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Meal planning is one of the many great staples in the mission to lower spending on food. It works! But there are good and bad ways to do it.
If I let my five-year-old complete it, it would be a string of pesto pasta followed by pizza and then the occasional chicken nuggets and chips. This would be pretty cheap in fairness to her but you can’t always have what you want and this is my point.
If you create a meal plan driven purely by your wants and fancies then you will probably end up with a delicious but expensive meal plan. It is time to follow my five steps to a frugal meal plan.
Grab a paper and pen
You are going to need to write a few lists and somewhere to create your actual plan. Any old bit of paper will do but if want a bit more structure then you can check out my printables.
You will need space for two lists and grid with each meal for the next week or however many days you are doing it for. You can do it over a month if you are really keen.
Some people like to leave space for ingredients lists but this isn’t essential as you can write anything you need on your shopping list.
Make a list
The first list you need to write is of what you already have in your house. It is so easy to head to the shops and buy duplicates of stuff that you already have at home. You should aim to almost entirely run out of food before your next shop, but without loss of meal quality.
The level of detail you go into is up to you. Some people prefer to compile a full inventory of everything that they have in their fridge, freezer and cupboards, while others just write down a list of meals that they could make.
Go through each meal
Spend some time working out what each mealtime is going to look like. Who is going to be there? What will be happening before and afterwards?
The aim of this is to determine how many people you have to feed and how much time and effort you are going to have to prepare the meal.
For example on Friday evenings, you may be tired after a long week of work so prepare an easy meal for that day. Or if you work late on a Wednesday, plan a meal that takes less time to cook.
You don’t want to be going off-plan because you didn’t think ahead and make accommodations for these events.
Look at what is cheap
Next step is to head online and look at the prices of food. Find out which foods you can get for a good price.
You will probably find that meat is expensive as is cheese, so plan in a few meals without these ingredients. Likewise, some meats are more expensive than others, so use those less and the cheap ones more.
Create your meal plan
Once you have some rough prices in mind for different meals then you can go ahead and start creating your frugal meal plan.
Use all the information you have to create the cheapest and best meals for you and your family. Try to consume the food you have at home first, before buying new items in.
Use your second list to create a shopping list of all the items that you will need to buy. Remember that the aim of this game is to keep that list short.
Time to get started
What else do you need to create your frugal meal plan? What have you learnt from past experiences? Leave your questions below and I will get back to you.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.