People meal plan for a variety of reasons, you may be on a tight budget and trying to find meals that’ll suit your budget, or you may be looking at paying off your mortgage faster, saving a deposit for a house, buying a new car, or putting money aside for Christmas and birthdays. It may be all of these reasons. The good news is that starting a meal plan is easy and if you fill it with foods you and your family like then following it will be a breeze.
The best way to start is to work out your budget. How much have you allocated for food each week? Now look at what you’re currently spending on food. Don’t just take a guess, you’ll most likely be spending more than you thought. Actually look at your grocery receipts and bank accounts. Once you know your budget, you can start writing your meal plan and see how much you’re saving each week by following it.
- If you’ve never created a meal plan before, start by writing a list of your usual meals along with the required ingredients. Don’t over think things. Breakfast and lunch can be simple. eg breakfast can be porridge, toast or cereal and lunch can be leftovers from the night before or sandwiches. Dinner can be protein and an easy side. Use the Woolworths or Coles website to price up how much each meal will cost. It’s a good idea to to keep these costings in a safe place because you can use them for your next meal plan too.
- You might like to start meal planning for a week at a time while you get used to it. Work out which meals you would like to eat that week and allocate them to a particular day. Work out how much your planned meals are costing you and revise the menu if you’ve gone over budget.
- Try and have 1 or 2 nights of cheap eats per week. A cheap eat is something cheap like an easy fried rice, scrambled eggs on toast or pasta with a simple tomato/herb sauce.
- Plan for leftovers. It costs very little to bulk up a meal to get an extra serving or 2. You can use whatever vegetables are on hand (or buy a 1kg bag of frozen mixed veg for about $1.60), a tin of beans or add some rice depending on what the meal is. You can use these leftovers for lunch the next day or even dinner the following night.
- Now it’s time to write your shopping list. Before you go shopping, look in your pantry/fridge/freezer do you already have some of the ingredients you need?
- When you get to the supermarket, check what’s on sale this week? Are there any items reduced for quick sale that you could plan a meal around? If you find a good special, you can replace one of your meals with a cheaper alternative. Shop home brand items where possible.
- Buy discounted gift cards if you can. Check with your insurers to see if they offer any discounts on gift cards. eg buy Woolworths gift cards through Seniors Card NSW portal (5%), NRMA (5%), Suncorp (3%), NIB (4%)and Coles gift cards through NIB (4%), Suncorp (3%) and Seniors Victoria (3%).
- If something is on sale and you use a lot of it, don’t be afraid to stock up. There’s no point paying full price for it next week if you don’t have to. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.
- Are there any vegetables, fruits or herbs you can grow at home to save money? You can grow a lot of vegetables from your vegetable scraps.
- Try online shopping to reduce impulse buying OR click and collect (no fee). This way you’ll know exactly what price you will be paying and if you’ve gone over budget you can rethink your meal plan.