Thursday, June 2, 2011

Frugality: Meal Planning

If you really want to save money, you need to plan meals. In fact, every week I do my meal plan monday where you can see my plan for the week.
You've probably also noticed I don't buy a lot of meat at Publix, but many of my meals have meat in them. The reason for that is simple, if it's a great price I buy it and a lot of it, so I have a freezer full of meat. I also tend to find the best prices for meat (and other things...) at warehouse clubs.

We also routinely have a meatless night, some weeks it doesn't happen, but most it does. This really helps save money because meat is expensive. I'm also one to cut back on portions of meat to stretch it further, which is why I try to do a lot of meals with cut up versions of meat because when it's mixed with a bunch of other things (like in a stir-fry or casserole), you just don't need a lot of it. After all most of us eat twice the recommended serving size of 4 oz, and then go back for seconds!

So how do you meal plan most effectively? Eat what you have, and cater to the sale ad for what you don't! Now it sounds hard, but it really isn't. I have a ton of ground beef/turkey from sales and from BJ's. Now I could choose to make sloppy joes with that, but the produce I need for that isn't in season right now, so if I did make that I'd be paying a lot more for it. However, in my stockpile, I do have cornflakes and stewed tomatoes, so I have everything I need for cheeseburger loaves. This time of year is grilling season, so a lot of good kinds of meat are on sale. If I buy steaks or pork ribs or hotdogs now (and the buns), I can freeze them and eat them later.

The reasons this saves money is simple:
  • You won't be forced to eat out because you have nothing for dinner.
  • You won't spend a lot of money because you aren't just shopping with no idea what you are going to make with it. (Have you ever gone shopping just thinking "I'll figure out meals for the week when I get to the store?" Sure you come out with meals, but probably a whole bunch of things you don't need.
  • You'll avoid having to run to the store because you need something for a meal. This almost always leads to buying something you didn't originally plan to.
  • Since you buy what is on sale, you'll be saving money right there.
  • You aren't wasting food. Throwing away expired or foods you won't eat is just like throwing away money. Often times the foods we throw away are things we bought without a list or a plan.
  • You save gas. If you aren't going out to eat, or stopping at the store several times a week, you are saving money.
I'm by no means perfect. There are times when I have planned my meals for the week, but a crazy day leads to fast food. Sometimes it's unexpected events like meetings or illness. And sometimes I think I have something in my pantry or freezer, but it turns out it's not there. But the point is to subscribe to the 80-20 rule- if 80% of the time you follow the rules, 20% you can fudge on, and not feel bad.
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