Like ourselves, many homeschool families live on one income. That can sometimes cause the budget to be pretty tight. Years ago when we evaluated our budget we found that our grocery expenses were exorbitant. We realized we needed a plan to try and reduce that cost. I would like to share with you How Meal Planning Saves Money in an effort to help you trim some fat from your budget.
I know that the thought of planning out your meals for a week, two weeks, a month, can feel overwhelming. I am not going to tell you that I look forward to sitting down and planning for 2 weeks at a time. What I will tell you is that the many benefits make it a money, stress, and time saving en-devour that is well worth the time and effort!
How We Plan Our Meals
In our home we meal plan for two weeks at a time because that is how often we receive a paycheck. It takes us about 90 minutes to plan for that amount of time.
My husband and I sit in the kitchen with 2 lists: one for planning our meals, and one shopping list.
We pull out our calendar and create a meal plan (we only formally plan dinners) based on the events of each of given day. Things like if I am out of the house during the day, if someone has an earlier activity than usual, if my husband will be home late, all factor in to deciding what each meal will be.
We also take into consideration if the budget is tighter for that paycheck due to extra expenses. That would lead us to try and use more of what is still left in the house and to plan for cheaper meals and less extras.
Once the meal plan itself is made, then we fill out our shopping list based on what we need for those meals. Then we go through the usual breakfast and lunch supplies, and finally any extras.
*Note* – Most of our toiletries and cleaning supplies are bought once a month at Wal-Mart or if there is a great sale or coupon some will be purchased during meal shopping.
How Meal Planning Saves Money
1. Less Trips To The Store
We found that before we started meal planning I would forget to take something out for dinner. My husband would call on his way home and I would be apologizing for having forgotten. He would then stop and pick up fast food or something along those lines, or run in to the grocery store and grab something to make for dinner. Either way it was costing a ton of extra money, not to mention the extra time and stress.
Having switched to creating a thorough lists of meals and food for two weeks means my husband heads out and shops for everything on the list in one trip. We shop at Aldi’s first in the hopes of getting as much there as possible because many things are significantly cheaper. Then the list is finished at our local large grocery store – Wegmans.
Meal Planning Saves Money by limiting the number of trips we make to the store. Due to the thorough list we get everything we need and don’t need to stop in for items throughout the week. Extra trips to the store usually means extra money spent because you tend to pick up extras along the way. It also typically costs extra in gas and wear and tear to make the extra trips (unless of course you stop as you are passing by).
2. Less Food Wasted
Meal Planning Saves Money by decreasing the amount of food you waste.
How you ask? Well first because when you are meal planning, you are taking an inventory of what you have in the house so nothing gets buried in the back of the freezer, refrigerator, or pantry and goes to waste because it goes bad.
Secondly, meal planning allows you to account for leftovers. We will often have one leftover day each week. We used to waste the single serve portion of this and that because we were more than a single person. Instead we now have a leftover night were there are multiple things leftover and each of us picks what we are going to eat. This saves a ton of money because one, that food isn’t wasted, and two, we didn’t have to buy anything extra for that leftover meal.
The third way less food is wasted is by planning meals that work together. For instance, I have a recipe for meatloaf that calls for two pounds of meat. We never eat it all and it isn’t the kids favorite so we often have tons left. It won’t be taken well as a leftover so we created another plan instead. After eating meatloaf for one night, we break it up and save the meat. We then will use it to make goulash by adding sauce and noodles to it on another night. For the 5 of us that two pounds of meat will span 3 meals: meatloaf, goulash, and a leftover night.
3. Less Eating Out
Meal Planning Saves Money by decreasing the amount we eat out. In fact, we almost never eat out.
Since we have looked at our calendar and planned our meals for two weeks at a time, we know we have planned accordingly. If we have a busy night, or a day where we won’t have time to cook we plan for it.
Crock-pot meals are a great option when you won’t be available to cook. This allows you to have a healthy, inexpensive meal, even when your schedule is super busy.
4. Buy In Bulk – Cook In Bulk
Meal Planning Save Money by helping you buy in bulk and cook in bulk. For instance we cook large batches of multiple types of soups for the winter.
One of the ways we can save a lot of money is buy purchasing turkeys when they are heavily discounted at Thanksgiving time. We then use turkey meat, in place of chicken when making our Chicken Noodle Soup.
Planning ahead allows us to purchase items in bulk, on good discounts and then cook and freeze in large quantities. This significantly reduces the cost of our meal planning budget.
This is part of How Homeschool Families Do Dinner from iHomeschool Network. Stop over and see how other homeschooling families are doing dinner with less.