Meal planning can help prevent food waste. Throwing away vegetables, overripe fruits or expired milk costs money as well as harms the environment.
Meal planning allows you to efficiently shop your pantry and fridge before heading out, minimizing food waste while saving time by cutting back on trips to stores or drive-thrus.
1. Save time
Meal planning is an effective way to manage food expenses and stay healthy throughout the week while saving money and eating well. Meal-planning provides an efficient solution.
Save money when planning meals around what’s on sale at your supermarket and what staples you already have at home. By knowing this information, you can learn the number of meals a loaf of bread (about two), head of lettuce, bag of potatoes or other staples will provide. From there you can shop based on what’s available as well as take advantage of coupon and sale offers to maximize savings further.
Meal planning makes it easier to keep an inventory of what ingredients you already have at home and avoid purchasing items you will end up throwing away – up to 20% of food in the UK is wasted annually, so by only purchasing what is necessary and eliminating unnecessary purchases altogether you will save not only cash but reduce stress levels and environmental impacts too.
If you’re overwhelmed by how to start, start with an initial week-long meal plan, adjusting as necessary. For instance, plan quick-and-easy meals on busy days while leaving other nights open for family-oriented dinners. Furthermore, be mindful of seasonal produce availability to optimize your menu plan accordingly.
2. Save money
Meal planning can help prevent overspending on groceries and prevent food waste by eliminating extra trips for one missing ingredient or eating fast food meals that don’t provide nutritional value and may cost more than alternatives or multiple stores selling identical items (which will result in higher costs).
Make a meal plan for the week to increase your odds of shopping smarter, too. Avoid foods high in sugar, fat and sodium that could add up to more expensive medical and dental bills over time; opt for more budget-friendly choices like lean proteins, fruits & veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy and non-fried options instead.
If you’re having difficulty maintaining a balanced budget, try shopping with a list and using coupons to save. Check supermarket catalogues for bulk buys that offer more for less, as well as stocking up when staple items go on sale. Also consider cooking enough of a dish so that there will be leftovers to enjoy at lunch or dinner later in the week.
And with a healthy meal plan in place, it’s okay to indulge in an occasional indulgence such as ordering in pizza on Friday nights or treating yourself and family to an occasional restaurant meal – as long as it fits within your monthly meal plan and budget. Plus, be sure to keep a stash of healthy snacks such as celery with peanut butter, apples with low-fat cheese or yogurt with fruit handy as a healthy option in case your plans change unexpectedly!
3. Eat healthier
Meal planning can help you stay on the path toward weight loss, healthier choices and overall well-being for you and your family. By including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy/fortified soy products in each weekly menu plan, meal planning ensures all five food groups are covered while also creating variety in weekly menus so that neither you nor your family get bored of eating the same meals every week.
Meal plans allow you to plan ahead and shop for groceries at sale cycles based on sale cycles, stockpiling on items at their lowest cost. Stick to your list when shopping and avoid the temptation to purchase more than you need; if you have a freezer, consider planning ahead by freezing a batch of your favorite nutritious meal for later consumption.
Alix Turoff, RD hosts the popular nutrition podcast Ali on The Go and recommends that people plan their meals to meet specific goals like weight loss or improved cholesterol levels. Others may simply aim for good nutrition while sticking within budget constraints.
As part of your meal planning strategy, try setting aside certain days each week for certain types of dishes – Meatless Mondays, Whole Grain Wednesdays or Stir Fry Fridays could work. That way you’ll know exactly what needs to be prepared on any given day without spending extra time searching for ideas. Additionally, breaking your monthly grocery budget down into weekly budgets allows you to stay within your spending limits each month.
4. Eat more veggies
Meal planning can help ensure that more fruits and veggies make it into every meal, which not only is good for your heart health but can save money too as fresh produce is often more costly out-of-season. By shopping your fridge and pantry before creating a plan, meal planning helps you stick within your grocery budget each week.
Add bargain shopping to your grocery budget strategy for increased savings, notes RD Shena Jaramillo of Ellensburg, Washington who runs Peace and Nutrition blog. Take note if a store offers specials on papayas or rutabagas; use them in one of your meals this week.
Finally, don’t allow anything to go to waste. Throwing food out is expensive and wasteful of both your time and energy; by creating a meal plan in advance it forces you to use up all those ingredients before they spoil or become mushy.
Meal planning can be an excellent way to save money, and can benefit everyone–families with children, couples without children, single people and more. Meal planning helps save money by cutting out eating out, purchasing less at the store and creating meals from pantry items – it may even free up enough cash for vacationing or improving back patio living spaces! So give meal planning a try now to see just how much money can be saved!
5. Eat less junk food
Meal planning may sound cliche, but it is an effective way to reduce junk food expenditure. By setting aside time each week to plan out your meals and reduce impulse buys at convenience stores or restaurants, meal planning can save significant amounts each year in terms of cash savings.
Meal planning also helps you shop more strategically at the grocery store. By keeping an eye out for sales at your local supermarket and taking note of when items you frequently eat are at their lowest prices, such as rice, pasta and frozen veggies which won’t spoil easily, you can purchase these staples to stockpile in your freezer and make meals later this month using ingredients already on hand.
As part of your meal planning efforts, be sure to include leftovers into your plans to reduce food waste. It can be easy to discard un-eaten fruit and vegetables or meat that has gone bad; by including recipes calling for meat or dairy in these unused portions can become another meal or snack – e.g. leftover chicken from salsa chicken rice bowl can become chicken cheese quesadillas for lunch the next day!
Meal planning may take more time up front, but the effort pays off later on. By saving money on groceries, reducing wasteful food waste and eating healthier meals you’ll save both time and money while reaping $1600 back annually in savings from meal-planning budgets – what will you use that extra cash for?