Food is essential, so it is no surprise that groceries can significantly impact our wallets. The general commentary is that the cost of living is rising, and the truth is buying essentials is costly. Groceries can hit your savings account, especially if you shop without a plan. Hence, meal planning is necessary.
However, it is possible to eat homemade healthy food and save money. The critical thing to note is that you need a solid plan to ensure that you stay within your budget while giving your family nourishing meals that will sustain them physically and mentally.
There are some excellent ideas on how you can opt for smart food choices for your wallet, and the following are just ten of the top ways you can become a pro.
1. Take a Tip from Restaurateurs
The first thing to do if you want to start meal planning to save money is to create a weekly menu. Having a solid idea of what you plan on cooking during the week is advantageous for many reasons. For starters, you can set aside the time to cook these meals. You can cook more than one meal at one go, so you do not have to cook every day of the week. When planning the menu, include the lunches, especially if you prefer eating something more complex than a sandwich.
Preparing a menu is excellent for your wallet because you will buy the ingredients you need and avoid last-minute shopping, where you buy whatever, you see just because you are in a rush. A menu is also great for your waistline. It allows you to know what you eat in a week and adjust the meals if you want to minimize the amount of meat you eat or increase your plant-based options.
2. Plan a Seasonal Menu
Reputable chefs prefer to use seasonal ingredients when creating their dishes. Rather than manipulating their menu to suit their preferences, they wait for the season to give them the fresh produce available. Not only is this approach better for the planet, but it is also great for your wallet. If you want to create a cheap meal prep grocery list but want to eat healthily, opt for seasonal produce because it will cost less. So before planning your menu, see what the locals are selling that is fresh and in season, and then use this produce as inspiration to create delicious and inexpensive meals.
3. Use Sale Items to Your Advantage
Another excellent budget family meal plan is to shop for food that is on sale. Sometimes, markets will reduce the price of items about to expire. Rather than dismissing such things, consider buying them and cooking them before their end date to enjoy a good meal at a lower price. From overflowing vegetable produce that is ample and seasonal to a steak with two more good days, you will always find food on sale.
4. Opt for Plant-based Dishes
Whether you budget meal planning for 2 or 7, there is one universal truth you should always keep in mind: plant-based meals are less expensive than those that include meat or animal products. For many reasons, beans, legumes, and seasonal produce are cheaper than steak or fish. So when planning your menu, consider including plant-based options that are nutritious, healthy, and better for the planet.
A bag of chickpeas costs very little, and with one pot, you can make a stew, falafel, hummus, and so much more. These days, you will find numerous plant-based recipes online that will make you forget about steak and help you fight climate change.
5. Look Around the Kitchen Before Buying
We are all hoarders; we like to buy in bulk and fill our pantry, fridge, and freezer with food items. Worse, most people shop without first checking what they have at home. To create money-saving meals, you must first check what you have. Maybe you have a jar of sauce in your pantry that you have ignored for months or a steak in your freezer that has spent too many months sitting in the bottom drawer. Although it is good to have things for emergencies, using the food you buy before it goes bad is vital.
6. Make Friends with Grains
One of the clever ways to save money is to enrich your meals with grains. Healthy grains like quinoa, farro, millet, brown rice, and bulgur are inexpensive, and they will bring a punch to any meal if your family likes feeling full, especially when cooking plant-based meals. These highly nutritious grains will curb hunger, help you lose a few pounds, and lower the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. You can buy these grains in bags for very little and cook them in advance. One pack of quinoa will go a long way, and you can always freeze the grain in portions and have them ready for another week.
7. Make Leftover Feasts
Some people frown upon leftovers, while others are pros at making a feast out of them. If you fall into the first category, try to change your perception of leftovers by becoming a pro at turning what’s left into another delicious meal. A roast chicken will go a long way during the week if you use the leftover meat to make patties or chicken pasta while using the bones to make soup or stock that you can freeze for later use. Grilled veggies can taste fantastic with some hummus or rice as your lunch, but these examples only skim the surface of options you can take when you have leftovers. Remember that throwing food away wastes money and resources that have never been more important as we face climate change issues.
8. Cook Larger Quantities
Food waste is not suitable for your savings or the planet, nor is eating more food than you need so that you have a clean plate. However, it does not mean cooking large quantities is a bad idea. The opposite of this is true. You save money, energy, and time when you cook large amounts. If you are making baked pasta, make a large dish to freeze portions and have them available whenever you do not feel like cooking. Stews, soup, grains, beans, and pies are all excellent examples of food you can freeze when cooked, and the meals will be as delicious when they defrost.
9. Adapt the Meals to Your Likes
It is good to try new things, mainly so that dinner is not dull, and you vary your nutritional intake. However, keeping your preferences in check is vital, mainly if your household includes picky eaters. Generally, food waste is at its worst when young children are present. It is usual for children to say no to food, especially when they are becoming accustomed to different tastes and textures, but this phase in their life should not damage your savings account. So, if you have picky eaters, keep a few things in mind.
Primarily, present them with tiny portions so you do not overwhelm them, and you waste less food. Moreover, always include something they enjoy on their plate and something they have yet to try for good balance. Most parents offer their children something else when they refuse to eat. That leads to more cooking time and more financial and time waste.
Furthermore, you will only show your child that if they refuse the food, there will always be something better to eat, thus encouraging their pickiness. Experts do not recommend such behaviour when dealing with picky eaters. They advise parents to present a small meal to the child with different ingredients and let them decide how much they want to eat without offering them something else.
10. Avoid Special Ingredients
Does meal prep save money? Yes, but not if you keep buying special ingredients that you will only use once. When going through recipes, look at the ingredients first. If there are items that you have never purchased or you know that you will only use once, avoid buying them. Such ingredients are usually costly, and if you are sure they will sit in the pantry until their expiry date, you will only be wasting money.
So rather than focusing on unique ingredients, opt for seasonal recipes. Not only will you save money, but you will find the ingredients easily and make your menu weather friendly. Cooking a stew in the sweltering heat will not appeal to anyone but eating it mid-winter will. During summer, you can grill vegetables on the BBQ and eat more salads and fruit-laced meals for lighter options in the season when you are less hungry.
When you start making smart food choices, you will find it easier to stick to your budget, which is vital if you want to make a difference in your savings account. Planning meals will benefit your finances and the time you can spend doing the things you love, working with focus, and spending time with your family. Begin meal planning today and see how easy it is to live on a budget when you have a strategy.