How a Meal Plan Can Help your Health & Your Wallet
For a lot of people, the term “healthy food” is associated with increased costs. There’s an idea that, if you’re going to eat a healthy diet, you need to spend a lot of money. However, this isn’t true. While you certainly can spend a lot of money on healthy food, you definitely don’t need to.
One of the best ways to save money while still eating healthy is to create a meal plan. With proper planning, you’ll be able to eat healthy foods each day and you won’t break the bank. You’ll also spend less time worrying about what to cook, and waste less food, so a meal plan can help in many ways.
Determine How You’ll Plan
The first step in creating a meal plan takes place before you even start making a plan. That’s because, before you plan, you’ll need to come up with a way to craft your plan. You can use a calendar (either paper or on your computer), a spreadsheet on your desktop, a pad, and paper, a note-taking app, an app or your phone, or whatever works best for you. You’ll want to choose a method that is easy, convenient, and comfortable for you. If you have a method of planning that works for you, you’ll be a lot more likely to actually plan your meals.
If you get flyers from local grocery stores in the mail, save them and check them out when you’re creating your meal plan. Look for weekly specials, deals on staples that you can keep in your pantry for a while, and good prices on items that can be used for multiple dishes.
If you don’t get flyers in the mail, or if you don’t get flyers from all local stores, look online. You can also likely find some great coupons online as well.
See What You Have at Home
One of the best ways to save money is to use what you already have. Before you head to the store, take stock of what you currently have at home. A lot of the money we waste on food is because we buy items, don’t use them, they go bad, and then throw them out. Food waste is a huge problem and it costs the average family a lot of money. That’s why it’s a good idea to look at what you already have before you start shopping. Then you won’t find yourself buying something that you don’t need.
For instance, if you found a good sale on canned beans a few weeks ago and stocked up, take note of the fact that you already have beans in your panty. This will come in handy when you’re planning recipes. The fact that you still have some chopped vegetables in the fridge, for instance, will help as well. You can use them in a new recipe early this week and they won’t go to waste.
Once you’ve written down everything that’s on sale this week along with everything you already have at home, you’re ready to start crafting some recipes. If you don’t have a lot of experience cooking, that’s okay. You don’t need to make elaborate recipes that require long lists of ingredients and a lot of preparation. Search online for simple recipes that use the ingredients you have available.
Purposely cooking enough to have leftovers can be a great idea. For instance, if you make a big pasta dish for dinner on Monday, you’ll be able to bring some with you for lunch on Tuesday. If you cook a whole chicken earlier in the week, it can be used for several different meals on many different days. When you’re coming up with recipe ideas, consider how you can stretch one meal into many. Not only can this save you money, but it will also save you a lot of time.
Create a Schedule
Once you’ve planned your meals, work to fit them into your schedule for the week. Take note of days where you might not be able to spend a lot of time cooking (such as a day when you know you’re going to have a long meeting at work or a day you have social or family commitments) and plan around these days. Save simpler recipes for days when you’ll be short on time, or plan to make leftovers to help out on busier days. For instance, if you know that you don’t be able to cook on Tuesday night, make some extra food on Monday so that you’ll still have something good to eat the next day.
The more thorough you can plan your meals, the better chance you’ll have of using up everything you’ve spent your money on and having nothing go to waste.
Make a Grocery List
Once you’ve created your schedule and know what foods you’ll need to buy, it’s time to make a grocery list. When you’re crafting your lists, make sure to keep your budget in mind. Meal planning is designed to save you money, but it only works if you are aware of your spending and you don’t spend more than you have available. Then, when you go shopping, bring your list with you and make sure you stick to it.