Meal planning is a huge part of staying on track when it comes to eating healthy. Hop on Instagram on Sunday evenings and it seems everyone is showing off their meal planning skills.
I got into meal planning to help me stay healthy but also to help me save time. Being on a grad student’s budget, I was cooking all my meals instead of eating out but cooking became really time consuming. In order to improve my time management, I started meal planning so everything would be done all at once. I got some ideas on Pinterest and got to work but I quickly realized that this could get expensive if you’re not careful. I did some more research and found ways to make meal planning cost effective for me. Here are some tips I use to meal plan on a budget.
Choose Cost Effective Meals
This is the first step to staying on budget. Before I make my grocery list, I decide what I want to make for the week. Cost effective recipes ensure you spend less per recipe and serving. I love to use Budget Bytes to find new recipes. Pinterest is a great resource as well. You can also make familiar recipes cost effective by using cheaper ingredients!
Plan Your Meals & Make a Detailed Shopping List
Decide what you are going to have for each meal during the week. Remember to include breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks. Make a detailed list of the ingredients you need, taking into account what you already have. Make sure the things you need most are at the top of your list and things you want are closer to the bottom. This will help you to reduce the amount of unnecessary spending.
Shop The Sales & Use Coupons
Using your shopping list, look at the ads for your local grocery stores and find where things are cheapest. This is especially important for items that tend to be on the more expensive side like meat, seafood and certain produce. Stock up as much as you can on sale items so you have them when you need them in the future. Building a stock pile of food will help you stay on budget in the long run. Don’t forget: your freezer is your friend! Use coupons for additional discounts on your items.
Prep, Cook & Store Your Meals
This is the most time consuming portion of your meal planning and prep. If this is a concern, do your best to incorporate it into your regular routine. For me, cooking and prep time is also TV time. Either watching live TV or binge watching a show online helps me to feel like I’m doing more than just cooking. Once your meals are prepared, store them conveniently. You can choose to pre-portion them so you just have to pick up a container and go. Having a million plastic containers is not your only option though! I usually only pre-portion breakfasts and lunches since I usually have to travel with those. I can deal with dinner when it’s time to eat in the evening.
I hope these tips help you guys in your meal planning. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, just find what works best for you and your budget. The most important thing is to keep things as simple as possible. You will thank yourself!
Do you meal plan? Share additional tips and tricks in the comment section! If you’re just starting out, let me know how it goes!