Eating out is a budget killer, especially if you do it constantly. The best alternative, of course, is to eat at home. While this will save you money, however, cooking every meal can be daunting for some people, unless you make a meal plan. Here are some tips for creating a successful plan to boost your financial (and personal) health.
Cook Things You Enjoy
Cooking things you enjoy may seem obvious, but many people assume that meal planning means preparing things that are easy but not necessarily tasty. So make a note of the things your family likes to eat. You’ll also want to focus on things you can buy in bulk. For example, large bags of beans can be purchased reasonably cheaply and used as a healthy source of protein in various dishes.
Speaking of protein, consider eating alternatives to meat throughout the week. Beef, chicken, and pork are often the most expensive parts of any meal.
Pro tip: If your family loves a certain restaurant meal, try and recreate it at home. You won’t match it exactly, but with the help of online recipes, you may get close enough for some serious appreciation.
Make A Plan
Make a list of each meal you need for a given period. Most of us eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you might also want to consider snacks. Assign a meal to each area based on your preferences or what is already in your pantry. The list will help you stay organized and save money when you shop at the grocery store.
Shop With Purpose
Having a stocked pantry is critical to meal planning. See what’s already in your kitchen and make a list of missing essentials that can be used in multiple recipes (oils, seasonings, etc.).
Now cross-reference your pantry and meal lists. Identify any missing ingredients and pick them up at the store. With your prepared lists, you’ll avoid the supermarket trap of buying things on the fly that you don’t really need.
Remember To Plan For On-The-Go Snacks
One of the most common reasons people ditch their carefully prepared meal plan is hunger on the go. Don’t fall into the fast-food trap. You can either prepare snacks for this purpose or buy filling items such as inexpensive fruit and nuts to tide you over until you get home.
Eat Out Periodically
Nothing motivates by looking forward to a reward, like eating out! A nice meal out is not something you need to keep “off the menu” totally. With all the money you’ve saved, treat yourself to a nice restaurant meal from time to time. Also be sure to save up to spend on what’s important, like a family celebration, graduation gift, vacation, and so on. Your Credit Union has a range of very high yield savings accounts to suit every need. Learn more here.