Making dinner has always been important to me. Making sure I have a freshly prepared and healthy meal for my family on the table every night is even more important to me. I have friends who are shocked that I cook every night. They think it must be really time consuming. Additionally, having a different meal each night seems like it could get sort of pricey. These are all notions that I would like to disprove. Sure, making an actual dinner might take a little bit more time than putting on a box of macaroni and cheese, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot more time and the end result is so much better. Today, I would like to share how I save time and money with meal planning.
1. Create a weekly menu: I have a chalkboard in the kitchen that I update weekly with a meal for each day of the week. This really helps me plan ahead and keeps me accountable throughout the week. For example, if I know that tomorrow night I am making spaghetti, I’ll take some ground beef out of the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for the night. Just having the meals written out on a board is a great reminder to thaw items, throw them in a crock pot, etc.
- Shop your pantry, fridge and freezer first: I plan meals around items I already have. I do a thorough check of my pantry, fridge and freezer and try to build my weekly menu around items I already have.
- Circulars, Circulars, Circulars: I am not faithful to a single grocery store. I frequent like 4-5 different stores, depending on their weekly ad. I look at the items that are on sale and I keep these in mind as I plan my weekly menu.
- Stock pile on good deals: A friend recently saw my freezer that is full of frozen meat and was a bit shocked by the supply. I explained that I stock pile when I see a good deal. Recently, I was at the Smith’s in Lemmon Valley and all of their organic chicken was on manager’s special. I pretty much cleaned them out. Meat freezes really well, so it can be a good item to stock pile. That same Smith’s also had organic cage free eggs on manager’s special, for $1.25 a dozen and they didn’t expire for another month. I bought the four remaining cartons. When something goes on a crazy sale and I can either eat it before it expires, freeze it, or it has a long shelf… I buy massive amounts of it.
- Buy in bulk: Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are your friend, but you have to know how to shop them. Not everything in bulk is a good deal. You have to know a good deal when you see it. I really try to be aware of common price points on items, so I know when buying in bulk will save me money. For example, I like to buy organic grass-fed beef. I know that most stores sell this anywhere from $6.99 -$8.99 per pound, but Costco’s is usually around $4.25 per pound, so that is a no-brainer for me. I also I try to buy things we use a lot of in bulk, like pasta, tomato sauce and paste, oatmeal, ground beef, milk, blueberries (we could eat a pound a day in my house, seriously), etc.
- Make a grocery list: After I have shopped my pantry, fridge and freezer, scoured over circulars and created a menu for the week, I make a grocery list with all of the items I am missing for the planned meals. It is amazing how having an action plan at the store can save you time and money.
- Make a little extra when you cook for lunch leftovers: I almost always make enough food to have an extra portion to send with my husband for lunch the next day. This helps save me time, because I don’t have to prepare him another meal for lunch. It definitely saves us money, because he doesn’t have to spend money on lunch, which can run anywhere from $10 to $15.
- Go Meatless once a week: My family and I partake in Meatless Mondays for dinner each week. I implemented Meatless Monday’s for a variety of reasons, but among them is cost savings. There are so many delicious meals you can make that are meat free and for the most part, these meals are extremely cost efficient.
This is how meal planning helps save me time and money. Do you have any tips to share on how you save time and money on meals?