According to the US Health Department, approximately 25% of the food Americans buy goes to waste. It kills me to throw away food, whether it’s leftovers, expired foods, or a meal that didn’t quite turn out as planned. Throwing away is like throwing away money! One thing that has REALLY helped me in cutting back the amount of food that is thrown away is to meal plan. Meal planning has saved my family a ton of money! I meal plan alittle differently than most though. If meal planning hasn’t worked out for you in the past, think about trying my flexible meal planning idea. I can not commit to eat tacos on Tuesday night because I don’t know what Tuesday will bring! Maybe I’ll really be in the mood to cook and want to go all out, spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Maybe it will be a rough day with the boys and it will be a cereal night. Maybe I just won’t feel like tacos when Tuesday rolls around! What I do is write out all the meals that I have all the ingredients for on a sticky note and keep it on the fridge. When dinner time rolls around, I check my list that I have “meal planned” and can pick what I want to make for the night. May sound simple to some, but for the uncommital chef, the idea may be just what you need to save some money on your grocery bill!
Here is some excellent info from Meal Planning 101 to keep in mind!
Benefits of Meal Planning:
1. You will EAT OUT LESS
2. You will have a plan so you will be eating LESS PREPACKAGED MEALS
3. You will ALWAYS HAVE THE GROCERIES YOU NEED
4. In turn, that means you will WASTE LESS GROCERIES
5. All these reasons means you will SAVE MONEY
6. You will eat a VARIETY OF MEALS
7. Eating out less, and eating less packaged garbage means you will be eating HEALTHIER
8. Your FAMILY HAS A SAY in what you are going to eat that week -kids are more likely to eat what you have cooked for them, since they may have requested it
9. AVOID THE ANNOYING “WHAT’S FOR DINNER?” – They can just check the list on the fridge
10. Can PLAN FOR BUSY DAYS
11. LESS STRESS – no pointless staring at the fridge and cupboards “What the heck am I going to make?”
12. LESS TRIPS TO THE GROCERY STORE -which also saves you money, since there aren’t impulse buys every time you go
STEPS for Meal Planning:
1. Sit down with cookbooks or the internet and write down recipes (including your tried and true favorites that you don’t even use a recipe for).
2. Professional meal planner Sandi Richard recommends a 5-day meal plan, because if people “overplan” she says the plan falls apart. She allots the two extra days a week for eating out, or leftovers.
3. Look through the ingredients of each of the recipes you have chosen
4. What do you have in the cupboards, freezer, fridge, etc?
5. Put only ingredients you DON’T have on your shopping list.
6. Add to your grocery list other essentials that may not be part of your recipes – milk, bread, lunch stuff, etc.
7. Go shopping and buy ONLY the ingredients on your grocery list…try not to fall into impulse buying!
8. The exception to the rule is if something is on sale for a REALLY good price and you want to stock up – such as ground beef, chicken, laundry detergent. (Meat is your most pricey item so if you get it cheap now, you can meal plan with it later.)
9. Cross items off your list as you make them.
Tips and Tricks:
1. Keep a grocery list on fridge and add things you need all week.
2. Organize your Recipes-If you don’t have a system for your favorite recipes, you’ve got to get organized or sitting down to plan your meals at the beginning of the week will be a nightmare.
3. Keep them all in one place – computer, recipe index, etc
4. Make sure they are clearly labeled and easy to find
5. If you try a new recipe, make sure to figure out if it’s a keeper or not and file it away (or throw it away)
6. To Save Money – Meal Plan Around What’s On Sale That Week-This is something I have just started doing and it’s AMAZING how much money you can save by doing this extra step.
Another Way to Save Money – USE UP WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE!
Look through cupboards and find that lost can of beans – decide to make chili.
7. If you bought a huge amount of pork chops last week because they were on sale, find a recipe to use them this week.
8. If there was an ingredient you bought last week but didn’t use it all, find a recipe that uses it up this week.