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How to Save Money with Meal Planning

How to Save Money with Meal Planning

Meal planning is just what it sounds like: planning out your meals ahead of time to save time and money. For some meal planners, that means planning dinners only, but another option is to plan all meals and snacks for the week or the month. The advantages of meal planning include: 

  • Not wasting time every evening trying to figure out what you’re going to eat
  • Saving money by buying only what you need to cook each meal rather than always buying pantry “staples”  and meats for the freezer, whether you need them or not 
  • Less food waste
  • Less stress around eating 
  • More time to do what you’d like rather than being in the kitchen all evening
  • Less boredom in what you are eating, rather than rotating the same five or six meals
  • Getting more variety in your meals, which is good for your body and your cooking skills

Meal planning goes hand-in-hand with saving money on your grocery bill when done properly. There are several ways you can tackle meal planning: 

  • You can meal plan yourself.
  • You can use a meal planning service which provides sample plans and recipes for you, all you have to do is shop.
  • You can use a meal delivery service that will package up the ingredients for the meals you’ve selected, provide recipe cards and deliver the food to you.

Here are four examples of the different ways you can tackle meal planning: 

1.  The Old School Way.

This way involves doing an inventory of your pantry and the contents of your refrigerator so you know exactly what you have to work with that week. To achieve some variety of meals, you could write out your families’ favorite meals, collect recipes you’d love to try and flip through some cookbooks for recipe ideas. Select which recipes that you’d like to cook, assign it to a day and write up your grocery list based on what you would need to cook that meal.  Remember to leave a day or two for eating leftovers! 

2.  Meal Planning by Coupon.

Yes, you can use your coupons to meal plan. This method starts with the food to plan your meals, instead of starting with the recipe. For example, if roasts are on sale in your grocer’s weekly sales circular, you could plan a meal around cooking a roast. Hardcore “couponers” pair weekly sales with coupons for the same items to get really good deals on their food purchases. Doing it this way may lead to bulk buying of some products, due to the sale plus the coupon. 

3.  Meal Planning Services.

When meal planning services first started appearing, it was via websites and sending you regular emails containing a printable meal calendar and recipes. Nowadays, meal planning services provide meal plans for special diets and eating preferences, like plans for losing weight, healthy eating and gluten-free needs. These services usually include recipes, grocery lists and even grocery delivery hook-ups. Monthly subscription plan costs and features vary by service, so make sure you read all the details. Many include apps as well now, so you can take your meal plan via your phone to the grocery store with you. Popular meal planning services include:

4.  Meal Delivery Services. 

These services allow you to choose your meals from a list they provide with the ingredients and cooking instructions delivered right to your door. These services aim to reduce food waste by providing you with the exact amount of each ingredient you need for each meal. Some nice benefits are expanding your tastes and teaching you to cook something new. You can pick from a variety of types of meals like vegetarian, high protein and more. Prices and features vary pretty widely, so make sure to look at several options before deciding. Among the most popular meal delivery services are Blue Apron, Daily Harvest, and HelloFresh. 

Meal planning offers the flexibility of planning some or all of your meals. You’ll save time, money and headaches by planning out what you will eat ahead of time. You can plan as far ahead as you would like. You can even pre-cook meals for the whole month by planning, cooking and freezing meals. Any way you work meal planning, there are many benefits for you, your family and your schedule.   

Bonus:

You can also double-down on your savings by reading about money savings on food like:  falling for grocery store traps, slashing your grocery bill, saving money on food, how to be a frugal shopper and more. 

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