#TransformationTuesday: Meal Planning on a Budget



Have you ever said this before?  I know I have but I’m learning that with some time management, organization and planning it doesn’t have to be that way.   I’m a list maker, planner loving; post it note making kind of girl. I literally plan and schedule my entire life. So why was I so reckless about planning meals?  Quite simply, I’m tired!!! LOL…After working and juggling so much, who has to the time to plan a meal?  By the time I get home, I’m spending time with the kids, writing, managing blogs, bills and household chores. Meal planning just wasn’t a priority....UNTIL I realized how much money I was spending on food!!! I have three kids (ages 15, 13 and 11), so food disappears frequently in the bodies of these growing kids.  I spend my weekends running around so as a result, we tend to eat out a lot. It all adds up.  I’m really trying to cut my expenses so I can spend my money on experiences such as travel, so I had to make the time to research and figure this meal planning thing out.

What do you want to eat?

I started with this question? What do I want to eat? I wanted to eat right but I also wanted to be satisfied. I started researching meals online. I checked out fellow blogger, CleanCheating.com for recipes that were healthy, delicious and satisfying. She has some awesome recipes that I was excited to try! I decided on 3 breakfasts, lunches and dinners to try for the next two weeks.

What are the quickest and easiest ways to do it?

I know I’m not going to want to cook every day, so I started looking for meals, I could prepare in advance and pack up.  My weeks are busy and having the meals already made and in containers ready to go make it easier for me to stick with this program.  Find meals that work with your schedule.  It’s hot right now in Chicago, so I stuck with fruits and yogurt in the morning and some really hearty salads for my lunches.  I also used my BBQ grill to grill my veggies and meats for dinner. 

Compare and Coupon

I remember as a child, my mom would wake us up early Saturday morning for a day of shopping! We would go to several grocery stores and my mom would have her sale papers out, her coupons ready and her shopping list in hand.  She knew how to save money as she had a family of five to feed.  She taught me how to save by her example. I started to do the same, grabbing sale papers and making a list. The reality is it takes more time but it saves more money. Clip those coupons and search those grocery sale papers!

Split your weekends up!

I get up early Saturday mornings and try to beat the crowds.  I go to my stores with a plan and get what I need and I’m home in time to get the rest of my day started.  I don’t actually cook my meals until Sunday. That way I don’t feel like my entire day was spent cooking and grocery shopping. Saturday is grocery shopping day and Sunday is meal prep day.  Splitting it up also keeps me from feeling overwhelmed about what I have to do.

Invest in meal prep containers

Having containers on hand to put your newly completed meals in makes the rest of your week run smoothly. You aren’t worried about preparing anything before work, it’s already done. When you get home from a full day, you can actually enjoy your evening instead of spending most of your time in the kitchen because dinner is ready, just heat up and enjoy! It’s a time saver!

After two weeks of spending absolutely no additional money on food during the week, I saved $120 on lunches (I spend $12/day on lunch downtown Chicago), another $50 on breakfasts & Starbucks and another $150 on nights and weekends! That’s an extra $320 in cash each pay period!!! Not to mention, I’m actually eating healthier and enjoying having more energy.  That’s a win-win in my book.  Like anything, I had to be disciplined and really make time to plan my meals for two weeks.  I would like to get to a point where I’m meal planning for the month but for now…baby steps! LOL

I created a meal planner just for you to help get you started.  Get your family and kids involved. Let them join you when you go grocery shopping.  You can make those trips to the store “teachable moments” on how to eat better, save money and live within your means!   Give meal planning a try for two weeks and compare your costs and how much you save. You make me as shocked as I was to learn that eating right isn’t as expensive as you think as long as you plan it right!

Do you meal plan? If so what are some ways that you make the time to do it and how do you save money in the process?  Let’s share some ideas!

Until next time,

Take care of yourselves and one another!

D. Sanders