Meal planning isn’t as hard as it sounds. Honestly.
In fact, it actually makes life easier; while at the same time saving you money and moving you ever closer to the goal of Financial Freedom.
Imagine you’ve had a long day at work, you’re rushing to get home and tackle everything that awaits you AND you’re simultaneously racking your brain trying to figure out what exactly to make for dinner, all the while navigating rush hour traffic.
You’re already tired from work, and now you’re trying to answer questions like; “What’s already in the fridge? What will everyone eat? What do I have time to make? Do I have time to stop at the grocery store?”
When your brain is already fatigued, trying to decide what to make for dinner and then making additional choices at the grocery store is often a recipe to overspend. Its also a combination that rarely results in healthy selections. You will probably shop for convenience, because you’re already rushed and tired. You are extremely likely to make an impulse purchase, because you are hungry, in a state of decision fatigue, and your willpower is at its lowest of the day. And, just as often as not, you will inevitably resort to take-out.
Shopping on the run also tends to generate the most food waste, because you aren’t able to coordinate meals, ingredients and quantities in the same way you would a traditional meal plan.
All of this equates to more money spent than is necessary. Money that could be much better used to build your savings.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier to know exactly what’s for dinner and that you have all the required ingredients awaiting you at home? Yes, you still have to make the dinner, but at least the decision-making part and the legwork at the store is out of the way.
Wouldn’t it also be easier and more efficient if you only had to go to the grocery store once per week instead of multiple times? What would that save you in time, transportation costs and general hassle? How about being able to plan your trip to the grocery store for when it’s not busy, and the line-ups aren’t full of other people trying to madly grab dinner ingredients and head home?
If efficiency and health aren’t enough to convince you to give meal planning a try, how about this? The average North American family spends about $850.00 per month on groceries, an annual total of $10,200.00. If you meal plan instead, conservatively expect to shave about 20% off your weekly grocery bill. That’s an annual savings of $2040.
Would you like an extra $2040 each year?
Those numbers don’t even include money spent on eating out. And since meal planning often reduces the frequency at which people resort to eating out, theres a lot of room to increase your savings even further.
So here’s a few easy ways to get you on the path to becoming a savvy meal planner:
1 – Make a List
Half the battle, actually three quarters of the battle of meal planning is coming up with ideas for what to make. So why not make your life even easier and start a list of tried and true meals that EVERYONE in your family will eat. You can split it up into entree’s and sides, one dish meals, or whatever structure works with the foods your family eats. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be easy to reference. So whether you save if on your phone, or print off and stick it on the fridge, having a quick reference guide is invaluable for when you actually sit down to plan out your week.
2 – Schedule the Time
Schedule in a time when you sit down to plan your meals each and every week. Make it the same time so it’s easy to avoid scheduling in a conflicting event and STICK TO IT. When I was working full time I would sit down every Saturday morning and plan out the next weeks worth of meals. I actually began to look forward to sitting with my coffee while making the grocery list! I would go shopping right after because the grocery store was basically EMPTY! I do the same thing now, except I do it on Fridays, only because the grocery store is actually empty.
When you sit down to plan it out, start by picking your meals for the week, including if you plan to eat-out. Once you have your meals selected, then build your grocery list from there.
3 – Coordinate Meals
Coordinate your meals to take advantage of the ingredients you are buying, and to avoid food waste at the end of the week. IE: If you are making Taco’s one night and need to buy sour cream but know you won’t use it all, plan a second meal that also calls for sour cream so you can use up the remainder. When it comes to products that quickly expire, try to only buy quantities that will meet your needs for that week. Otherwise odds are they will end up being thrown out. Throwing away food is throwing away money, so minimize waste as much as possible.
4 – Stick to the List
Go into the grocery store to buy what’s on your list. Make a mental commitment that if it isn’t on the list, it isn’t coming home with you. This will avoid impulse purchases, which lets be honest, rarely consist of kale or avocado’s. If you have little ones with you, this is a great way to teach them that begging for junk food and extra items won’t fly. If they know that you only buy what’s on the list, and you STICK TO IT, they will learn very quickly not to waste their time. This means if they want something, they have to think of it ahead of time AND discuss it with you in order to get it on the list. Most importantly, these “discussions” won’t be taking place in the middle of the grocery aisle. The key to this approach is you have to model your expectations and be consistent. If they see you grabbing an impulse purchase that isn’t on the list, they’ll instantly know that it’s not really a hard and fast rule and that they might just be able to convince you to consider their own impulse requests.
5 – Don’t Grocery Shop Hungry
If you grocery shop hungry, you are going to have a much harder time following Tip #4! So just don’t do it.
Whether single, a couple or a large family, meal planning has advantages for all. With a little forethought and scheduling, you will find yourself saving money, increasing efficiency, reducing mental fatigue, and likely eating a healthier diet!
With that kind of ROI, how can you not give it a try?