Money and time seem to be two things that none of us have enough of. And for most of us, the food budget is the monthly bill that can get out of hand quickly. If you are struggling with sticking to a grocery budget and also not wanting to spend hours in the kitchen, this post is for you. With a little prep, you’ll be improving your life in no time. Check out how meal planning templates can save you money and time.
I can’t tell you how many times I overspent at the store, lugged all those bags home, and then the very next day, claimed that we had nothing to eat. And I hate to even admit it. No one loves to waste money but for years, we did a terrible job of sticking to a food budget, using what we had, and actually cooking a meal from what we bought.
Or I’d plan some elaborate meal I saw on a cooking show and somehow forget that we also needed to eat the rest of the week too. I know, amazing right?
So. How do you fix it? How do you get out of the continuous cycle of wasting your hard-earned money and also eating what you spent all that money on?
Meal planning templates to the rescue.
Meal Planning Templates
It’s a big deal to say that one thing in your daily or weekly routine can be life-changing. But money stress is a big deal. And if you continually waste money on food that you throw in the trash or exceed the budget by hundreds each month, it can become an issue quickly.
Especially if you are the one who is primarily responsible for cooking or shopping. You’ll feel guilty or you’ll get blamed, or you’ll feel incompetent to handle your part of the household. Or maybe you haven’t come to those feelings yet, but you just want a few ways to simplify your life.
So before you figure out how you want to make changes, think about what you’ll get out of using meal planning templates in the first place. Sometimes, if you can picture the benefits in your head, it makes it easier to adopt a change.
Benefits of Using Meal Planning Templates
Personally, I love saving time and money. If you tell me I need to adopt a new habit or adjust my routine for a bit and it will benefit my sanity, I’m in. We are all busy and if you can find one way to slow down that chaos, then jump on it.
Saving Money By Meal Planning
This is a big one. You will save money. Period. End of story. There’s no way around it. If you make a plan to use a meal planning template of some sort each week, you will save money.
For starters, you won’t buy unnecessary crap at the store. If it isn’t on your meal plan this week, then there’s no need to buy it. You can still shop for sales and plan around sales if that’s your thing.
But even if you don’t enjoy looking at multiple stores or only planning meals around what’s on sale that week, you’ll still save money by planning your meals.
We’ve been using a meal planning template for quite a while now and every single week, we save money at the grocery store. Even if I’m a lazy shopper (or we can call it an efficient shopper) and do the grocery pick up I still save money. Despite the $4.95 charge to do the pickup. And actually, I think I save more when I do pick up because there’s zero chance I can buy anything that isn’t on my list.
I’ve tested this many times. If there is a week that we skip the planning and just wing it at the store, we consistently spend between $30 and $60 more. Add that up over 52 weeks. It’s huge!! We budget $250 per week for a family of four. But. That $250 includes everything. Food, toiletries, paper products, and eating out.
And I know we could get that $250 down even more by planning more around sales but baby steps, right?
I won’t lie. It’s so easy to go out to eat instead of cooking. My family loves to eat out. But if you want a sure-fire way to blow your food budget each month, eating out will get you there quickly.
Meal Planning Saves You Time
Yes, you have to sit down and actually plan out what you want to eat and what you’re going to buy. But, in the long run, you will save time.
You’ll know exactly what your meals are each week. There won’t be any more of this nonsense of staring into your pantry just waiting for a magic chef to appear and whip up a meal. And then when no magic happens, you realize you’re missing half the ingredients for a meal so you have to make another trip to the store.
Think about being able to cut down the number of trips to the store. If you get it all knocked out in one trip, those little inconvenient trips during the rest of the week are gone.
And over time, the meal planning gets easier once you get into the routine. One way to make it even quicker is to keep a running list of your favorite meals. Let each person choose a few from the list when you’re planning. Even little kids can participate in this.
Bonus – you have less whining about what you’re making for dinner because everyone is involved.
