Money Mondays – Meal Planning

Each week, I will bring you a new guest post in the series “Money Mondays”. Today’s post is by Cat from Penny Wise Life Rich. Cat is sharing her experience of meal planning and how it can help save you money.

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Whether you are wanting to clear debt or build your savings pot, if you are struggling to reduce your outgoings in any other way, looking at food is a great place to start. We throw out tonnes of food every year, which is a huge waste of both food and money. Meal planning is a really good way to ensure you’re only buying what you need as you can make your shopping list from your meal plan.

What is meal planning?

Meal planning is a way of organising your meals for the week and the list for your food shop by planning in advance. It has so many advantages: not wasting food, saving money, reducing stress and saving time. It saves so many evenings of, “What’s for dinner?”, unplanned takeaways or those trips to the supermarket wandering around aimlessly and then still finding later in the week you hadn’t bought enough food for dinners despite spending a small fortune!

How to meal plan

Start with knowing what people in your family like to eat and create a rough structure. Don’t forget to factor in breakfasts, lunches and snacks to your meal plan. If there are 4 of you, think in terms of 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 dinners each day.

I like to plan from a Sunday, if you shop on a Wednesday why not create your plan from a Wednesday. Are you able to plan in a cheaper or easier dinner once a week? Maybe soup and a pudding? Or a pasta dish? I usually plan in a pasta or rice dish once a week that uses store-cupboard ingredients because it is cheap and easy. Or even a soup and bread night, using up veggies from the fridge.

We write our meals on a blackboard in the kitchen so that whoever is home first can make a start on dinner, or take what is needed out of the freezer. Next to this is space for the shopping list as well, we will write things on it as we run out.

We’ll often do a mix of looking through recipes to get inspiration and looking in the cupboards and freezer to see what we have got in that could make up a dinner. Write your shopping list while you write your meal plan, make a note of how much you need of each item too. Then, before you head out to the supermarket, have a look in your cupboards and freezer to see what you’ve already got in and cross off any items on the list.

Cook once, eat twice

When creating my meal plan, I factor in the idea of ‘Cook Once, Eat Twice. I often have a roast on a Sunday and then have leftovers on the Monday. Also plan to have some leftovers and cook more than you need. Freeze the extra portions and eventually you’ll have ‘free’ dinners in the freezer to eat. I’ll often have a week towards the end of the month where I have to buy very little and hardly cook as I’ll eat from the freezer. Bonus!

Having a meal plan can help with lunches too. £5 a day on lunch can really add up! Why not cook extra at dinner times and take leftovers, or make up a batch of soup or pasta at the weekend to take with you for daily lunches.

Even supermarket websites help now with the idea of meal planning! Tesco has a meal planning tool on its website.

Meal planning has really changed the amount we spend on our food shopping and therefore helped us when we were getting debt-free and now when growing our savings.

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