Cutting your Food Budget: Monthly Meal Planning
So many of us are looking at saving what we can during these tough economic times. At one point in my life, money was so tight, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feed my family before the next paycheck. That’s when I got creative and started monthly meal planning and shopping. This concept allowed me to cut my grocery bill by more than half! The benefits? It reduces your food budget, cuts down on trips to the grocery store, limits impulse buying, increases creativity and eliminates wondering what you should do for dinner at the last minute.
Here’s how it works:
- Plot each main meal (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner) on a 1-month calendar, planning left-overs for other day’s meals (Monday’s roast chicken dinner left-overs become Tuesday’s chicken vegetable soup, or chicken salad, or chicken quesadillas).
- Create a grocery list for all the items you will need from the meal calendar.
- Buy most of what you are going to use for the whole month on one shopping day. (You can make quick visits to the farmers market or produce store to pick up a few produce items each week.)
- Freeze left-over ingredients so you can use for later weeks.
Extreme money-saving tips
If you are looking to cut your food bill even more, use these cost-cutting tips to help you reach your budget goals:
- Cut down protein portions (use ½ – ¾ lb of meat rather than 1 full lb. for 2 to 4 servings)
- Be willing to substitute an ingredient with what’s on special (buy the London broil on sale for $1.99/lb, instead of tri tip for $5.99/lb)
- Rely more on frozen vegetables & pantry products rather than fresh ingredients since they have longer shelf life and can cost less (you probably need to build up your pantry ingredients, so that will initially cost more)
Make it an adventure! Incorporate fun things into your meals, like pantry favorites–white wine and capers!! Buy a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t eaten before. Try quinoa or tempeh. Look for new recipes. Let your imagination go wild…and ENJOY!!!