Meal planning became a way of life for me the day I had to go on crisis budget lockdown mode.
Maybe you’ve been there before? The moment of realization that you need to really pay attention to where your money is going, and understand that every penny matters.
No more frivolous spending (retail therapy, anyone?).
This moment happens for a variety of reasons in our lives. In my case, it was a determination to switch jobs (for my mental sanity; a decision made following a 3 day debilitating migraine after months of unavoidable stress), at a salary far less than what I’d built my life around.
Determined to keep my house (ahhh, Therapy House) with all utilities fully functioning (I love me some running water and electricity), and my vehicle, and my cell phone, and whatever other necessities existed during that chapter of my life, it was time to reign in the spending elsewhere.
Gone were the days of mostly eating out, and purchasing anything and everything from the grocery store (or any store, really).
It was time to stick to a strict grocery budget!
It was also time to up my culinary game as well as become the planner that I was in every other area of my life.
Through the financial ups and downs in life, I’ve maintained this same mentality which has helped stash money into savings during good times, and allow us to continue eating (and not just eating, eating well) during times more difficult.
Now meal planning is more essential than ever because my time is stretched much thinner, I hate going to the grocery store, and making every dollar go as it can go is just a way of life.
So, I’m curious…do you meal plan?
I know some folks don’t. They purchase whatever at the store and then fly by the seats of their pants putting meals together. My brain soooo does not work in this way for any part of my life – insert intense anxiety – but I also can’t wrap my head around getting in and out of the store with the necessities, without the unnecessary, and not having to make repeat trips to throughout the week.
I’d rather clean the bathroom, frankly.
The method I’ve determined works best for me is to plan a week (roughly) at a time.
This allows flexibility for the moving target that is life.
For example, if we have more leftovers than anticipated or it’s been a bear of a day and I cave and order a pizza (which doesn’t happen often), a planned meal can roll to the following week so that nothing goes to waste.
This also allows me to purchase a weeks worth of groceries at a time and make ONE TRIP to the store.
For our family I generally plan for 4-5 prepared meals, anticipating we will have leftovers for the other 2-3 days.
This formula typically works, however, there are the instances when a meal doesn’t stretch as far as I’d thought and leftovers are simply non-existent. In this case, I also have a meal or two worth of ingredients, or entirely prepared meals, in the freezer that can pinch hit on leftover night when we are sans leftovers. This helps us from eating out or ordering in (though, let’s be honest, it’s tempting).
Here’s the deal, though: if you are meal planning for convenience (i.e. to be organized, so you only have to make one trip to the store, etc.) then you can plan meals around whatever your heart desires.
Steak and lobster for everyone!!!
On the contrary, if you are meal planning to help stick to a budget, the meals you choose to get in the line-up need to be well thought out so they are cost effective.
Tune back in next week for some tips/tricks on how to meal plan cost effectively.
I don’t claim to be THE expert on the subject, but I’ve got a system I devised, revised and have used for well over a decade…so there’s gotta be some merit there, right?
If you are a meal planner yourself, how do you go about it? A day at a time? A week at a time? A month at a time?
Please do share – and elaborate on the method to your madness! Maybe you’ll convince me to change up my game plan!