Here, we look at how to meal plan to help you stick to your budget and get the best out of your grocery shop.
Food is a large part of our lives - we celebrate with food, entertain with food, reward ourselves with food. But it’s astounding how much we spend on it. It makes up a large portion of our expenses, so it's one of the main categories I pay a lot of attention to when working with clients in coaching.
Everyone’s grocery / food expenses are different and determined by how many people are in the house, dietary requirements, time allocated to prep food, age of your household members and many more factors.
In one-on-one coaching, there's much more to it than just crunching numbers and applying them to a budget. I work to understand you and your lifestyle, your household and how we can make it as efficient, affordable and enjoyable as possible.
I don’t mean you have to resort to noodles and baked beans – your health is so important and you should not sacrifice healthy foods to reduce your bill significantly. Make health a priority. Make meal planning a priority.
Why meal plan? It’s a really healthy habit to get into. Planning your meals means you only purchase the ingredients you need, reducing the amount of unused ingredients sitting in your cupboards.
In my opinion, the advantages of meal planning are endless, including:
- Easy to budget
- Creates variety in meals
- Less like to resort to purchasing more between grocery shops
- More likely to choose healthier options
- Less likely to resort to takeaways
- Creates a more organised lifestyle
Here are my top four tips for how to meal plan.
Tip 1: Plan meals around ingredients you already have
When starting, I recommend planning meals around the ingredients you already have in your cupboards, trying to include as many as possible. This makes you more efficient and should save you money.
Tip 2: Only allow 1 emergency ingredient per meal
Within your meal plan, only include one ingredient as an emergency. If you're concerned that you'll need extra to avoid going back to the grocery store, then start meal planning.
Trust me, you will get so good at it, you will not need emergency food. You can allow yourself the odd can of spaghetti or noodles or boxed fish, but don’t get a freezer full of emergency meat or 50 cans of food – start using now.
Tip 3: Buy just enough for what you need
If you get a beast or half a beast done as your meat for the year – that’s great, just make sure you are getting through it and planning your meals around it.
If you're at the other end of the scale as a vegetarian or vegan, try to meal plan so you're not purchasing too many vegetables that will go off.
Whatever you’re doing, just purchase enough to get you through to the next grocery shop.
Tip 4: Buy online
I recommend purchasing your groceries online, which most supermarkets now offer. Ordering online ensures you are keeping within your budget (the money you’ve allocated for groceries). If you go over, you have the option to adjust your purchase to meet your budget or you may have money left over – so you can buy “top up” food such as bread and milk throughout the week.
The alternative to shopping online is to grocery shop in store with a calculator. Some people like to purchase their meat and vegetables separately from other stores – and that’s fine. But if you can’t / don’t, it's not a must.
Personally, I do not purchase from butchers and vegetable shops because it does not suit my lifestyle – I don’t feel it makes me more efficient. But this could change, I may find I want to and I may allocate more time during the week to do this.
Now you're ready!
The Creating Wealth Workbooks help develop Meal Planning into a weekly habit by providing planners for you.
In summing up, meal planning is something I think every household should do. It’s easy to budget and you’re less likely to need extra purchases between grocery shops. Plus, it generally created a healthier and organised lifestyle, leaving you more time to do the things you enjoy.
Now that you’ve got the tools to meal plan, start today – you won’t regret it!