How Meal Planning Helped me Save $150 A Month

by Lauren Bowling on June 13, 2013

meal planningOh, Mama. I just did the numbers on my budget for the month of May, and I never knew meal planning could drastically cut your food spending each month. Meal planning is something I previously thought only Moms and families did, even my mother only loosely kept a meal plan when I was growing up. As a single gal, planning out my meals was never something I needed to do, since I rarely cooked for one. I don’t know why it took so long for me to come around to this idea, but after I had to throw out three avocados last week because they’d gone bad, I knew I had to make a change. Missing out on your favorite avocado tuna salad makes you angry about such things.

Meal Planning and Me

I’ve lived on my own since I left home for college at the age of eighteen; that is nearly nine years of having to live on my own and feed myself. Sometime after year three my food routine evolved into a formula I rarely wavered from: copious amount of take out or “fast food”, and shelves upon shelves of soup cans in my pantry. When worst came to worst, I’d pop out the hummus I always keep on hand in case of company, take a packet of crackers to it, and call it a day.

I eat to live. I don’t live to eat. Unless of course, someone else cooks it for me and then I get VERY excited about eating.

My “bachelor” routine worked for me, and it also kept my grocery spending pretty low. Not only were the soups low calorie and quick to prepare after a long day at work, but they were also cheap. I could feed myself for four weeks for around $75.

Meal Planning for Two

But then my boyfriend moved in, and one of the best parts of that (besides getting to live with my love) is that my dinners started looking drastically different. Now that there were two of us to prepare for, I enjoy cooking more, and I haven’t bought a can of Campbell’s since we joined homes. He loves to cook as well, so we take turns preparing meals, which is nice! I’m also more mature now, and so I try to eat better. Our meals mainly consist of lean meats, veggies and whole grains. It was nice, and all was well with the world.

Until I realized our grocery spending had ballooned to about $400 each month ($200 a piece). Yikes. This is when I really began to think, “What am I missing here?” I’m not a big couponer, but I knew in my heart I could (and should!) be spending less at the grocery store. So I took out my pen and pad and started meal planning. Martha would be so proud.

Perhaps when I was younger I put off meal planning because I thought it would take a lot of time or effort, but actually, it didn’t. It took me about five minutes to look through the fridge and pantry, and then maybe another five to discuss with my boyfriend what he’d like for dinners and lunches.

After that we made a rough plan, and now I’m damn sure I’m going to be able to eat those sweet potatoes before they go bad. Aside from not wasting money on food you don’t get to eat, meal planning helped us save money at the grocery store, because we now only buy things we know we’re going to eat, and having a set plan kept us from buying so many “snacks” to help fill us up in a pinch. I am happy to report that last month our spending went from $400 to $250, and we didn’t have to revert to buying “junk” or cheaper foods to try and get our spending down either, which also makes me very happy.

So, if it takes me ten minutes to make a meal plan each week, times that by the four weeks in each month it comes out to 40 minutes. $150 dollars for 40 minutes worth of work? Yes, please.

Do you plan out your meals each week or do you just fix what sounds good that day?

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Lauren Bowling

Lauren Bee is a freelance writer and social media specialist based in Atlanta, Georgia. When not writing for One Smart Dollar, she is hard at work blogging over at L Bee and the Money Tree. Lauren enjoys editing, red wine, karaoke and the color pink.

Latest posts by Lauren Bowling (see all)

  • CanadianBudgetBinder

    You know how much I talk about grocery budgets and meal planning and everything related in between. We never used to meal plan but over the past year we have been working on saving money by only buying what we need for the week. We’ve heard so many success stories from fans and from those that are now planning out their week so they too aren’t wasting food and money that they worked hard to earn. Great post.

  • Common Cents Wealth

    That’s great that meal planning saved you a bunch of money. I think my wife and I should start doing it, but I think it’d actually increase our grocery budget because we only spend $200 a month on food. But it’d probably result in more balanced and healthier meals.

  • AvgJoeMoney

    It depends on who goes to the store! Not to rat her out, but the kids love it when Cheryl shops because she just “shops.” I hate it. So, when I go we get EXACTLY what we’re going to eat. That’s why, unless my life is really, really hectic, I do all the shopping for our family 😉

  • Pingback: Frugal Find Friday: Crock-Pot » #BrokeMillennial()

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