Years ago, money was no object for me. At least when it came to groceries. You gotta eat, right? So, I bought what I wanted when I wanted. That justification got me into a lot of debt and made life so much harder than it needed to be. It took time to figure out the root problem. After all, I was meal planning faithfully every week. Why was it costing so much money? Turns out there’s nuance to meal planning.
The Problem: Meal Planning to Please
At the outset of adulthood, meal planning to please (or even impress) was my default. I poured over cookbooks, choosing meals that would impress friends or make me happy. To an extent, it worked. We certainly ate well! Where this broke down, however, was when the things that I wanted didn’t fit the budget. Paying full price for proteins based on whim can jack up that grocery bill quickly.
It’s a little like Veruca Salt insisting, “I want what I want when I want it.” And it got me into debt.
The Problem: Meal Planning to Save Time
Once I became a mom, I needed to speed up my game. When I put on the mindset to save time, dinner was made more quickly, but the convenience items and grocery store shortcuts wreaked havoc on my spending. I had a regular rotation of pre-made meal plans so that I didn’t recreate the wheel each week, but if certain ingredients were higher priced, the bill was higher than we could afford. Saving time meant sacrificing funds.
The Solution: Meal Planning to Save Money
It took a rock bottom experience for me to find my groove. Our savings were spent, we faced unemployment, and I had to change gears drastically. I developed a system that not only helped us get out of debt, but which has also revolutionized how I meal plan and shop today.
Meal planning to save money means that I’m focused on what I already have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. No more overbuying because I forgot what I had. No more chucking food because I planned more meals than we could eat.
Today I plan meals based on what I have, then fill in the gaps with things that are on sale as well as naturally frugal items like beans, rice, and egg dishes. Sales allow me to try new things, indulge in splurges, and stock up extra so that when I go to shop my own kitchen the next time, I have what I want when I want. Take that, Veruca!
My meal plans still please my family and friends, and I have learned to work in timesaving strategies, but focusing on saving money makes me a better steward of my kitchen resources and gets dinner on the table without breaking the bank. I feel more in control of my kitchen space and my grocery money. It’s a very good feeling.