If you’ve been paying attention at all, then there’s no way that you’ve missed the impact of inflation at the grocery store. Food has gotten more expensive! One of the few ways to combat the increase in prices is to make each grocery dollar stretch a little bit further. Enter meal-planning.
One of my friends has a large family. She’s been meal-planning for as long as I’ve known her. Each week, she scours the flyers and plans her meals around whatever’s on sale. I’ve always admired her commitment to keeping her grocery expenditures as low as possible while still feeding herself (and her family) very well.
Yesterday, I failed to heed my mother’s wisdom and spent $36.31 on takeout. I let myself get too hungry and the result was that I made a bad choice with my food dollars. Had I been a little more thoughtful earlier in the week, I would have taken that same $36.31 to the grocery store and bought the fixings for a good meal that would have generated some leftovers.
My mother has been a widow for nearly 20 years. Her “trick” to keeping her food costs down is to always have food cooked in her house. Yes – that’s it. That’s the trick. My mother cooks every few days and she makes enough to last. After raising her family, she no longer wants to cook every single day. At the same time, my Wise Mother knows that she’ll make better food choices if her fridge is well-stocked with tasty leftovers. She lives and breathes the benefits of meal planning.
Why am I not as smart as my own mother? Very good question. I know better!
Two things are true.
One, you know best what you like to eat. Two, you will be hungry later. These are irrefutable facts. You have the power to use these two bits of knowledge in ways that will maximize the utility of your money.
The internet is rife with recipes! If there’s a recipe that you like, rest assured that someone somewhere has written about it online or has created a video for you to watch on your desktop, your tablet, or your phone. Here are a few of my favourite spots to find new recipes, or to be inspired by someone else’s culinary wizardry at filling their freezers.
When you plan your meals in advance, you aren’t forever asking yourself what you want to eat. If you’re anything like me, you are tired of wondering what’s for dinner every night! It would be nice to have a couple of nights in a row where I didn’t have to ask myself that question.
I used to believe that cooking for one was harder than cooking for a family. If you believe that too, then please stop. It’s time to start thinking differently. There are always ways to scale a recipe down for one or two people.
- You need not cook the whole turkey if that’s what you’re craving. You can buy turkey parts at the grocery store. One turkey thigh can last 2-3 days, depending on how your use it.
- Maybe you’re craving a lasagna? Cut the ingredient list in half and make it in a smaller dish. Or make the full-sized recipe and freeze the leftovers. The beauty of most pasta recipes is that they freeze and thaw beautifully, which means that much less work the next time you want to eat that particular meal.
- Perhaps you’re craving homemade bread? I love it too, but it’s a lot to eat in 2 days. Homemade bread goes stale fast. You know what takes as much time but doesn’t go stale as fast? Homemade buns! Make a pan – eat what you want – freeze the rest. When you want another bun, just take it from the freezer.
Impediments are in your mind.
Meal planning is a skill that will take time to master. My mother has it down to a science. She’s retired so she has more flexibility with her time and can grocery shop as needed. For those of us who still work, a teensy bit more effort is required. We have to find the time to grocery shop. Not a problem. If you can’t get to the grocery store, then go online, order your food, and pick it up at a time you’ve scheduled. You can even have it delivered to you at your convenience. The time it takes to grocery shop is not an impediment if you truly want to maximize your money.
In the same vein, there has to be time to prepare your food before it gets cooked. Again, this is not an insurmountable problem. Read the recipe before you start cooking. Then read it again. Personally, I enjoy prep work – the slicing, the dicing, creating little piles of food that have to be combined in a particular order. I find it both relaxing and satisfying to get ingredients ready before I start my recipe.
If you don’t find prep work satisfying, that’s not a problem. You can buy pre-shredded cheese, minced garlic, pre-cut onions, pre-sliced carrots, etc… You can even use a meal prep service if that’s your fancy! The bottom line is that someone, somewhere has already done the prep-work for you, but you still need to get the ingredients into your kitchen so you can cook them.
Step #3 is the follow-thru. In other words, you actually have to cook the food that’s in your kitchen. I know, I know – this might be a radical idea to some of you. My advice is to buck up and get it done. Remember what I said about the internet? It’s everywhere! You can be commuting to work while watching cooking videos on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and websites. There is nothing holding you back from meal planning and cooking your own food.
Meal planning is not hard. It takes practice and patience, and a willingness to try something new. It’s a skill that gets better over time. The more meals that you prepare and/or eat at home, the more money you will save for the other parts of your life.