A lot of money from the restaurant industry comes from people who didn’t intend to give it. People who were simply driving home before they thought about what to make for dinner, realizing the futility of trying to defrost something at 7:30 and needing to feed the family sooner, they rush out to spend at least $20 (usually more like $40) to make sure every one gets fed.
This money may seem like a relatively small amount, but add it up over the total of a year. Think about how many times this happens to your family per week, per month… and you’ll quickly see that there’s thousands of dollars to be saved every single year simply by eating at home.
It’s not about complete avoidance of eating out, it’s about eating out when planned and eating at home otherwise. This is where meal plans come in. Meal plans, as the name suggests, is a list of the meals you plan to make for the week. They can be extremely effective ways to save money, as they automatically generate grocery lists, help you to avoid impulse spending, and save you from having to take every one out AGAIN already.
Consider the following five tips to make the most effective meal plan that you can:
Tip #1 Inventory your kitchen
Before making any meal plan, inventory what you already have. Chances are that you’ll find you already have enough food for several meals when you sit and take the time to plan how it could be used instead of leaving it in the back of the fridge or the cupboard. This also has the dual savings effect of not only saving money on buying more food, but also saving money on food that would otherwise have been wasted.
Tip #2 Bring the ads to the table
When you know you’re going to make a meal plan, bring the weekly grocery flyers to check out what’s on sale first. Picking meals with main ingredients that are already on sale can easily double up your savings, and still gives you the benefit of planning ahead.
Tip #3 Plan 1-2 weeks at a time
This is a realistic amount of time to commit to that also gives you time to check the sales and ensure that you’re getting the best deals. Remember, a good meal plan should still leave you time to take advantage of a good bargain at the supermarket – it just involves avoiding the restaurant that will bring about a new expense if you didn’t plan anything.
Tip #4 Write the plan down and make it easy to find
You can make a great meal plan, but if you don’t make it easy to access and see you may quickly find yourself degenerating into working off memory – a notoriously unreliable tool that got you into this poor planning fix in the first place. Make your list, get a hard copy, and put it on the fridge to remind yourself (and any one else who wants to know) what’s coming for dinner that night.
Tip #5 Consult the family on the plan
This helps in two ways: 1) it takes some of the planning off of your plate, and 2) it ensures that you’re trying things that every one wants, and involving them in the planning process. Kids love to feel included, and this is a great way to make things that you all love!
These tips come together to provide you with the most effective meal plan ever. A good meal plan can save you thousands of dollars every year, a poorly planned one can become just another great idea that didn’t end up working. Keep this in mind when working to establish a good meal plan that you and your family can stick to!