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Learn how meal planning can set you up for success.
Please raise your right hand if you’ve ever struggled on what to make for dinner.
When you come home from your 9-5 job, exhausted and starving, you’re welcomed by a fully-stocked fridge and pantry, and yet no idea on what meal to make.
It’s daunting enough to create a meal after a tiring day — nevermind stressing on what to cook before the hubby gets home.
In the end, you’ll probably order in or have hubby pick up dinner on his way home. As a result, you’ll blow your food budget and have the food in your fridge go bad.
Did you know that an average household spends $7,923 on food, including food at home and food away from home? Yes, that is a lot of money.
This is the reason why everyone should learn how to meal plan on a budget.
With the right planning strategy at your disposal, you could easily plan out your meals–all without blowing your food budget nor wasting food.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty of meal planning, let’s take a look at why you need to meal plan.
BENEFITS OF MEAL PLANNING
Meal planning is one of the best ways to save money on food. By having a plan, you will unlikely overspend on grocery items. You will only buy what you need and work around on what you already have.
Decrease Food Waste
When you don’t have a meal plan, chances are you’ve experienced having to throw out rotten vegetables and expired dairies. By planning ahead, you will only buy what you need and be confident that you will use it before it gets bad.
When you meal plan, you’ll get the opportunity to research recipes and learn new dishes. Over time, you will be able to create a collection of your favorites and maybe even your own version of the recipes.
Contrary to what everyone thinks that meal planning takes a lot of time, meal planning actually saves time. When you plan your meals, you avoid unnecessary trips to the grocery store. You save cooking time, and most importantly, you save thinking-of-what-to-cook time.
Thinking of what to make for the next meal every single day can bring a lot of stress, especially for couples who are working full time. By planning during less busy times, you can decrease this unnecessary stress.
Meal planning can be your ticket to becoming healthy. One of the reasons why meal planning can improve your health is that you will be eating home-cooked meals. With home-cooked meals, you have more control over what you add to your food.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO MEAL PLANNING
#1 Pick A Day For Meal Planning. Getting into the habit of setting aside a day to sit down and plan your meals is a big part of your success. By being consistent with the schedule will keep you committed and make your life easier.
#2 Use a weekly planner like this one. Grab a pen and planning sheet with the days of the week on it.
#3 Plan around your weekly schedule. Check out what’s coming up this week because maybe some nights you don’t need to prepare dinner. Maybe there’s a dinner out with friends? Company party? Or are you or hubby working late?
#4 Make breakfast and lunch simple. When you are just beginning your meal planning journey, stick with easy to make breakfast like oatmeal, cereals or toast and then some sandwich or leftover dinner for lunch.
#5 Decide on your core dinner dishes. Include a variety of easy recipes that take less than 30 minutes to make, can be prepared ahead of time, or can last several meals.
#6 List all the ingredients you need. Save or print your chosen recipes and list down all the ingredients that you need to create the dishes. Check your fridge and pantry for ingredients you already have.
#7 Set a day for grocery shopping. Pick a day when you are less busy then go grocery shopping. Don’t forget your list. Learn how you can save while grocery shopping.
HOW TO MEAL PLAN ON A BUDGET
Meal planning will save you money, but it can save you more money if you follow these tips.
- Plan your meals around foods that are on sale
Use store flyers, newspaper inserts, grocery apps, and coupon sites online to see what’s on sale. Just make sure only to buy what you need.
- Plan your meals around what’s on the season
Most products are so much cheaper when they’re in season. Make the most out of fruits and vegetables during those times.
- Plan your meals around what you already have
Make an inventory of what you already have and work a recipe out of them. You’ll be surprised how many dishes you can make with what you already have.
- Plan your meals around leftovers
Don’t let leftovers go to waste, have them for lunch. You can even make another dish out of it. For example, a leftover ham or chicken can be used on sandwiches or a stirfry.
- Plan meals that do not use special ingredients
As a beginner meal planner, it is better to stick with simple recipes. It may not be worth the money to buy an ingredient if you are only going to use it once.
- Plan to stock up on frequently used ingredients
Stocking up on the main ingredients that you use most of the time will save you money in the long run. Stock up when there is a sale for chicken, beef, pork and, etc.
- Schedule meals that require fresh ingredients at the beginning of the week.
Fresh ingredients tend to go bad quicker than others; therefore, consume the meals earlier in the week.
- Plan to make extra.
There will be times that the number of ingredients you bought is more than what you need, and those extra ingredients cannot last until the next meal plan. In this case, plan to make two batches. Serve the first batch and freeze the second batch for later.
Healthy Meal Plan On A Budget
Now that you know how to meal plan on a budget let’s take a look at how you can make you planned meals healthy.
Prepare Healthy Meals. There are so many free resources on the internet on healthy recipes. Find and start with a few that are simple to make.
Say NO to Processed Food. Stick with whole ingredients. Whole foods are less processed, therefore are healthier.
Stop Buying Junk Food. Junk foods are not only unhealthy, but they can also also be expensive.
Decrease Meat Consumption. Lessen the days that you eat meat, or you can substitute meat with other proteins like lentils, quinoa, beans, and nuts.
Stick With Water. Sodas are bad for you, so stick with water.
Grow Your Own Produce. If you have space, grow your herbs and some vegetables. You’ll have an endless supply of produce.
Cheap Healthy Meal Plan For Two
You’ll probably ask, “But what if I do not have a large family to feed, just me and my husband?”
Cooking for two can be really tricky. If you’re not careful, you’ll end eating the same dish five days in a row and end up eating out. This is because some recipes simply won’t scale for two. As a result, a dish will get old quickly.
To avoid this problem, you need to be creative and practice careful planning. For example, if you made a large dish of roast chicken that is good for 3-4 days, you can spice it up with different side dishes on different days and probably make a stir fry on the other day.
There you have it!
Meal planning has a lot of benefits, it can save you time and money. You can also stay healthy while meal planning.
Now that you know how to meal plan on a budget, you’re ready to take action. Download your weekly meal planner and start planning.
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