24 October 2014

Why Meal Planning Makes Sense

It's a simple question, but one that can strike dread into the heart of any cook.  What's for dinner? When life is hectic, having a meal plan can at least keep the dinnertime woes under control. A meal plan keeps the grocery budget on track too.

With groceries being the one part of your Spending Plan that you have complete control over, having a meal plan in place and knowing what's for dinner can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year.

Taking Stock

It makes sense and saves you time and money to plan your family's meals.  The concept is basic, and easy to do.  Start by taking stock of what you have on hand.

Go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer and throw away anything that has expired or gone stale.  Keep a box handy for dry goods and cans that you know your family won't eat or you won't ever use and donate them to a local food bank or soup kitchen  if they still good.

It Saves Time

When you start to plan your meals, you’ll no longer waste time at the supermarket every day, scrambling to find something you can make for dinner. Instead, you’ll go to the supermarket once a week and pick up all the items you need to make healthy and delicious meals for an entire week!

Meal planning will also help curb your desire to stop at a fast food restaurant because you don’t know what’s for dinner!

When you come home each night, you’ll know what you’re having for dinner and can spend time relaxing with your family.

It Saves Money

Meal planning really does save you money. For starters, you can plan your meals around your local grocery store’s weekly specials. This will be a lot cheaper than buying regular priced groceries, and as you know, regular priced groceries are still a lot less expensive than going out to eat or ordering takeaway!

It’s very easy for a family of four to spend $40 or more on a single take-out meal. If your family gets takeaway twice a week, that adds up to over $300 a month just on takeaway dinners! Imagine how much you will save when you go from buying takeaway meals to planning your meals around your supermarket's specials!

The Basics of the Planning

If you are short on time and like to mix prepared foods with fresh foods, you can try short-cut cooking. In this example, you may pair a rotisserie chicken from the deli with a homemade side dish.

If you like to prepare your weekly meals at home, you may want to start planning your leftovers in order to create new meals out of yesterday’s dinner. For instance, you can cook up several kilos of minced beef and make tacos one day, spag bol the next and shepherd’s pie the third day.

If you would like to get a month’s cooking out of the way in one weekend, you can try freezer cooking. In this method, you will cook a whole month’s worth of meals over one weekend and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook them, you simply take them out of the freezer, thaw them out, and pop them in the oven.

Creating Your Grocery List

Once you have decided on the meals you would like to make, write out the ingredients you need to make those meals. If some of your meals need the same ingredients, write out a tally, such as 3 kilos of mince, 5 chicken fillets, 2 heads broccoli etc

Next, go through the items you already have on hand and cross those off the list. As you are looking through your cupboards, take a moment to add any staples to your list that you are running out of, such as flour or sugar.

As you add things to the list, put the price against each item. Tally them up when you're finished and you'll know exactly how much your meals for the week are going to cost.  If you don't have a working price book, use one of the handy online shopping lists to find the prices. Coles, Aldi and Woolworths all have very easy to use online shopping lists. You don't have to do your shopping at any of those supermarkets,  you are just calculating the cost of your meals.

Now that you know exactly what you need from the supermarket, and how much it's going to cost, you’re ready to go shopping!

When you start planning your meals, jot down notes as to what works for your family and what doesn’t. Keep adapting your meal planning to make this a way for your family to spend quality time together around your dinner table.

To help you get started with your meal planning, I've created a brand new meal planner.  The What's for Dinner meal planner will help you plan all your meals for the week, including takeaway meals or those nights you eat out. There's even space to include breakfasts, lunches and snacks so you can plan all your meals.

Use our pantry, fridge and freezer inventories when you are taking stock. They'll save you a lot of time and you will have a ready to use stock list at your fingertips.

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  1. where is your Brand new Meal Planner?

    I love to try and save money.

    1. It's not so new now, but it was 18 months ago when this was first posted. You'll find it and lots of other useful things on the Meal Planners and Inventories page - under Free Downloads and Printables in the menu.


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