Meal planning has been one of the best ways to add money back into our family budget! You can save with meal planning too! Before I implemented a process for meal prep I would inevitably forget to thaw the protein for dinner or even worse, forget to plan a meal. This was a problem and created major issues due to our limited time at home.
Eating this way was unhealthy since frozen processed foods (yuck) was an easy “fix” to my lack of planning. It could also be expensive. Understand, we live in rural North Carolina. Choosing to eat “out” instead of cooking, constituted at minimum a thirty-minute drive. So, not only were we spending money on food, we were also wasting time and gas. Can you hear the money flying out of our pockets!
After analyzing our budget, I realized we were spending $500+ a month unnecessarily and decided to do something about it! More posts to come about budget analysis and money saving tips.
Our Plan to Save $500 a Month with Meal Planning My first step to meal planning was finding meals. My family cooked three square meals a day from scratch….that’s really hard to do as a working mom. The decision was made to focus on meals that had easy, quick prep and cook times and did not compromise on quality (30 minute meals). Modifying homemade recipes from my grandma also became regular recipes that would accommodate our modern needs.
I created a list of about 25 meals, which is plenty of meals to cover the month (we only go out for dinner one night a week/weekend). After creating my list I began laying them out on a monthly calendar. Although I am all about my iCalendar, this is one thing I like to see, touch and feel in person. This calendar is hanging in my kitchen and it’s where I keep our meal plan.
At the end of each month I pull out my recipe list and cross reference the day/meal based on other events on the calendar. This is very important. If I plan a meal but don’t have enough time to cook it, then I have the tendency to ditch the meal. The calendar also generates the items for my grocery list (I do my perishable item shopping once a week and buy pantry items once a month).