One of the areas that can really make or break a budget is the food shop. With the deals, the extras and the items handily placed at the checkout, it can soon cost a fortune even when you didn’t really need much.
So, what can you do about that?
One of the easiest ways to cut back on your food shop spending is to meal plan. Effectively plan your week ahead so that you can go and buy what you need and not waste anything in the process. It’s not as daunting as it sounds, promise! Once you get into the habit of writing a weekly meal plan and shopping list, it’ll become second nature and will save you so much money in the long run.
So, how do you actually meal plan?
Firstly, it’s always a good idea to start out by thinking about what meals you like. What meals would your family choose, If you gave them the option. I know on my list that a Sunday dinner would be on there! But, by having a list of your favourite meals gives you a great starting point.
Then, set out your week. Whether you start on a Sunday or Monday is up to you. But then, set out columns for breakfast, lunch and tea, then the days of the week down the side. I use my own meal planner, but you can do this anyway you like.
Breakfasts, in our household anyway, tend to be the same during the week with perhaps a slight variation at the weekend. For example, my two are allowed chocolate spread on toast at the weekend! It’s a little treat and something different from the weekdays. That would be added to the meal plan for Saturday and Sunday breakfast. Mainly so I don’t forget to buy it when it runs out!
Then you just repeat the same process for lunch and tea time meals, using that list of your favourites if you want to. Especially when you are new to meal planning, it can be helpful to have that list of your go to meals to make it easier.
Another way to do a meal plan, which seems to be popular with family households, is to do a themed based meal a night. So, for example, on a Monday it would be a pasta based dish, such as spaghetti bolognaise or macaroni cheese.
An example of this would be:
- Monday = pasta night
- Tuesday = soup and sandwich night
- Wednesday = something + rice night
- Thursday = jacket potato night
- Friday = fakeaway night
- Saturday = pizza night
- Sunday = roast dinner
So it gives you the basics of a meal plan and then you can make it more detailed each week when you do it. Saves some of the planning anyway! I think if I did it this way, one of my nights would be a slow cooker night. Probably on a night when I was at work so I could come home and have something ready for when I got home.
So, what are the benefits of meal planning?
One of the main things that is a huge benefit by meal planning is that you take the pressure out of knowing what you are cooking during the week. One of the misconceptions is that a meal plan has to be rigid. It doesn’t! If you think of it as buying everything to eat for 7 days, it can be totally flexible. Don’t fancy what you’ve got planned on Tuesday? Swap it for Friday! The point is, you’ve got the ingredients in for the meals you want during the week, when you have them is up to you.
Another benefit of meal planning is that you eliminate food waste. So often, people buy things in the supermarket that they don’t have any plan for and so that food just ends up languishing in a cupboard or in the fridge. It then goes off and has to be thrown out. That’s throwing out money! So, by meal planning all of your meals and writing a shopping list based off that plan, you only buy what you need so you don’t end up with waste.
When I do my own food shop, I only buy what’s on the list. Then, by the end of the week both the fridge and the cupboards are looking fairly empty. That’s because I have used up what I have bought and then it’s time to go shopping for new things. It eliminates food waste that way; nothing has time to go off and if I do end up with things left over, I tend to do something with them and put in the freezer.
The last obvious benefit to meal panning is it can save you SO much money. Honestly, meal planning is such a good way to reduce that food spend amount and actually focus your spending on where it matters. No getting tempted by offers that you don’t need or buying the random things that supermarkets sell now. By making your meal plan and then sticking to the list, you might be surprised by how much you save.
So that’s it! How to meal plan properly, so that you can save money.
Do you meal plan? If not, why not?
This is a post from Nicola AKA Frugal Cottage. Nicola is an award-winning personal finance blogger who loves talking about budgeting, investing and frugal living. Mum to two young boys, you can find her on her thriving YouTube channel, popular Instagram page, or over on her website, The Frugal Cottage.