How to use a meal planner: Save money, eat healthier
Look at your food bill. Do you find that it’s climbing due to the frequent need to get take out at the last minute?
What about your health? Do you have to turn to processed foods in order to meet your family’s dinnertime needs?
If these are problems with mealtimes, the solution might be simpler than you think. With a meal planner, you can reduce the amount of money you spend on food, as well as prepare healthier meals.
Get organized with a meal planner
Your meal planner doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A small calendar works quite well. Look at the week ahead, and decide what you want for dinner each evening.
Once you have determined what you want to eat, you can create a shopping list. Your meal planning efforts will help you by:
- Saving money: Shopping with a list can help you avoid impulse buys at the store. On top of that, if you shop according to a list based on your meal plan, you will be less likely to throw out uneaten food, improving your cost-efficiency. If you want to save even more, create your meal plan based on the coupons and sales at the local grocery store. Finally, when you have a meal plan, and you are prepared for mealtime, you are less likely to have to get take out when you can’t come up with a good idea for dinner.
- Healthier meals: Your meal plan can make it possible for you to prepare healthier meals for your family. Instead of turning to processed foods, you can prepare fresh foods. Having all the right ingredients, and taking the time to prepare your dinner, usually means fewer calories and less exposure to harmful ingredients in processed meals.
Meal planning provides you with the advantage of always knowing what’s for dinner and being ready to prepare it.
Coordinate your meal planner with your schedule
As you put together your meal plan, you need to make sure that it coordinates well with your other scheduled activities. If you have a particularly busy day, don’t plan a dish that takes a lot of work. Instead, plan to make a crockpot meal. You can throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning, and let it cook all day while you take care of errands and other business. When you get home, dinner is ready.
You can also help your meal planning efforts run smoothly with the help of a 30-minute cookbook. You might be surprised at the number of meals that can be prepared in half an hour or less. Buy one of these cookbooks, and you’ll receive a bunch of ideas for meal planning, and you won’t have to worry about how long the meal will take to prepare.
Also, realize that you don’t have to plan every single dinner for the week. Sometimes, it makes sense to have a little spontaneity. Consider leaving two or three days open so that you can do something fun, like make pancakes for dinner, or even go out to eat on occasion.