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How to plan your meals (and afford) your groceries!

A lot of you probably read through your favorite health blogs daily.  And, a lot of you probably wonder: how do these people afford all of this food?! Isn’t eating healthy supposed to be expensive?

Well at first, yes.  But in the long run? Not at all. 

Increasing the number of meals you cook at home per week can save you anywhere from $5 to $100 dollars a month! How? Let’s find out…

Let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, you eat a$ 5 dollar lunch 4 days a week at work.  On top of that, you eat out three times a week for about $15. Per week, you’re spending $65 in eating out.  This doesn’t include breakfast, lunch or dinner groceries for the days you aren’t purchasing food.  If you continue this habit every month, you’re spending roughly $260 dollars per month! For the average family, this may be a normal amount, sure.  But for one person making an average salary between the ages of 20 and 30?  This may be close to a significant portion of your income.

For me, and I recognize that there are many many factors that can change all of this, I have been focusing on a budget of ~50 dollars per week.  This is roughly 200 a month in groceries.  Since starting this budget, I had spent at least the above amount in groceries and eating out, if not more.

Because let’s face it…eating out is easier, and you pay extra for that convenience.

So what do I recommend? Why am I throwing these random numbers at you? Well, I’ll show you how I’ve been trying to tackle my excessive grocery spending through lists and menu planning.  Boring, I know, but definitely worth the extra hour it will take you.

Step 1: On Sunday (or whatever day you have some free time per week), inventory your pantry and fridge for substantial food products.

Grocery list1

Step 2: Make a semi-organized list based on food groups that is easy to read.  If you’re an efficient person you may have already done this in step one.  I, however, wrote it all out messy-like and then rewrote my list.

Example:

Grocery list

Categorizing your food will help to pull items out for your meal planning process.

Step 4: Depending on your caloric intake, pull out an item from a few of the categories that will make a great lunch. In your meal list, write down any prep that should occur the night before for this meal.

In this example I’ve included the Weight Watchers points for each meal (on my Plan, I’m focusing on 29 points per day which is roughly 1300 calories, and am allowed a weekly point allowance of 49 to use on top of this.)   On average, I use about 30 points.

Example:  

Monday meals

I’m still working on a good format to put this into my computer with, but for now this works well. Until then, please excuse the sloppy handwriting Smile

Step 5: Cross off your fridge/pantry list as you plan meals so that you know what you’ll have left for the end of the week.

Step 6: If there are items missing from your list that you need for your weekly meals, make a small side list of items to pick up when you’re near a grocery store. Note: Be careful here, if you don’t need it as a weekly staple, try not to break your budget by buying the item.

IMG_1593

Step 7: That’s about it! You’re now a successful meal planner.  It will take you a couple hours at first maybe, but after you get your system in motion you’ll have it down to a science. 

Trust me, no one is perfect (neither is this system) so don’t feel bad if you aren’t following this to a tee.  At the very least, it’s worth taking a look at how much money you’re spending per week.  If you just saved even 20 dollars a month, you’d have an extra $240 per year for fun activities or vacation money!

And please, please, don’t think I’m suggesting that everyone stops eating out!  Eating a new restaurants is what part of being a foodie is all about, I get that.  Try budgeting an “eating out” category into your monthly budget for occasions such as this.  That way, you’ll allow yourself to eat out occasionally and really enjoy the experience.

I hope this helps you all a little bit.  If not, at least it’s an interesting look into how I’ve been working on honing my grocery money skills. 

Don’t know what your monthly budget is to begin with? For more information on how to set up your budget, check back tomorrow on a “how to” post!

Now, off to eat a super late lunch and enjoy my second cup of coffee Smile

<3, Jenna

P.S. Don’t forget to check out last night’s post for a little contest! The winner gets free healthy food samples (i.e. protein powder, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc.)

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6 thoughts on “How to plan your meals (and afford) your groceries!

  1. Pingback: Happy MLK Day! | Eating Green, Staying Lean

  2. Pingback: I aammmm tiiirrreeedddd. | Eating Green, Staying Lean

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