Meal planning: the benefits to your wealth and health

I can’t believe that once upon a time I never thought about meal planning. However, once I had discovered just how much time and money it saves me, I never looked back.

Meal planning saves money

If you buy too much food on your grocery shop you can end up throwing some of it away. If you buy too little, you are likely to find yourself making extra trips to the shops. You might then be tempted by more items than you actually need while you are there. The times I have done this and come out with an armful of chocolate or crisps….no will power!

Meal planning helps you stick to your budget. If you have your whole week’s food planned (or even your whole month’s food for those of you who don’t mind deciding that far ahead) you are far less likely to give into fast food, a takeaway or convenience food on your way home from school or work.

meal planningNot that I am against convenience food per se. I work full time and will happily cut corners when I need to. I frequently stock up on items such as Bolognese or casserole sauces from Approved Food for those occasions when I have less time to cook. Then I make sure they get used by factoring them into my meal planning. (DISCLOSURE: this is my refer a friend link and if you click through to make a purchase I will earn a small commission.)

Meal planning saves time

If you buy all the food you and your family are going to need in one go that will clearly save time. You can do a weekly shop and cut out all the extra trips because you have run out of cheese, fruit or whatever.

You won’t be scratching your head when it comes to dinner time, trying to work out what to cook with some eggs and half a wilted cabbage.  Your shopping list will be based on your plan and you will have all the ingredients you need for that day’s planned meals.

You can factor in events that mean you need to produce a meal quickly. You are working late, need to cart children to swimming lessons, have a parents evening, are off to the cinema, etc.

Meal planning helps prevent food waste

I hate wasting good food. You might as well be throwing your hard earned cash in the bin, as explained in this post. Meal planning means that you only buy what you will eat during the course of the week. You are therefore less likely to let perishables spoil. When you check your cupboards to start your meal plan you can see what you have and use it up. You will avoid buying duplicates too.

Meal planning encourages healthy eating

When I was trying to lose weight, meal planning was essential. I was on a low fat diet and counting calories at the time. Having all of the ingredients needed for each meal really helped me to stick with my eating plan.

However, you don’t need to be on a diet to find meal planning beneficial to your health. You can plan your nutritious meals for the week and be much less likely to splurge on fast food and take-aways. You can factor in some treats too.  I actually think this is essential in order to stick to your plan and also your budget.

I always buy a bottle of wine, maybe a few crisps or nuts, some dark chocolate or maybe some of Aldi’s delicious but still healthy paleo bars. We also enjoy lots of fruit, rye crackers with cheese plus the odd biscuit to snack on. We are realistic! If I don’t buy a few treats we are much more likely to nip off to the corner shop and have a splurge! I do try to keep them pretty healthy though.

Where to start with meal planning

Begin by finding somewhere to write your plan. A chalk board or plain old piece of paper will do the job. Alternatively, you can download mine by clicking on the link below.

Weekly Meal Planner

meal planning

Next check to see what you already have and which items have the shortest dates. Plan those into the meals you are going to make early in the week. Make sure you look in your fridge, freezer and cupboards.

I keep a folder of meals that I have found in magazines or printed off the internet for inspiration. I have also started to save some interesting looking recipes on Pinterest.  It is a good idea to keep a list of meals that you and your family enjoy to refer to when meal planning.

Think about the week ahead. What are you going to be doing each day? Are you out in the evening? When do you need something quick and convenient and when will you have more time? I tend to plan our evening meals but have just a rough idea for lunches. I keep a stock of items in for those – eggs, rolls, canned sardines and tuna, home made soups in the freezer, etc. You might prefer to be less fluid. I don’t bother planning for breakfast as it is nearly always porridge or toast.

Once you have planned your meals, you can write your shopping list.

So, these are the benefits of meal planning. It saves you time and  money, prevents food waste and helps you to eat healthily. What are your tips for planning your meals?

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6 thoughts on “Meal planning: the benefits to your wealth and health

  1. Batch cooking and meal planning are a must as they save time and money. Occasionally I don’t feel like what I’ve planned and we’ll have something from the freezer instead. So I always have two days that I put an F next to as freezer day. Buts thats the beauty of having spare meals in the freezer, it’s a day off too.

  2. I confess I don’t meal plan on a day-to-day basis but after being married for more than 53 years I do tend to know what to cook, what (and how) to use up part-meals afterwards and what to buy for the following week almost as if on auto-pilot. Small changes are seasonal, changing from apples and oranges in the winter, to soft fruits in the summer. Recently, without having actually to ‘plan’ anything, we have been buying fresh pears as they are at their best right now – well, those we’ve been buying have been at their best, and suddenly this weekend we fancied salads again, indicating we’re getting a little fed up with filling stews. I think, while planning ahead, we also need a degree of flexibility. For example, I planned to make a chicken Caesar salad for our supper this evening but now it’s evening neither of us fancy this, so I will make that tomorrow instead and instead we will have scrambled eggs on toast (we’ve already had two good meals today, breakfast and lunch, plus tea and a small cake this afternoon so we’re not in need of all that much for supper) and we’ll use the chicken pieces tomorrow. I do shop with a list, but I shop open-mindedly, too, so if I see bargains or something we fancy instead of something on the list, I buy that instead. I have to say that no matter how many recipe cards the supermarket we frequent puts out, and how many recipes there are in it’s monthly magazine and weekly paper, I seldom if ever try them out as these are there to encourage you to buy ingredients you might not have and then, after using just once, they moulder in the cupboard or fridge. I learned that lesson many years ago. There are always one or two ingredients you’ve either never used nor even know what they are! Beware Recipe Cards, no matter how enticing the food looks (often doctored to look good, I might add) if you want to save money.
    PS What, Jane, are Paleo bars? Never heard of them. They sound like a race in Spain!
    Margaret P

  3. I started doing this a few months ago and I have saved so much money and we are definitely a lot healthier to. This is a really good blog for anyone who hasn’t thought of it already. I’ll share it on my FB page.

  4. I plan a month of dinners. Well, I did it just the once and put them onto a calendar I created on my computer, so each month when I open up a new document, the meals are already there!

    Shopping-wise I work around that week’s meals, and jiggle them around a bit depending on who’s in for dinner and who’s not – eg the “beans and twigs” meals (as DH calls them!) get moved to days when DD is working or at her boyfriends as she isn’t too keen on chickpeas or lentils, but will happily eat veggie sausages or bolognese made with Quorn!
    Leftovers get eaten in the next day or two for lunch – even if it’s just a bowl of bolognese sauce with no spaghetti!

    I only shop twice a week – Monday is Iceland day and I get it delivered. I also top up anything that I either forgot or have run out of over the weekend, at the small Sainsburys en route.
    On Fridays I do a circuit of Aldi, Asda and the big Sainsburys which are a bus ride away in the opposite direction.

  5. Have just started meal-planning; i didn’t believe it would make that much of a difference but it does seem to help – duh! Have just got a fab book (£1, charity shop) :’Economy Gastronomy’ which focuses on batch cooking & leftovers. It’s based on a BBCseries from a few years ago apparently – similar to Jamie O’s saving-approach in his book but with a few extra ideas. It’s the first cookbook i’ve read that includes using the reduced shelves in the supermarkets.

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