A look at meal planning: how it can save you money, improve your health and streamline your eating

What if there was one thing you could do that would save you a lot of money, improve your health and save you time as well? And what if it didn’t require a huge investment of time, money or effort? Would you do it?

In case you didn’t read the headline, what I’m talking about today is meal planning! And it really can save you time and money–and improve your health too!

How Meal Planning Saves Me Time

Currently I take about an hour a week to plan our meals and write our shopping list. Maybe a bit less. Sure, this seems like a lot of up-front time, but that saves me time during my week in many ways.

– I plan thoroughly and shop once a week, so I don’t have to dash out to the store for last minute items

– I plan many meals that can be worked on earlier in the day which allows me to play outside with the kids in the later afternoon, and then spend a minimum amount of time getting things on the table for dinner.

– And to be honest, I enjoy my meal planning time. By setting aside that hour or so, I let Daddy spend some time with the kids, and go up to the quiet bedroom, maybe with a cup of tea, and really focus my thinking on what we’re going to eat for the week. This is much more pleasurable than scrambling each day to figure out what to put on the table.

How Meal Planning Saves Me Money

– By thoroughly planning my grocery needs and writing out a comprehensive list, I only need to shop once per week. This definitely saves me money because I simply don’t have the chance to buy those extra items–I’m not in the store!

– I don’t know about you, but when I have just a few items on my list, I often get the feeling, “Wasn’t there something else I needed . . . .” With a long list, doing the weekly shop is satisfying enough that I don’t feel the need to fill it out with extra items.

– I can plan my meals sensibly, making sure to provide leftovers for my partner’s lunches at work. This saves our family thousands–yes, THOUSANDS–of dollars per year.

– By making sure to include special yummy meals once in awhile, it limits the desire to treat ourselves. We can have that special meal at home!

– We avoid expensive last-minute take-out meals.

– And by planning in at least one particularly low-cost meal per week, I am saving our budget on a regular basis. I can even plan for lower-cost eating over a longer period if we need to save money for something in particular. Meal planning puts me in charge of how much we spend in our grocery budget.

How Meal Planning Improves My Health

– This is by far the biggest factor: By planning all our meals, we do not resort to fast food take-out. Everyone knows how unhealthy and expensive fast food is, yet there were more nights than I’d like to admit when our kids were little babies that we ran out for pizza, a grocery store bbq chicken, or even burgers and fries. Now we plan for healthy, low-cost, and many times low-labour meals and don’t need to rely on take-out. Well, almost never.

– Being in charge of the meal planning for the week gives me an overview of what we are eating. This allows me to alternate meaty meals with vegetarian ones, and rotate our grains so we’re not eating too much of one thing.

– This is a big one for me: meal planning reduces stress, which has a big impact on health. I never have the 5:30 panic attack of “Oh my goodness, what am I making for dinner???” I don’t miss the daily stress of figuring out what to make for dinner. And as a further benefit, as I mentioned above, I enjoy my meal planning!

So, this is my motivation. Time, money, and good health: three things we can never have too much of. And if there are other benefits I haven’t listed here, please add them in the comments below!

Frugally yours,

Colleen

This Week’s Meal Plan

So you may have noticed I haven’t been around the blog much lately. I haven’t been very frugal lately, or very organized, leading to more non-frugality. So I’ve decided to start posting my weekly meal plans as a way to 1) get more organized, 2) eat better (less meat, more vegetables, less waste), and 3) save more money on food.┬áJust like my reason for starting this blog in the first place, I believe that by putting something under scrutiny, I will improve my habits pertaining to that thing.

Before Nicky’s birth, things were going really well, frugality-wise, but things have been a bit chaotic since then. It’s interesting: I’ve had a lot less time to blog, and I’ve also had a lot less time to organize and plan shopping, eating and finances. So maybe by making my blogging time a direct organizational activity, I will both get organized and add some content to my blog. Hopefully the content will be interesting to my readers!

So here goes: Meal plan for the week, Monday March 29th to Sunday April 4th

Monday: chicken soup (made with the remains of a store-bought barbecue chicken, plus frozen veggie parings from freezer)

Tuesday: Linguine with Red Clam Sauce plus a salad

Wednesday: cold sandwiches with tuna salad, maybe some, plus some hummus and veggies,

Thursday: Perogies or fish bites and a salad

Friday: we’ll be on the road heading to Sudbury so we’ll probably pack peanut butter, crackers, granola bars, cheese sticks, little yogurts, and the like.

Saturday: my mom is making Easter Dinner–yay!

Sunday: Easter Dinner number two at Aunt Vickie and Uncle Scott’s–extra yum!

There you have it. I’ll post again next week with our next meal plan, and I’ll also list what we actually ate, so I can tweak our plans if need be. Thanks for reading!