So I’ve been menu planning for the last three weeks and I’ve really been enjoying myself. I’ve also been saving some money because:
- We’re not eating out. I usually cook so that there are enough leftovers for my husband and me to take to work the next day for lunch. That means the one meal I make for dinner keeps us from buying dinner and the next day’s lunch.
- I’m not buying food we won’t eat. When I don’t know ahead of time what I’ll be making, I’ll just throw stuff into my cart at Trader Joe’s because I might or I could make something with it. But if I don’t use it – and the odds are good for that because I’m not planning ahead – it simply gets thrown out if it’s a perishable. If it’s not a perishable, it languishes in my pantry until I clean out my cupboards for the post office’s annual food drive.
I got proof of the money-saving benefits of menu planning this past weekend, when I skipped my weekly Trader Joe’s trip because of heavy rain. When the rain had let up, I headed off to the large Whole Foods in our area (there’s a smaller one that’s closer but its selection is hit and miss). I bought all of the items on my list, plus several different meats since I try to buy organic or hormone and antibiotic-free meat whenever possible and Trader Joe’s has a very limited selection. I also made a stop at Ralphs to pick up the one item I couldn’t find at Whole Foods.
Even with the extra meat I bought, my weekly total was about $100, a little less than what I usually spend each week at Trader Joe’s. This may not seem impressive, but usually when I buy that much meat at Whole Foods, my total for the week is $150 to $200. So we’ll probably have a slightly lower than normal grocery bill for the next couple of weeks, thanks to the meat that’s now stocked in the freezer.
We are also eating healthier, since I plan for a vegetable side dish when I plan out my meals ahead of time. When we get take out or fast food, we rarely eat vegetables (french fries don’t count!). But since I started making dinner every night, we are eating vegetables with each meal. Well, the adults in our family are, and sometimes the youngest. Our oldest child invariably ignores the veggies I put on his plate. I guess I can’t win ‘em all.
Epilogue: Alas, the best laid plans … well, you know how that goes. I had turkey sloppy joes in the slow cooker for dinner tonight, only to come home and discover that I had left the cooker on “warm” instead of “low.” My husband had the brilliant idea of making almond butter and banana french toast, so that’s what we had, along with some ham. While it’s not ideal, paying for lunch tomorrow isn’t bothering me nearly as much as thinking about all the food that I wasted!