One thing I should note that if you’re on a mission to save money on food and lose weight, be prepared to put in some effort up front. I’ve been doing this for almost 3 weeks now and it actually does get easier the longer you stick to it.
Planning meals and snacks to save money on food was a no-brainer. I was already doing this for my diet, but this time around I really had to do this to save money too.
Start With a Meal Planner
I made mine in iWork’s word processing program called Pages on my Mac. It was really quite simple to do. I divided my meals into 5 per day. Sometimes I used the 2nd snack option, but not always. Whether or not I use the second snack option kinda depends on what my calorie intake is like throughout the day.
You can single meal plan.
I created a family version with enough columns for a family of 4, which you can single meal plan (legal size paper).
Make sure you keep your meal plan in an easily accessible location in your kitchen. You want it in your sight and available at all times. I keep mine on a clipboard in my kitchen, sometimes on my refrigerator door. Here’s a snapshot of mine:
Plan at Least a Few Days Ahead
You don’t have to plan out the entire week if it’s too difficult for you. The point of this exercise is to make reasonable changes within your current lifestyle, not to completely change it to where it’s difficult to adopt and maintain. I try to have meals planned from Sunday through Wednesday or Thursday, then I fill out the remainder of the week later. I do this because life happens. Sometimes I may have more leftovers than I’d anticipated and I don’t have to plan more meals. Other times, food unexpectedly goes bad and I have to improvise, but planning should ensure this doesn’t happen as often because letting food go bad is a waste!
Note Your “Dine Out” Plans on Your Meal Plan as Well
It may seem excessive, but the point of this exercise is to always stay cognizant of your meals. And try to come armed with knowledge. If it’s a chain restaurant, more than likely they have a menu available online with prices. I usually like to browse the restaurant menu and nutritional value before going to the restaurant so I’m more focused on the healthier and inexpensive option.
Details Help, But Aren’t Required to Be Successful
It helps to be as detailed as possible on your meal calendar, especially about measurements and portions. If you can package your snacks and lunches ahead of time, that would be ideal. That way your lunch is bagged and ready to go the following morning. Also, noting measurements and amounts puts all the effort up front so that when the time comes for you to prepare dinner or grocery shop, you’ll know how much to portion out. But as you’ll see on my calendar, I don’t always stick to this rule.
I make my lunch and snacks the night before. I find when I don’t do this, I end up not taking lunch with me to work and I’ll just grab something likely unhealthy and expensive at one of the restaurants near my office.
Stay Tuned For the Next Post on Lowering Your Food Budget
Ultimately, I hope what you get out of this post is that it pays to be prepared. And if planning ahead means putting in a little more time and effort into thinking about what you eat and what you buy, then you should hopefully see a return on your investment. If you’re already a seasoned meal planner, do you have any tips to add to those listed here?
Next: Learn Healthy Portions