Jan 28, 2008

Menu planning really saves me money

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:
  1. We're not eating out. I usually cook so that there are enough leftovers for Marc and I 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.
  2. 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, Marc and I are, and sometimes Tyler. Alex 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." Marc 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!


Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

Ah, that's a bummer about the sloppy joes. I'm glad my Crock-Pot doesn't have a warm setting, because I can totally see myself doing that!

Have you looked at the Menu-Mailer from the Saving Dinner author? Weekly planned menus emailed to you each week, complete with shopping lists. I love them, saves time and money, even after paying for the subscription.

Chief Family Officer said...

@clean clutterfree simple - Yup, I get the Healthy Foods newsletter but somehow the recipes don't appeal to me that much. It might be that I got the Saving Dinner cookbook from the library years ago and just didn't enjoy the few things I made from it. But I can see how having the menu and shopping list provided for you each week is a huge time and money saver!

Kacie said...

That's great to hear about your menu planning success! Sorry to hear about the crockpot bummer :(