I’ve been talking a lot about meal planning lately. In a recent post, I talked about why it’s not a diet and why everyone should be doing it. Well here’s yet another reason that you should be doing it- by planning budget friendly meals, you’ll actually SAVE money!
Less Take Out
The bottom line is that take out is more expensive than home-prepared meals. Even if you’re buying everything organic, it’s still cheaper than take out and even fast food. You can plan budget friendly meals so that each serving is only a couple bucks, and I guarantee you’re spending at least $5 at a fast food restaurant. It may cost more at one time, but in the long term, you’re definitely saving more than a few bucks!
Planning Budget Friendly Meals
The key here is the word “planning”. Don’t go to the grocery store without a list AND a plan for that list. You will buy things you don’t end up using that way, which is wasted food and money. Here are the steps to take for your plan each week:
- Start simple- choose 1-2 breakfast options to rotate, 1-2 lunch options to rotate, and 2-3 snack options to rotate. Then look through recipes for dinner ideas and choose 2-3, allowing for leftovers.
- Make a list- Once you have your plan, make a list of everything needed for each meal and snack.
- Take inventory- go through the list and cross off everything you already have.
- Organize the list- Re-organize your list so that everything is in the order you come across it in the store. It differs per store slightly but typically it would be this: Produce, Meat/dairy, eggs, bread, and other packaged foods. This may sound a little like overkill to you, but trust me it’s not. It saves time when you don’t have go from the club soda section on one side of the store all the way back to the produce section because you forgot the avocados.
- Pay attention at the check-out counter- Make sure nothing is accidentally getting rung up twice and that you’re getting all the discounts/deals you should be getting.
- Prep- Do some prep when you get home from the store. Wash and chop produce, organize the fridge and pantry for easy access, and just make sure everything is ready to be used.
Tips for Budget Friendly Meals
- Choose recipes with overlapping ingredients- For instance, if you are planning some spinach salads for lunches, choose a dinner that also involves spinach and/or a smoothie for breakfast that uses spinach.
- Choose recipes with ingredients you already have- Don’t choose a recipe that has 0 ingredients already in your pantry. Look for ones that only require you to purchase the fresh ingredients and maybe 1 or 2 pantry items at most, and make sure they’re pantry items you can use for future meal plans
- Choose a meal or 2 that doesn’t require meat- Beans, eggs, greek yogurt, ricotta cheese, canned tuna, and peanut butter are all inexpensive ways to add protein to your meals.
- Choose organic sparingly if able- Choosing organic is not the end-all of healthy eating. While organic can be a better choice for some people, you do not HAVE to eat organic to be healthy. If you want to include organic foods in your lifestyle, use the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 lists to choose your produce, buy organic meats, eggs, and dairy on sale when able, and maybe plan to have a vegetarian meal once a week to cut down on meat costs. Bottom line is that eating any of these foods not organic is healthier than not eating these foods at all, so if you don’t have room in your budget for organic one week (or all weeks), choose the conventional versions instead of resorting to take out.
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