. Instead, choose alternative less-expensive foods. Dried beans and lentils are a great source of protein for dinners. Oats are much cheaper than a box of cereal and is a filling healthy breakfast.
6. Go Meatless Once a Week
Going meatless a few times a week is good for your health, good for your wallet, and good for the environment. Plan meatless meals using legumes (beans, lentils, dried peas), eggs, tofu, peanut butter, and canned fish that offer great-tasting protein at a good price.
7. Eat More Grains
Grains such as rice, pasta, barley, and couscous are inexpensive and can be used in many different recipes. Try them in soups, stews, and salads
8. Use Leftovers
Think about ways you can use leftovers. If you’re cooking roast chicken with rice and vegetables for Sunday night’s supper, then make chicken sandwiches for Monday’s lunch. On Tuesday, use the bones to make a chicken soup and toss in any leftover vegetables and rice.
9. Prepare Extra Food
Don’t let your vegetables go to waste. Use it all up by making an extra big pot of soup or salad. If ground beef is on sale, make two batches of lasagna instead of one. Serve one batch for dinner, and freeze the other batch in meal-sized portions for another time.
10. Cash Envelope for Food Budget
Use cash for your food budget. I suggest taking money out in cash from each paycheck to use at the store. This assists with staying on budget and helps curb impulse spending. For an easy way to carry around all your cash in an envelope and once the food budget money is spent, you’ll make do with what you have left in the house until the next paycheck.
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I hope these tips helped you understand the importance of being a monthly meal planner.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be stressful, you just have to commit to it and get it done. The more you meal plan, the easier it becomes. It will make dinnertime less stressful to have a plan ready to go and you’ll save plenty of money doing it. Money that go towards that dream vacation or paying down debt!