You constantly hear fitness coaches talk about how important meal planning is to weight loss. Well coincidentally, I have found that it’s just as important to your financial freedom.
Here are six tips on how begin a meal plan, which will put extra money in your pocket every month.
- Do some research. You know those junk mail advertisements that you probably throw away, that lists sales on food at your local grocery store? Turns out, it isn’t junk. There will be stores in your area that will offer weekly savings of meat and produce that their competitors don’t offer at that time. So when you get those ads, don’t throw them out! Read through them, and see what discounts your local grocers will be offering that week.
- Make a list. With your research in hand, make a list of meals that you could make with the discounts that you’ve been researching. List meals that you plan to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Below each meal, list the foods that you would need to make that dish. Make the list long on purpose, because you’re making your menu list around your paycheck schedule.
- Make your meal calendar. Each day in your calendar should include a meal that you plan to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 3-4 snacks. Click this link to find a meal planning calendar on Google Docs that you can tailor to your own needs.
- Make some tough decisions. Be real about what you really need to eat, and where you shop. The point of this menu is to save money. So before writing “chips” as a snack option, see which option is better – a $1.99 bag of chips that would last you three days, or a $1.50 box of granola bars that would last you five days? Is it cheaper to buy two large mangoes at $1 each, and boxed coconut water for $1, so you can have healthy smoothies for four days, or pay $4 for a box of sugary cereal that would last you seven days, but would make you fat? If you are going to buy sugary cereal, is a $5 box of Frosted Flakes at your local grocer worth the purchase, if you can get three boxes of General Mills cereal for $5 at Walmart? Just saying.
- Look for coupons and savings wherever you can get them. Couponing takes a lot of effort. A lot. But it’s worth it in the end. I once saw an elderly woman pay $20 for nearly $50 in groceries, and according to her, that was one of her worst couponing days.
Coupons are actually easy to get, if you’re too cheap to purchase a Sunday paper. Ask your neighbor if they plan to keep their coupons from the local paper. You wouldn’t believe how many people throw those things away!
Also, there are a few Facebook pages and groups that lists discounts and sales from national retailers. Make sure you like their pages, so that you can know when is the best time to take advantage of savings in your local area.
If you happen to clip several coupons that you don’t really want to use, trade the coupon with a friend. This is why couponers suggest that you clip with the homies, because you can trade with them.
Did you also know that some grocery stores have certain days of the week where they offer cheap or discounted produce? A lot of stores will opt to sell these items that are about to go bad, instead of trashing them. If your local store offers it, take the fruit home, cut it up, and freeze them. Now you have frozen fruit for smoothies ready to blend for several weeks, and you probably saved a grip on produce. All you have to do is ask a store manager if that is something their store offers.
1.Stick to the meal plan! You will probably see an immediate increase of funds in your wallet if you stick to plan. Put that extra money away for emergencies. Or use it to help pay for fees associated with your kids extracurricular activities. Put it in an IRA. But whatever you do, don’t spend it in the store, not even for a treat. It’s so tempting, but it’s not worth it in the end.
Use this calculator ()to see how much you could be putting in the bank from what you saved on groceries. Even if you only save $5 after using a meal plan, that is something to be happy about. It means that you’re probably eating healthier, and you’re watching how you’re actually spending your cash. And like my aunt says, “A little bit of something beats a whole lot of nothing.”
Have you ever made a meal plan? What were your experiences?