Contributed Post—Meal planning is a great way to stay organized, and it saves you time and money throughout the week. We create schedules, notes, and to-do lists for just about everything else in life—so, why leave food to pure chance?
In fact, meal planning is one of the easiest ways to ensure you stay on budget while eating nourishing foods and avoiding excess waste. If you’re looking for ways to stay on top of meal planning while remaining on a budget, here are some tips to consider.
Making Your Menu
Tip #1: It seems obvious, but the first, most important step for meal planning is deciding on your menu. Choose meals you enjoy and those that store well. However, be realistic—if you anticipate a few busy days coming up, don’t plan for meals that will take hours of prep work.
Tip #2: Plus, you don’t need to plan a menu for every meal, but try to account for five or six days of the week to start. Leaving a day or two for fun/flexible food can keep meal planning attainable, and you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
Tip #3: When crafting your menu, be sure to look at what you already have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Use up those ingredients first, before thinking about what you can buy.
Tip #4: However, don’t forget to check the expiration dates of the items you have stored away. Plan to use up older ingredients before digging into those that won’t expire for a while. This way, you make the most of what you’ve already spent money on, and avoid letting food go bad before you get to use it.
Tip #5: When meal planning on a budget, it is essential to shop the sales. You can often find sales in advance by looking at coupon websites and grocery store mail flyers. This way, you’ll know just how to factor the ingredients into your weekly menu.
Tip #6: However, just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you should grab it. Don’t let the sale tags tempt you! Avoid food waste and stick to your budget by only buying items that you will use or freeze.
Tip #7: Take advantage of in-season fruits and vegetables. When produce is in season, it is easier to get it at a lower cost. You can even browse local farm stands and markets, or plant your own garden to further cut down food costs!
Make Use of Leftovers
Tip #8: Plan to have (and use!) leftovers. By prepping a little extra food and factoring those leftovers into your weekly meal plan, you save time when you’re really pinched. Just be sure to double-check food safety guidelines for your leftovers and consume them within the recommended time frames.
For example, many leftover meats are great on sandwiches. Chicken, rice, and veggies are easy to prep, store separately, and build as a “burrito bowl” each day! I love to make a delicious instant pot pork stew for dinner on Sunday, double the batch, and enjoy the leftovers for lunch on Monday and Tuesday!
Tip #9: Also, make sure that you use the right containers to store food so that they don’t spoil. These are my favorite because they’re glass (so they don’t absorb odors) but the silicone bumpers make them super durable.
You can also do a quick Google search to find out how best to store fresh produce straight from the store—doing so will make fruits and veggies last much longer. And, don’t forget to label your leftovers so that you remember when you put them in the fridge.
Let’s Start Planning Meal Planning
With these nine meal planning tips, you’ll be prepared to start saving money and time, while enjoying wholesome, delicious foods. Get started now with some great meal planning recipes, or do some Google research to find more new favorites!
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