Old MacDonald…Forgot to Meal Plan

There is no doubt about it. Here in the U.S.A., we love to eat out. And we are not alone! Whether it is the fact that we do not have to prepare the meal, do the dishes, all of the amazing flavors and options, or the social aspect of eating out, we love it!!!!

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A buck, buck, here, and a buck, buck there….

With nearly a million different restaurants in the U.S. alone, there is something for everyone. I, like you, love to go to one of my favorite restaurants, kick back, and enjoy a great meal. And we all have moments when we need to grab something quick as we go from one event to another.

So, what is the harm in supporting your local business and dropping a couple of dollars on some good food? That all depends on how often it is happening and how much you can afford to eat out and money is not the only concern.

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here a buck, there a buck, everywhere a buck, buck…

Let’s take a look at our family’s monthly food budget as an example of what happens when we do not stick to our meal plan and budget.
(Remember, we are not normal!) 🙂

This month, we spent just over $200 on our entire month’s food. Most likely, by the end of the month, we will add another $40-$50 as we pick up additional produce or go through items quicker than planned. This includes all of our food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Again, we are much more cheap 😉 frugal than your average bear. We do not buy junk food, soda, coffee, other drinks or other expensive snacks. Don’t worry, every once in a while we will splurge and get some comfort foods. Yes, we are still human.

Now, let’s look at another approach with a little more wiggle room.

What if I spent one additional dollar a day on food or snacks. That would be another $20 a month, excluding weekends, added to our food budget. No biggie, Right? Now, let’s say Elizabeth does the same. Now we are up to $40. Still, most budgets could even handle this 15% increase to the budget.

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What if we were more typical in our spending?

What if I spent an average of $5 on lunches plus another $2 on snacks or drinks per day? I could easily spend up to $140 a month on my daytime food alone. If we paid to have our son eat at school instead of using the food we already have, we would add around $40 a month to our budget. For this example, let’s just say that Elizabeth’s extra food stayed at $20 a month. Now our family is spending an additional $200 a month a month! Wait, that is almost what our entire month’s food budget is and we just doubled it with our lunches and snacks alone! Have you noticed I have not even added in eating out as a family, date nights, breakfast meals or buying beverages?

For the final example, let’s look at an even more common approach to food.

What if I spent $7 on lunches, another $3 on snacks, and $7 on drinks (soda/coffee)? If I do that only 5 times a week, that is at least $340 every month. That is 136% of my family’s entire food budget. Also, let’s go ahead and add in our family eating out twice a week at $20 each time. Now we have reached $500 in additional food for the month.  This is a 200% increase from what our family actually needs and we still have not looked at dinner every night.

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How Does Meal Planning Help?

The reason that meal planning is so effective is that you are not buying food on the fly. You have a plan. Once you go shopping, you commit to not buying more food, even when it is what you really want to do.

Now, if your budget is larger, you have your finances in order, and your health is good, can you afford to eat out a little more? Of course. But, the purpose of this blog is to help families save time and money. To do this, you have to be willing to get focused and stay focused and not let up, even when it is the sixth time that month you have eaten peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches for lunch.

The more you stay out of the stores, the more you save! It really is that simple. Notice I did not say easy, because it is not, but it is that simple.

Another way meal planning helps is that you already have all of your food for the month. Just knowing that will give you a huge sense of relief and most of the time it keeps you from having to run to the store again and grab some last minute items.

When following our meal plan, this is what our meals look like on a regular basis. It might not look exciting, but it is better than beans and rice 🙂

A typical menu for our family:
Breakfast: Eggs with ham and a slice of toast, oatmeal with add-ins and almond milk, or occasionally waffles or pancakes.
Lunch: Sandwiches or leftovers
Dinner: Our planned meal
Beverage for all meals: Water
Snacks: Gram Crackers, pretzels, raisins, wheat thins, almonds, or peanuts

Know the answer to “What’s for dinner?”

The area where you will see the most savings is when the answer to “What’s for dinner/lunch?” is not, “Let’s just go pick something up.” As you start cutting out take-out and buying prepared food, you will be amazed how much money you will save. We have known couples that have spent over $800 a month in eating out alone(that’s a house payment!). At the time, our entire families grocery budget was $100 a month! Let’s just say we were shocked but have learned that many people are struggling in this area.

 

So, can you do it? Of course! Just hop on over to the meal plan you would like to use, print out the shopping list, buy what you need, and then STAY OUT OF THE STORE!

May 2018 be a year of huge savings and great food for you and your family!

 

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Helpful Tip Tuesday: Portion Control

Several people have asked me about the leftovers night and how we can possibly have enough food leftover for another meal and how we can possibly squeeze everything into our tight budget. Here’s the secret: Portion Control.

Now when you hear “portion control” you probably think about dieting or losing weight. When I think about portion control I think about saving money! (Although losing weight is an added bonus!*).

How? Well most of the meals in the monthly meal plan say they make 6-8 servings. For my little family of 3 eaters (I don’t include my baby in this) we should not be eating that entire dish in one sitting. We should have at least half of that dish leftover which then easily feeds us for another meal. I know a lot of you have bigger families than me so you might not have 3-4 servings leftover. BUT who says you have to eat the same thing at dinner time? Growing up, about once a week my mom would put all of the leftovers on the counter and we’d make up our own plates and heat them in the microwave. Say you had 2 or 3 servings left from 2 meals, that gives you 4-6 servings of leftovers (wait another night if you need more!).  That’s one night’s worth of dinner that you didn’t have to make or pay any additional money for.

If you are a small family and have lots of leftovers, use them for dinners and lunch. My husband gets leftovers for lunch at work probably 3 times a week (the other 2 days he gets sandwiches).

So! Have a little self control. Don’t take huge portions right off the bat. Don’t stuff yourself at meals–only eat until you’re satisfied. Divide the meals you make so they will last another meal. Add a less expensive side dish to make the meal go further.

You’ll find that your wallet and your waistline will thank you!

*When my husband and I first got married we were terrible at this (especially him!).If it tasted good, we would eat more! We spent a lot more in groceries and we we a lot heavier. Since we’ve started meal planning, eating healthier, and watching our portions, we both weigh 15-20 lbs less than when we were first married.