Helpful guide to meal planning:
If you’ve ever spent a little time reading through a frugal living blog, you’ve probably heard the term meal planning. It sounds pretty self-explanatory, but it actually goes beyond writing down meal ideas and purchasing groceries accordingly. Meal planning can help you better adhere to an established budget. Not only can meal planning save you money, it can help you better ensure that you and your family are maintaining healthy eating habits. Here’s a quick guide for meal planning newbies and novices. Use these steps before your next grocery trip, and watch the savings pile up.
First and foremost you need to sit down and budget your spending for the month. Many people skip this step in the meal planning process, jump straight to the menu, but budgeting is the most important part. Determine what is the most you can spend on groceries for the month, and then figure out how much you’d ideally like to spend. Use past month’s purchases to keep your goals realistic.
Make A Menu:
Create a menu of meals for the week. Some people focus on nightly dinners, but it may help to map out everyone’s lunch for the week. Our children always come first, but don’t neglect your own eating habits. Whether you need to bring your lunch to work, or you have the opportunity to eat at home, try planning your lunches for the week as well. I also suggest using the USDA’s website for information on healthy ingredients. It’s an excellent resource for all things nutrition, and you can even find meals under 500 calories!
Don’t Fear the Frozen: While you plan out your week, don’t hesitate to consider frozen options. These often come in handy on those busy nights, where making dinner from scratch isn’t a viable option. If you’re concerned about nutrition, never fear! There are numerous dinners under 500 calories that filling and convenient for weeknight meals. Frozen vegetables and prepared dinners are also great to have on hand for unexpected gatherings.
Start gathering coupons for your trip. Chances are you’ll be able to find savings for a lot of the things on your list. I also suggest going digital with your coupons. A lot of grocery stores and product brands have online savings that can be printed or sent to your phone. Websites like Saving Star also offer a wide variety of paperless coupons.
On your search for savings you may come to find that different stores have different steals, and that’s okay! You don’t have to purchase everything on your list at one location. Personally, I usually purchase bulk dried foods at a different market from where I get produce and raw meats. Shopping amongst different stores takes a little more time and effort, but it expands your selection of products and prices.
Don’t Forget the Veggies:
People often find fresh produce to be fairly expensive, but there are a few ways around that. For one, try to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, they’re usually much cheaper. Consider the shelf life of what you’re buying, and see if it’s something you can buy in bulk and freeze. Another option is purchasing canned or frozen vegetables. Sometimes people hesitate to buy canned fruits and vegetables, but I suggest double checking the nutrition label. Many products are available without added salt or sugar.
*This is a guest post. I was not compensated in any way for this post.