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Saving Money by Meal Planning

Frugal Find

A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

Saving Money by Meal Planning
I love that the New Year means new resolutions, new goals, and a fresh start! What I don't love is the feeling we get when I realize I've not kept up with my resolutions, and I find myself slacking big time. The simple fact is that often times we set ourselves up for failure from the get-go by taking on way too much all too quickly. I want to help you tackle saving money in the new year in a way that is managable and that will make a difference to your bottom line when 2013 rolls around.

I'd encourage you to break up your resolutions and goals into bite size chunks, and spread them out over time. Statistics show that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. With this plan you'll add one new resolution to your plate each month of the year thus forming great habits all year long! Trust me - it's a lot less painful this way, and at the end of the year you'll be in much better shape financially, which will feel great! Today I'll share the money saving tip for January, and in the months to come we'll tackle topics such as budgeting, how to know when a sale is really a sale, when to stock up on a particular item, why you shouldn't treat your tax return like a savings plan, and much more!

This month I'd like to encourage you to tackle meal planning. "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Basically, it is as simple as you make it. I try to sit down each week, usually on Saturday or Sunday with the store ads to see what is on sale, then I make my meal plan based on these deals. Of course I use whatever I have in my pantry and freezer first then buy as needed the extras. Also, if there is something I see that is a “stockpile price,” I will add that to my list for future week’s meals plans.

Why Meal Plan?

  • It’s healthier. Meal planning allows you to think in advance about preparing a meal adding a key ingredient from each food group instead of throwing something together last minute that is maybe carb laden.

  • Saves money. If you go grocery shopping with a list, you will be more likely to avoid impulse purchases. Also it gives you the time to organize and sort your coupons BEFORE you shop.

  • Saves time. I can’t stress this enough. While it may seem tedious to sit down and plan out your meals for the week. It is much more time efficient than standing in front of the fridge or pantry blankly staring at the shelves of food, while you think “There is nothing in this house to eat!” Either you will just grab something out to eat, or you will end up making several small weekly trips to the grocery store to grab key ingredients that had you meal planned you would have already had on hand.

Tips for successful Meal Planning:

  • Use those leftovers! Plan it into your Meal Plan. I enjoy cooking, but the truth is at the end of the day sometimes I am just not in the mood or I am just plain tired. I try to plan ahead for these nights, if I know I will be working until 6 on Wednesday, I will plan a meal on Tuesday that can carry over. Or I will double up on cooking the ground beef the night before so we can use it in another meal.

    From Love Food Hate Waste I found the following statistics:

    Each DAY we waste…

    1 Million Slices of Ham
    1.3 Million Yogurts
    7 Million Slices of Bread
    5.1 Million Potatoes
    1.6 Million Bananas
    4.4 Million Apples
    2.8 Million Tomatoes

  • Use Rice/Potatoes/Pasta as the base for your meal. If you can build the main part of your meal around a grain, you will save money and fill up on less. Use small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Of course I would suggest whole wheat grains to get the maximum nutritional value.

  • Plan snacks around nutritionally sound choices. This helps your budget because as we know, typically fruit, veggies, granola, etc enable your body to go longer stretches between meals as opposed to it’s sugar enemy – fruit snacks, candy, juice, etc. The denser the snack the more bang for your buck and almost always this is the cheaper option anyway!

  • Eat before you shop. Do not go grocery shopping when you are hungry. The best time to go is after you have had a good meal, or at least a snack to hold you over. When you are hungry, you are much more likely to pick up impulse purchases which can just throw your food budget out the window!

Let’s Practice.

Step 1: Make 3 Lists; Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

Monday – Cereal, OJ, and Fruit
Tuesday – Oatmeal, Milk, and Toast
Wednesday – Scrambled Eggs and Toast, Milk or OJ
Thursday – Cereal, OJ and Fruit
Friday – Bagels & OJ
Saturday – French Toast and Sausage
Sunday – Cereal, OJ and Toast

Monday – Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Tuesday – Tuna & Crackers/Sandwich, Fruit and Yogurt
Wednesday – Bean/Cheese Burritos with Chips & Salsa
Thursday – PB&J, Fruit, Pretzels and Yogurt
Friday – Macaroni & Cheese and Fruit
Saturday – Leftover Pizza
Sunday – Smorgasbord, what sounds good?!

Monday - Lasagna, Corn and Garlic Bread
Tuesday - Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, Pot Stickers and Chinese Fried Rice (make extra rice)
Wednesday – Chicken Enchiladas and Spanish Rice (using extra rice from Tuesday) (make extra chicken)
Thursday – Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and Potato Salad (make extra)
Friday – Pizza (Eating Out)
Saturday - Hotdogs, Potato Salad and 5 Bean Salad
Sunday - Broiled Salmon, Brown Rice and Asparagus

Step 2: Prepare Ingredient List and head to your pantry & fridge. Cross things off as you find them or leave the ingredients on your list, you now have your shopping list! Make sure to pull out any coupons you have and put them all together in a place where you can find them easily.

Step 3: Go shopping and save! The best part is because you've planned ahead, without even trying you'll have saved money. You won't head to the store on a weeknight at 5 pm for a "few ingredients" and come home having spent $50 or worse. You're saving loads of time because everything you need is accessible when you need it, no more wasted trips to the store or to a restaurant for takeout.

Now, it's your turn. Please share your best meal planning tips. And resolve to save money in 2012!

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