Do you find that way too much of your budget is going toward food? Whether it’s groceries, eating out or lunches for work, it’s easy to let this area of your budget get out of hand. Through meal planning, I was able to save my family $200 last month!
How it Works
Before I dive into just how much I saved and where, here’s a brief overview of how meal planning works for me. Each Monday, I sit down and plan out my meals for the week.
I start by taking a look at my calendar and figuring out how many meals I will need. Next, I take a look at what ingredients I still have in the house. I base a meal or two on these items so that I can use them up before they go bad.
Next, I spend some time on Pinterest finding a couple new recipes to try. Finally, I fill in the gaps with a few of my go-to meals. As I am planning, I write down a grocery list of everything I’ll need.
Fewer Trips to the Store
Before I got back into meal planning, I would decide what I wanted to make for dinner the day of. This meant I never planned ahead before grocery shopping, so I ended up going to the store 3 or more times a week.
You’ll find that the more trips you take to the store, the more money you spend. Each time you go, you end up picking up an extra item or two. By meal planning and making a list before hitting the store, you can better stick to your budget and avoid impulse buys.
By meal planning and making one trip to the store each week, I save an average of $75 a month!
Less Wasted Food
Like I mentioned earlier, during my meal planning session I check what ingredients I have in the house already. For example, a couple weeks ago I made enchiladas for dinner. I didn’t use up the entire package of tortillas, so the following week I made tacos.
Leftovers for Lunch
I purposefully make more food than we will need so that Andrew and I can both have leftovers to reheat for lunch the next day. Before I started doing this, Andrew would usually eat out or buy extra food to make at work. By taking leftovers we save at least $50 a week just on his lunches!
As for me, I used to struggle with what to eat for lunch each day. Usually I would find something to eat around the house, but I still went out and grabbed something once or twice a week. Now, I rarely eat out. This saves me about $10 a week.
Eat Out Less
We also set a goal to eat out less. We had been going out around two times a week, once for date night and at least once with friends. Now I plan special meals to cook for date night and we just go out once a month or so.
We still go out with friends occasionally, but we try to do other things like potlucks or just going out for dessert or drinks. By only going out a couple times a month, we save at least $50 a month.
Using Sales and Coupons to Save More
Another step I recently added to my meal planning process was to check out sales and coupons as I made my list. I check the sales ad for my grocery store and then check what coupons I got in the mail or are available on my grocery store’s coupon app. I also just started using (referral link) Ibotta to get rebates. I’ve been using it for two weeks and already got $15 back!
So by using coupons and planning meals around sale items, I save at least $25 a month. This is an area I have a lot more room to grow in, too, since I could start looking for coupons more than I am and continue to use Ibotta.
Do you meal plan? What are some ways that it saves you money? If you haven’t started meal planning yet, why not?