One of the best ways to save money on food, no matter where you live, is to meal plan! Keep reading to learn why you should meal plan, how to meal plan and ways to save money by meal planning!
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I’m not going to lie, I hate cooking. I hate thinking about what to eat, preparing it and cleaning it all up. Honestly, if I didn’t have other mouths to feed, I’d probably skip meals most of the time. However, as a busy and frugal mom of 4, meal planning has been a saving grace in keeping myself organized, making better food choices and saving money.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Busy. We live in a busy busy world – one where productivity is a sign of success. Our society has created a mindset in which we feel the need to “one-up” each other’s busyness. We humblebrag about how much is on our plate and then add more to it to maintain our busy image. We are applauded for our balancing act, and wanting more validation, we keep piling it on. How often do we get the chance to brag about doing nothing? How often can we even fully enjoy downtime without feeling guilt for the things we “should” be doing?
The thing is, this busyness is not sustainable and it is causing so much extra stress in our day-to-day lives.
By meal planning, we can reduce some of the busyness in our daily routine, and in turn also helping us make healthier food choices and save money.
Meal Planning Saves Time
Feel like your plate is already over flowing? Take some of the edge off by having a meal plan set and ready to go.
Yes it takes time at the beginning, but sitting down and mapping out a plan takes some of the mental pressure off throughout the week. By “getting it over with” all at once, you free up part of the mental load you carry each and every single day.
When you have your plan set and materials on hand, you’re not staring at your fridge on Tuesday after work trying to think of what to eat, then finally deciding and realizing part way through you’re missing an ingredient, which forces you to make a quick run to the grocery store. Instead, you know what you’re going to eat, you have everything you need and you just get it done. When you’re prepared, you spend less time and mental energy in the moment, allowing you to better enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Meal Planning Helps You Eat Healthier
Growing up I ate a lot of fast food. Like a lot. This was simply because my parents were so busy at work, and then would rush home and pick us up for whatever extra curricular activity we had that night. This meant that we ate a lot of drive thru meals in the car. When we didn’t have an activity, my parents were often too tired to think about food, so they simply ordered in.
Without a doubt this lead to some of my own issues with food and the time it takes to prepare. But it also lead to a number of bad eating habits and cravings.
A meal plan would have been very effective in helping them manage their time, money and helping us develop healthy eating habits as kids.
When we get bogged down in the busyness of life, and we’re simply too tired to make a healthy meal, often times we end up preparing convenience foods, or eating out. Not only is this likely to be unhealthy, it also becomes rather pricey.
Meal Planning Helps Save Money
Not only can you save money through meal planning as it helps you avoid convenience meals and fast food, but it also helps you shop smarter.
Each week you can base your meals around sales, coupons and in-store promos. Our meal planning organizer has pages dedicated to favourite recipes, meals and dietary needs.
Knowing family favourites allows for more focused and efficient grocery shops. Simply look for the items that you need for the meals in an app like Flipp, see where they’re on sale, match your coupons and save! When you know what you need to buy, you will be better able to avoid impulse purchases and save more!
How to Make Meal Planning Easier
It took me a while to actually start meal planning and the reason for it was that it simply seemed overwhelming and I had no idea where to start. However, once you sit down and do it, meal planning is seriously so easy and the benefits are definitely worth the time!
Choose a day to sit down and plan out your meals for the week. Stick to your family favourites, but also add some new recipes you find while scrolling Pinterest or Facebook. Meal planning lets you actually do more than just save them for later!
Take your meal planning one step further and meal prep some or all of your meals and snacks for the week. Granted, this will take more upfront time, but in doing so, it will make life so much simpler. Having food prepped before hand will also help avoid the temptation to order out, saving money and helping with healthier choices!
Make Double Portions
When you add meal prep into the equation, double up your portions. This is especially helpful when you find a great deal on a particular ingredient (so you save even more money) and will cut down on prep time, giving you more time for other things! Yes, you end up eating the same thing for more than one meal, but the extra time and money in your pocket will be worth it!
Solid resuable food containers will help with portioning food and keeping it fresh until it’s time to eat!
Have Tools on Hand
To simplify the cooking process and ensure that you’re not part way through a reciepe and missing a cheese grater, make sure that you have all the tools you need to prepare dishes on hand. Watch for sales for various gadgets to help you save more!
Just as having all tools on hand is handy, so is knowing what ingredients you already have in your home. Knowing what spices, foods, and sauces you have on hand will help prevent buying too much, and help you save more. These gorgeous inventory sheets in our Family Meal Planner will help you track what you already have, so you don’t end up buying it twice!
Each week flip through your weekly flyers (or use an app like Flipp) to see what’s on sale at your local grocery stores. Then plan your menu based around deals that week! You can also type in an ingredient you need and find out if it’s on sale anywhere. If it’s on sale somewhere you were going to shop anyway, then add it to your list. If not, don’t forget that you can price match at Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, FreshCo and Giant Tiger!
Don’t forget your coupons in your meal planning! Watch for coupons for the items that you’ll use and stock up when you can. Also be sure to upload your receipts to cash back apps and save more! Having a surplus of favourite foods is definitely helpful, especially when you get them at a great price (or even free!)
Use a Meal Planner
A formal meal planner will help you organize your dietary needs, recipes, budget, and inventory – simplifying the entire process.
Our printable Family Meal Planner includes:
Weekly Meal Planner
Weekly Grocery Lists
Breakfast Idea List
Lunch Idea List
Dinner Idea List
Ideas for Picnics
Healthy Fast Food List
Dining Out List
Holiday Meal Planner
Important Family Information
Likes and Dislikes
Old Family Recipes
Additional Recipe Page
Checkout the planner here:
And since it’s printable, you can print off as many copies of any or all pages as you’d like!
Get the Family Meal Planner here (sent as a pdf, to be downloaded and printed by user).