After one of my friends asked to hear my frugal hacks a couple of posts ago, I started thinking. I came to the realization that I do a lot of stuff to save money, most of which I don’t even have to think about anymore. It has just become a lifestyle change. I was originally going to do a post about my money saving tips, but I realized that it was going to be the longest post ever. Because of this, a new idea formed: Frugal Friday.
Every Friday, I’m going to blog about one of the money saving tricks that I have up my sleeve.
Because this first one saves us so much money, I had to start with it: meal planning. I know, I know…every blogger and her mom has talked about meal planning. But, seriously, when done correctly, it saves you a ridiculous amount of money. Even though it takes a little bit of extra time, it is so worth it.
Before meal planning, I make sure to “shop” my fridge, pantry, and freezer to see what I have available. I also take note if something needs to be used up before it expires (another big money waster is allowing food to spoil and having to throw it away).
Once I know what I’m working with at home, I decide what recipes I want to use for the week. These may be old tried and true favorites, Pinterest pins that I’m especially excited about, recipes I’m trying out from a cookbook, or just general things like “baked fish, potatoes, and green beans” where you give a guideline and then decide how you’re going to fix it the day of. My meal plans usually end up being a little bit of everything.
For the sake of our budget, I usually go meatless at least one day a week, if not more. To remember, I do Meatless Monday. What can I say? Catchy names help me remember to do things. I also like to do at least one day of some kind of fish, so, yep, you guessed it, I do Fish Friday (Usually. This week, I bumped it to Saturday because of my husband’s work schedule).
I use an awesome printable I found years ago to write down my meals for the week. Because I literally use it every week, I framed it with a cheap Ikea frame, so I didn’t waste a bunch of ink printing it off every week. Instead, I write on it with dry erase markers, so I can reuse it indefinitely. Please excuse the third grader handwriting.
I’m not bothered with eating the same thing for breakfast, and, for lunch, I more give myself a guideline since I’m terrible at eating lunch. Half the time, I just make myself a meal replacement shake and call it good (not necessarily the best, but at least it’s something). For my husband, I pack his lunch. He’ll either get a sandwich with string cheese, fruit, and baby carrots, or he’ll get leftovers.
Once I decide what my meals are and write them down, I go back through the recipes and mental inventory of my kitchen and make a list (on my printable, to the right of the menu) of what I need to buy for the week. I then transfer that list to my phone’s shopping list and erase the items one by one when I get home with the purchases. Why this extra step? Sometimes technology and I don’t get along, and I’ve been known to accidentally erase stuff and not notice until I don’t have an ingredient in the middle of cooking. If you’re better with your phone than I am, feel free to skip the last step.
Another perk of having my menu and list on dry erase is that I can erase the meals once I make them and have a running list of things we need on the next shopping trip.
I usually do all of my shopping on Sundays, although it varies depending on our schedules. However, I only have to go once a week unless we run out of something crucial: like bananas, one of my son’s favorite foods.
Meal planning allows you to think out your meals ahead of time, looking at your calendar to make sure you plan around any crazy stuff in the evenings. Late night? Something fast, crockpot, or leftovers. People coming over? A bigger yielding recipe, a roast, or BBQ. I also like to take into account the sales for the week and whether I can use an ingredient in more than one recipe, if one recipe won’t use the entirety of it.
By planning ahead for the week, not only will you not have a “There’s nothing to eat. Let’s order takeout.” moment, but you also won’t buy unnecessary food that ultimately goes to waste, you save on gas, and you will also have more time to do the things you enjoy…not go grocery shopping multiple times a week. Added bonus: a detailed grocery list makes for a fast shopping trip and less likelihood of my baby getting squirmy in the shopping cart. I also find that we eat healthier.