Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution to Save Money and Pay Down Debt With Meal Planning and Freezer Meals
Start the year off right
Everyone is making New Year’s Resolutions today and a lot of people want to save money or get out of debt this year. It is doable, but to change a situation, we have to change. One way that a lot of people are wasting money is on discretionary spending. One of the biggest expenses is food. We all have to eat every day and this should be the first bill that we try to lower. When you have a plan or premade meals to heat up and serve, it will also make it harder to rationalize going out to eat, which is good for our wallet and our waistline, another very common resolution we all make.
Meal Planning: How to save
I meal plan every month, though to start out, you may want to try every week. It starts with going to my pantry and taking stock of what I have BEFORE I go to the grocery store. You may have many meals that you need only one thing for or food from the week before that can be incorporated into the meal plan to save you buying more food.
I only plan my dinners, letting breakfast go to a few choices a month and lunch is usually sandwiches, salad or leftovers.
Once you figure out what you are having for your weekly or monthly meals and what is on hand, you do to the store with a list of needed ingredients. That’s it. Stick to the list, post your menu on the fridge and every night you know what you are making for dinner. Just that easy. If you go the monthly route, expect to go weekly for fresh produce and get all the shelf stable pantry items all at once in a monthly food haul. As the next week comes, go to your menu and see what fresh ingredients you need and then but them for the week.
Having a meal plan stops you from having to think about dinner. You take an hour a month and are done with it. When I have a plan and know I have everything I need, it’s less stress when I get home, no wondering what’s for dinner and less stress all around. Also helps me to stay out of fast food lines and last minute run to the stores because I already have everything on hand.
Take it step further with freezer meals
So when you get used to a having a plan and having a menu, I would suggest taking it a step further and making freezer meals. This can be done in many ways.
Marinate meat in individual meal packs and freezing.
You take the meat out and stick in fridge in morning. Or make up that meatloaf or three and freeze them to pull out and simple cook when you get home. No more mess or dealing with raw meat and all that comes with it. When you chicken is already ready to go as one meal, it takes the guesswork out of what it shall become. And remember, you have a plan.
Large batch casseroles and other family favorites.
Instead of making one beef pot pie or tater tot casserole, make 2-4, freezing the extra meals for a later date. I do this almost every time I cook. It saves me time in meal planning when I have 10 meals for next month already ready to go. It also helps when I don’t want to eat what’s on the menu. It happens.
I use the throwaway pans with lids, so label and freeze. Take it out and bake without breaking a sweat. Dinner is ready while your kids do their homework and you take a shower or clean up.
Batch cook for the month, make a day of it.
I do this when I can get good sales on meat. When chicken, steak and ground beef can be got at a good price, I plan many meals and spend the day cooking them all up. I get all of the ingredients I need, batch cook 5-10 meals and freeze it all. Make a menu plan to go with it and I am done for the month. In an hour of planning and a few hours of cooking, I am done for the month. It also helps with costs because I only buy the meat when it’s on a good sale. So I get the meals done at rock bottom prices and cook it while it’s fresh, so no worries to defrost the meat and use it later.
This is a bit overwhelming for some, but to me it helps save me overall time. I’m forty weeks pregnant at the moment and I just did 2 months’ worth so when the baby is born, I will have enough meals to last me through the rough patch.
I also have a chronic brain disease that can leave me bed-ridden some days. So the menu and freezer meals made up make it so I can have my husband make a dinner that doesn’t involved calling a pizza place and making an order.
I just started this and many families already have theme nights in place. It helps with my menu planning when I already have three or four nights a week with a theme because then I can just go from there. Currently I have Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesday, Breakfast for Dinner Thursday and Saturday night Pizza for Movie Night.
This helps me to streamline my menu planning even more, as well as give the family nights to look forward to. It adds a little routine and I am less likely to take forever figuring out what we are having.
So this is just a few ideas of how you can streamline dinner in your house and save yourself time, money and stress. For a family of four, I spend about 200 a month on groceries and household items. I buy when things are on sale and cook it off in large batches. You would be surprised how much time and energy, as well as money you can save with these methods. Not to mention, we never eat out because we can’t answer the question of, “What’s for dinner?”
Hope this was helpful and it helps you to take back some sanity and get your grocery bill under control.