Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Our Finances Suck Part 5 - Meal Plan and Save Money!

This week I am thrilled to have Victoria from Boiled Eggs and Soldiers sharing some great advice on meal planning and in turn saving money.......I've got to admit that I don't meal plan as much as I should..... 

I’m delighted to be over here today as part of Veronica’s money saving series and want to have a chat about meal planning. Don’t glaze over just yet!! Everyone knows that it’s a good idea and has good intentions to do it but do we often think about the real benefits of it apart from making us feel very virtuous and organised?

I started meal planning when my eldest was about 2 and she started eating what we were having (well, at least a variation of it anyway).  I also had a newborn at home so time or lack thereof was an issue.  That was 6 years ago and I’ve been meal planning ever since.  Here’s my take on the benefits of meal planning besides always having an answer to the question “What’s for dinner tonight?”

1.  Saves Time and Reduces Stress

We often think that planning a week of meals is time consuming so put it off, but spending 20 -30 minutes once a week will actually save you far more time in the long run.  (Once you have a bank of meals plans you can recycle them so you don’t even need to spend the time making a plan if you don’t want to).

By having a meal plan no longer will you stare into the fridge hoping for some magical meal to appear and it also stops the need run to the shops for a last minute ingredients too.   By planning your meals in advance you can make your shopping list and only get the things that you need that week.  This makes your time at the shops much more efficient I think, you aren’t wandering aimlessly around the aisles hoping that dinner will pop into your trolley and there is less chance that you will reach out for those impulse buys as well.  It also means that usually you only have to shop once a week if you are lucky (except for perishables like fish).  All that can save you a great deal of time.

Meal planning also cuts down on time for the cooking process.  If you need to defrost something you know to take it out in the morning so that it’s ready for that night.  If you know that you are busy before dinner time you can make part or all of the meal in advance so that all you have to do it cook it or heat it up when you get home.  This time of year is great for using a slow cooker that you can put on in the morning and dinner is ready for when you get home.

 2.   Saves Money

If you have planned your meals you can see across the week where you can use the same ingredients, where you can make extra to have leftovers made into another meal.

For example we had friends over for an early dinner on Sunday night and I did pulled pork tacos with coleslaw as an easy meal that everyone ranging from age 4 to 50 enjoyed.  I bought an extra  large piece of pork for the purpose of having leftovers.  I made a pulled pork shepherds pie the next night for a quick & easy Monday night dinner.  If you don’t want pork 2 nights in a row it can be frozen and used at a later date but for the extra $2 the bigger piece of pork cost me I got a whole other meal out of it.  The leftovers could also be used for lunches the next day as a pulled pork wrap in the lunch box would go down a treat!

Planning your meals in advance also saves you money through enabling you to buy in bulk especially for things like pasta, tinned tomatoes, grains etc.  You can also take advantage of the often cheaper produce that is in season or on special and plan future meals around it.

Because you know what you are having for dinner each night you will be less tempted to use the convenient but more expensive “take away” fall back. If you are only buying what you need for the meals that you have planned then you won’t end up buying things that you are not sure if or how you are going to use so you will reduce food wastage therefore reducing wasting money too!

 3.  Helps you make healthier choices

Elite athletes plan their meals meticulously so why not you too?  Ok, so maybe you are not a Stephanie Rice or Sally Pearson but busy, active, growing families can also benefit from healthy meal choices.  Mapping out your meals over the course of a week can help you make sure you are getting variety and nutritionally balanced meals.  Work out how many times a week you want fish, chicken, red meat, grains etc and making sure you are getting lots of fruit and vegetables so you know you are “eating your greens”. Factoring that into your meal planning means that you can easily see what your intake is and make any adjustments that may be necessary for example if you are having toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and then pasta for dinner you may want to switch out one or two of those meals for something with more protein and vegetables instead.

I do a weekly meal plan on Boiled Eggs and Soldiers

 4.  Can involve the whole family

If you have a plan and a shopping list then the actual shopping is not dependant on one person so the load can be shared (if practical & possible).  It also means that for those asking “what’s for dinner tonight”? you can point them to the plan and say there you go.

Getting the family involved in meal planning means that they can choose meals that they like and may (no promises here) even be more likely to try new things if they have been part of the planning or preparation of it.

5.  Bulk Buying and Batch Cooking

When you are doing your shopping list you can buy in bulk and then make large batches of meals that can be frozen.  Bolognaise sauce, stews, curries, meatballs etc are great for this or muffins and cakes – make two and freeze one.  This way you always have something that you can pull out of the freezer for those busy days and if things are a bit tough in the budget some weeks to have something that has already been prepared can help you out there too.

I tend to stick to the meal plan Monday to Friday but we are a bit more flexible on weekends to allow for spontaneity and changes of mind! 

There are many apps that can help you meal plan or some gorgeous stationary out there. Kidspot have a great post listing out a lot of apps that you can link recipes to shopping lists etc.

Also a lot of websites including mine offer meal plan suggestions and there are also some great websites that many foodies link up their favourite recipes too. Shameless self-promotion here but I co-host “Your Weekly Feed” which is where I get a lot of my meal ideas from.

To help get you started here is a printable shopping list for you....just click on the image below and print!

So while meal planning may seem like a bit of a task it does have some real benefits as well as helping take the pain out of the mundane!

Thanks so much for having me here today.  Happy planning!

A huge thank you to Vicki for joining us in the 'Our Finances Suck' series and sharing some great meal planning advice.  Be sure to check out Vicki's blog over at Boiled Eggs and Soldiers it is truly one you need to have on your reading list!

Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT

Are you a meal planner....do you think it saves you both time and money?


  1. I try to meal plan, I think it does save us money as I'm not running to the shops to pick something up and end up with more things from the shop then I went in for.

  2. I do meal plan but I know I could improve how I do it. I like the idea of having a monthly plan that would help me roll through the weeks. I might have to just do it one of these days.

  3. Meal planning is definitely the go isn't it! I am trying but find myself never organised enough. I'm getting better with it though.

  4. I am the WORST meal planner. Everything you say is so true. So right. SO clever. So so helpful and yet I struggle to commit to the food. Alright, step 1 - get the printable. Thanks ladies xo