Meal planning is an excellent way to save money each month, whether you have something specific you need to save for, or you’re simply trying to pay off debts. I recently wrote a post explaining how I saved £6,000 in a mere six months and the big majority of that was down to slashing our food spend thanks to meal planning.
We have meal planned on and off for a few years now. Prior to this we used to just go to the supermarket, spend a fortune on random food and watch it slowly go off in our fridge over the next week or so. Sound familiar? This is why meal planning is key. Not only will it save you a wedge, it’s also much better for the environment.
So how do you get started?
1. Create a list of your favourite meals
The key to cheap meal planning is finding meals that use similar ingredients so you don’t end up buying certain vegetables that you use only once and wasting the rest. You may want to create your catalogue of meals on Pinterest or in a diary. To keep things fresh and not be boring, you want at least 30-40 meals that you enjoy using a range of different meats, fish and different carbohydrates too- a mixture of pastas, potatoes, wraps and other starchy foods like cous cous or polenta.
2. Set up a calendar
I like to set up a calendar on Word ready to input what meals we will be having on which days but you could also treat yourself to a physical calendar, perhaps from Showcase Creative. You can also add in when you may be out for a meal or have a special occasion coming up so you know what days to omit from your plan.
3. Start planning
Now this is where the fun begins! Before I start adding meals to the calendar, I log onto Morrisons’ website to see what offers are on the products I normally buy, helping me to decide what meats, fish and vegetables to order. I then switch to my calendar and start putting in my meals.
Over the course of a typical month, I’ll probably use about 10-12 different meals, mixing them up a little with different veg. Tuesday to Thursdays are my husband’s bike training days so I plan something very simple like a jacket potato and salad, a ready meal or tuna pasta for those days and I have the same three meals on each of those three days every week of the month. Sunday is designated as a spaghetti bolognese or burrito day, Friday is takeaway day, which just leaves Saturday and Monday to plan different meals. I tend to stick to a pasta dish on a Monday and something a bit more special like curry, burgers, pizza or tacos, on a Saturday.
Once you’ve filled in everyday, fill up the rest of your trolley with what you need for each meal such as tins of tomatoes, tuna, dried pasta, herbs and spices. I like to do a monthly Morrisons delivery shop for all the dry goods and a few fresh goods for the first week and then do top up shops on Tesco for the remaining three weeks.
4. Utilise your freezer
I always make sure my freezer is stocked up with frozen vegetables which are handy to throw into pastas and curries and I always bulk buy my meat, separate it and freeze it for when it’s needed.
5. Make sure you tick off as you go!
The best part of meal planning is looking back on the week and seeing that you ticked off each meal and stuck to it, saving you time, money and wastage. Looking back always gives me the motivation to keep going!