Meal Planning Tips for Saving Money
With the cost of everything going up and so many people losing income, the food budget is one area that most look at when they need to save money. Do you know where you fit on the national food budget?
According to the 2013 USDA Food Publication, the average family of four (2 adults with 2 children under 11) are spending $ 637.00 to $ 1,260.00 per month for food when eating at home. The report breaks the costs into four types of meal plans: Thrifty, Low-cost, Moderate, and Liberal. Let’s take a look at the Moderate Meal Plan at $ 873 a month for 4 people. That works out to just a little over $ 7.25 a day for each person. Does this sound reasonable???
Moderate Daily Food Budget = $ 7.25 a day per person / $ 10.30 per meal for entire family / $ 218.00 per week
Reviewing this plan, they are of course assuming that these families always eat at home. There are no stops at McD’s or BK and forget Starbucks! Think about it, just one meal out can clear out the food budget for the entire family. I budget for “dining out” or “date nights” in our entertainment budget.
Based on my family food budget, I know this budget can be done..and without eating hot dogs and mac n cheese every day. However, it does take planning and wise purchasing.
Planning your meals is the first way to start to make a difference in your food expense. Start by using the sale flyers for this week and create a meal plan for the week (sample menu here). Plan each breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack for the entire week. Look at your dinners as possible lunches the next day by stretching or adding just a few extra ingredients. Example: If you have chicken with rice on Monday night; make extra rice and shred the chicken. This would allow for leftovers which can then be eaten on Tuesday for lunch. The cost of the lunch on Tuesdays is only pennies and the budget for lunch can then be rolled over into another meal later in the week.
Make a shopping list based on your meal plan. Using this list, find coupons for as many items as you possibly can by clipping from the paper or printing from an online database. Prepare your list and head to store to shop. Put on blinders and only purchase the items on the list. Yes, you will see things you want or the kids claim they need…but stick to your list.
Within a couple of weeks you will start to see a couple of things happen. First, you will be spending less on food. Secondly, you will begin to build a stock pile of products that can be used in the following weeks which will help stretch your dollar even more. For example: When you purchased the rice for the chicken and rice meal mentioned above, you should still have over half the rice left in the package. Plan on using this in the next couple of weeks so it isn’t wasted and consider it as a freebie when calculating the meal cost.
If you are tracking your meal costs, this method will show you where you can splurge on perhaps a better cut of meat or an extra treat like ice cream or chips.
There are other ways to save with coupons, buying in bulk and scratch cooking. These are in my opinion things you work your way into doing. If you are just starting to learn how to plan your meals and get a handle on your food budget, I would limit those things until you are on a solid position with meal planning and shopping.
Do you have a meal planning tip? I would love to see how you save money. Share your plans with everyone below the post.