How We Save Money With a Meal Plan
BY BRANDON VAGNER, CPA, Ph.D., & WALLET WIT FOUNDER
So, here is the deal guys. In our early 20’s, my wife and I didn’t have a written budget, and we were out of control when it came to our monthly spending. Specifically, the amount of money we spent on food was insane.
We lived that way for years, but lucky for us, our income drastically dropped when I went back to school and we were forced to start really watching what we spent. Yes, I did say “lucky for us that our income dropped.” I still say to this day, it was the greatest thing that ever could have happened to us, because we learned at a young age how you should be handling your finances.
Consistency is Key For Saving Money on Food
What really got us and what gets most people is the lack of a weekly game plan with regards to food. Think about it. Most weeks you probably go into Monday with no real game plan for what you’re going to eat throughout the week. Sure, you might have cereal in the cabinet and other random food items, but I’m talking about knowing exactly what you’re going to make each day for all three meals and snacks.
If you don’t have a weekly meal plan ready to go each and every week, it is extremely easy to get into bad habits when it comes to food.
Breakfast is Probably Costing you Performance…Not Necessarily Financially
From a cost perspective, it’s typically not breakfast that breaks the bank for most people. Many people just grab something quick like cereal and hit the road. I’ll reserve my thoughts on how detrimental that is to your daily performance levels for a future article, but know that morning smoothies are extremely quick and powerful healthy boosters to your day. I highly recommend giving them a try.
Now, if you’re the person that grabs breakfast on the road everyday, then you’ve got a problem if you’re trying to save money. You should seriously consider the smoothies as an option.
Since breakfast doesn’t really hurt too many people financially, onward we go…..
How to Save Over One Hundred Dollars ($100) on Your Lunches
I’m going to single out lunch here for a second, because it’s what cost me thousands for years. Keep in mind that it’s double the financial pain if both you and your spouse eat out. Depending where you live, it’s a pretty conservative estimate to say the average lunch will cost you $10. That means if you eat out every day during the work week, you’ll spend somewhere around $200 per month on just lunch.
I plan my lunches every week, and typically spend around $4 per lunch. You should know too that I take quite a bit of lunch to work every day. For somebody who doesn’t need much, you could easily get by spending less than that. By having a lunch meal plan every week, I save well over $100 per month.
RELATED: Kori Lyn’s 21-Day Meal Plan
What is the Silent Financial Killer Nobody Thinks About?
If you are like most people, you head to the grocery store every week when you run low on the cornerstone grocery items. For example, milk, bread, meat, etc.
If you are truly like most people, you probably wing it when you head to the grocery store. You likely grab all those cornerstone items and then start throwing whatever looks good into the cart. We’ve been there and done that. It’s fast, easy, and it’s what you’re used to. I completely get it.
What you don’t realize is that, unfortunately, there are items making their way into your grocery cart that serve no, or very little, nutritional value and cost a small fortune. Things like soda, chips, frozen pizzas, etc. I could literally go on forever. Items like these really begin to add up and most people are hungry within an hour or so of eating these types of food. I know I was when we used to shop and eat like this.
So, let’s step back and look at the cycle that’s happening. We never had a game plan going into the grocery store, and thus ended up buying a lot of non-nutritional food. We would then eat the crap food and very soon after would be searching the cabinets for more crap food because the first wave of crap food didn’t meet our body needs and we were still hungry. So, then we would run low and eventually would go buy more crap food because we didn’t have a plan when at the grocery store. That’s a VERY expensive cycle.
To reduce the likelihood of buying crappy food at the grocery store, you HAVE to have a meal plan going in. No more winging it.
Does Buying Healthy Food Cost More?
One really important thing to keep in mind is that when you buy and eat healthy food, you’re not running and looking for snacks as much. I’m telling you from experience. I used to be the snacking king. Not anymore.
I never knew just how powerful nutritional food is with regards to sustaining your hunger satisfaction until we started really cleaning up the way we ate. As soon as my wife and I started consistently eating healthy, I noticed that I could go four to five hours without getting really hungry. The healthy food we were eating was sustaining us for a much longer period of time, which meant we were not constantly running to grab more food.
That said, just from following a healthy meal plan, you can seriously cut down on what I’ll call the secondary searcher meals. Those are the mini meals you are likely piecing together somewhat shortly after eating your first crappy meal. This means that you no longer have to buy as much food to support those secondary searcher meals.
Now, healthy can cost a little more per item. Absolutely, but just think about how much you’ll have to spend if you’re not buying all the crap you’re currently buying. From our experience, on a monthly basis, we spend way less every month when we follow a meal plan and focus on buying quality food. It eliminates the purchase of non-nutritional food and we end up eating out way less.
You Now Know Healthy Food Will Sustain You Longer….Now What?
You have to get a meal plan on paper for you and your family so that when you head into the grocery store at the beginning of the week, you know EXACTLY what to buy and you won’t be tempted to buy the expensive crappy food. Having a grocery list for your weeks worth of meals is the key to not overspending on non-nutritional food.
My wife took the lead on this for us. She will tell you that she absolutely loves to prepare our meals and that cooking healthy is a passion of hers. For the longest time, and still to this day, she pieces together our weekly plans. We have a whiteboard in the kitchen, and that’s where she will typically write out the weekly meal plan.
One thing she quickly realized is that it can get difficult and time consuming to constantly be searching for meals and trying to piece together a shopping list for the week. Not to mention, there is some math involved depending on how large your family is.
She got so frustrated, she spent almost an entire summer creating a 21-Day Healthy Meal Plan. She put an insane amount of time building a 120+ page clickable PDF that houses this meal plan. It really is incredible, and we’re both very proud of what she created. The great thing about this meal plan is that it includes your weekly shopping lists and she took the time to do everything for both small and large families. So, you don’t have to worry about doing any crazy math.
Now, you should know that we eat extremely healthy. So, if you are interested in her plan, you can expect only healthy options. I grew up as a steak and potato type guy, but I absolutely love all my wife’s healthy meals. They have significantly changed my life. You’ll hear people talk about going on a food cleanse. This 21-Day Meal Plan of hers is a healthy food cleanse. Meaning, you are going to cleanse your body of all that crappy food by following her healthy plan.
Whether you want to try my wife’s meal plan, piece together meals from the internet, or purchase somebody else’s meal plan, the key is that you’ll have a game plan going into the grocery store. That means you won’t be buying a bunch of random crap that does you no good and is expensive to boot.
Most people have a hard time controlling their food spending each month. Getting a high-quality meal plan will help you go into the grocery store with a specific list of nutritional foods each and every week. That consistency will help keep you from overspending on low quality foods, and the high-quality meals you’ll be making will help sustain you for longer periods of time. This is key to avoiding expensive secondary searcher meals and random restaurant runs.
I’m here to help you achieve your financial goals, and I hope these insights into how we do meal plans will help you. Let us know in the comments below if this helps you and what you’re doing to save money on food.