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Menu Planning – Does it Save Money?

Menu Planning – Does it Save Money?
Jenna Raimondi

Does planning your meals out and preparing for the week really save money?  I am one who loves to plan.  Rarely do I not know what will be on the menu for the week.  I’m not the crafty type, so for me, I feel creative when I’m able to pick out meals and find new recipes to try.

In my household, we plan out our meals over the course of the previous week, then do all of the grocery shopping at once at the beginning of the week.  Along with our dinners for the week, we factor in any snacks we may want as well as breakfast.  Lunch is typically leftovers from the night before (we almost always make enough to have leftovers).

I know I’m not perfect, and there are weeks when I fail to plan out our weekly menu.  We’ve noticed these are the weeks that cost us more money from our food budget.  Here are some reasons why:

  • Without knowing what we need at the beginning of the week, we tend to go back to the grocery store multiple times to grab the random items we need for that night’s dinner.  This is a waste of time.  It also provides more of an opportunity for impulse purchases that could have been avoided with just the one stop (especially because these one-off trips usually happen on my way home from work, when I’m hungry).

Note – do not go to the grocery store hungry, you will be likely to have more impulse purchases.

  • Without a planned out meal ready to be prepared, we are more likely to either order take-out or just go out to eat.
  • Without having the necessities on hand for breakfast or snacks, we are more likely to run to a coffee shop or convenience store on the way to work to grab something quick.
  • If I don’t have my menu planned out, I may be purchasing items at the grocery store which will actually not be used that week.  Not so bad for the non-perishables, but if I am buying perishable items and not consuming them, I’m wasting the items and the money spent on them when I toss them in the garbage after they grow green fuzzy stuff. (yuck!)

Each of these reasons may seem small on their own, but they can add up in a hurry.  In my experience, these reasons have added up to $50+ to my weekly budget.  I don’t know about you, but I can think of better ways to spend $200 each month.

Figuring out if menu planning actually saves money, really depends on your habits.  I know plenty of people who will eat the stale crackers in the cupboard, or even not eat at all if they don’t have anything planned and ready to make.  If this is you, then menu planning may actually cost you more as you will be eating more and having to buy actual groceries.  If you are like me and run to the nearest fast food or take out restaurant when you don’t have anything planned, then having a menu can really save some dough.

Since we have begun menu planning in our household we have noticed definite savings in our food budget, and do not let nearly as much food go bad and have to be discarded.  We buy only what we need, use it, then restock with what is needed for the next week.

Do you plan out your household meals?  How do you most effectively spend your food budget each week/month?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.