Meal Planning Makes Your Week Run Smoother
It simplifies your life. You don’t have screaming kids that are “starving” and frustrated parents staring into the pantry wondering what’s for dinner. It’s all planned for the whole week.
You know exactly what you’re eating and that takes the frustration away from the whole “what’s for dinner” question.
Meal Planning Can Equal Healthier Eating
Not always, but typically, if you plan your meals, you eat healthier. Why? Because there’s less temptation to eat out because you have a plan already. And you only shop once, so there’s less temptation of picking up unhealthy stuff on yet another shopping trip.
Steps for Successfully Using Meal Planning Templates
So you know you should meal plan and you know the benefits, but how do you change the routine (or lack thereof) if you’ve been doing the same things over and over for years?
Pick a Weekly Time for Planning
Schedules can get crazy and the week can get away from you if you don’t plan. If the weekends are the times when most of your family are in the same room at some point, use some time to plan.
We usually do ours on either Friday or Saturday. We will sit down and ask for any requests, ask what the kids want in their lunches, and let each of them choose a dinner once that week.
And don’t forget to include breakfast, lunches, and snacks. Ask if anyone needs toiletries or something for school that week too. Remember, you’re saving time by going to the store less so you want to include as much as possible in your list.
Make sure to add in time for prepping your food. If you buy produce, get it washed, chopped, and ready. If you buy meat in bulk, take time to divide it out based on your meals. I’ll admit this is my least favorite part, but once it’s done, I’m so glad it’s all ready to go for the week.
And I’m 100% more likely to make good choices if it’s staring me in the face from the fridge ready to eat.
Know What’s In Your Pantry or Cabinets
Pantries and cabinets can become black holes of expired foods if you aren’t careful. Take a minute when you’re doing your planning to do a check on what you already have.
If I already have pasta sauce and noodles, spaghetti is a good choice that week for us. Or if I have tons of canned veggies, it’s time to plan some meals around those. Do you have four opened boxes of cereal? Maybe use those up first before buying more.
Every now and then (and not as often as I should), I take everything out of my pantry and toss what’s expired, and make a plan for what needs to be used quickly. Again – this is wishful thinking on my part that I’ll do it more frequently, but it does get done sometimes.
Meal planning templates help you make sure that less food gets wasted each week. If you keep blowing your budget by eating take out lunch, try and plan a few dinner meals that you know you like to eat reheated. When you’re cleaning up after dinner, go ahead and pack up your lunch for the next day.
Not only do you reduce waste, but it saves you money by eating out less. Even our kids will take leftovers in a thermos for their lunch the next day.
If you factor in the added cost of cooking a little bit extra to provide for leftovers, it’s still cheaper than eating out for lunch each day. And generally, it’s healthier too!
Check Your Calendar
This is so important! Grab yourself a dry erase calendar, use a phone app, or use a paper calendar, but have one place you can look to see what all you have going on that week. Who has a soccer game, play practice, working late, or whatever else comes up will all be in one place for you to quickly check.
Plan the meals around your calendar.
If I know I’m working and won’t be home until 7, it’s not a good night for me to cook an elaborate meal that takes hours. Or if we have a late soccer game, we plan a quick meal beforehand and something light afterward.
But if I’m off work and already have a meal plan in place, it’s easier to pull it all together and slow down to actually eat as a family.
You Might Get To Enjoy More Family Meals Together!
How often do you eat together as a family? Actually sit at your table together and talk while you eat instead of grabbing something quick as you’re rushing around for the next event?
Meal planning helps me decide what nights of the week we have more time to enjoy meals together.
Favorite Meal Planning Templates and Supplies
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You can certainly make your own meal planning templates. A spiral notebook and pen will do the trick. Or you can download printables – there are endless options out there!
Or you can buy them and have them ready to go without printing. I’ve found this can be a cheaper option because you don’t have to print out 52 weeks of paper!
Either option you choose, commit to sticking with it for at least a month. You’ll be amazed at how much time and money you end up saving!