Meal Planning

I do a lot of writing — and a lot of reading — for my personal finance blog. During the process, I’m exposed to all sorts of ideas: some old, some new.

One new idea (to me) that Kris and I have adopted is once-a-month shopping. According to Steve and Annette Economides of America’s Cheapest Family, their family has gone grocery shopping only once per month for the past 25 years. When Kris and I read this last fall, we agreed to give it a try, but with a slight alteration. We’ve been trying twice a month shopping. Now that I’ve finally broken my habit of “quick trips to the store”, it seems to be working well.

Meanwhile, I recently read Tracy Rimmer’s free e-book, More Month Than Money: Tightening Your Food Budget While Feeding Your Family Well [356k PDF]. One of Rimmer’s tips is to devise a meal plan. She writes:

Meal planning is becoming a lost art…But planning can take a little of the rush out of the equation. Having a planned menu that we can work from can streamline our meal preparation time, and save us money at the grocery store checkout.

Kris and I have been talking about the notion of meal planning for the past couple of weeks. It appeals to us, and for a variety of reasons.

  • First, meal planning could help us actually eat the food we’ve already purchased (or grown). We have a huge pile of beef in the freezer, and we don’t use it often enough.
  • Second, meal planning would help us save money by fitting well with our already-practiced twice-a-month shopping plan.
  • Next, meal planning would help me to eat healthier meals. I’m a creature of habit, and I tend to just do what’s easiest. Easiest is rarely healthy. With meal planning, I could thwart my bad habits.
  • Finally, meal planning would allow us to try more recipes. We both like to cook, but we don’t do it as often as we’d like. Again, we’re creatures of habit. We tend to make the same things over and over. Meal planning would allow us to explore a little.

Last night, Kris and I spent ten minutes drawing up a tentative meal plan. We’re sure that this will change as we test it, but this is what we’re going to start with:

  • Monday: Beef (tacos, hamburgers, steaks, roasts, etc.)
  • Tuesday: Italian (pasta, pizza, etc.)
  • Wednesday: Crudités, by which we actually mean fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese, olives, etc.
  • Thursday: Dining out (it’s Kris’s Friday!)
  • Friday: Chicken or fish (we’d both like to eat more fish than we do)
  • Saturday: Dining out
  • Sunday: Soup or salad

We intend to be flexible, of course. If we get an invitation to dine out on Tuesday, we’ll dine out on Tuesday. If we have leftover tacos from Monday, we might eat those on Thursday instead of going out. And I forgot it last night, but we need to try something Asian at least every two weeks!

Anyhow, it may be that many people already do meal planning, but I get the impression that it’s not very common. I know Mom used to do it when we were young, and so did many of her friends, but that may have been something encouraged by the Mormon church. I’m not aware of anyone our age who does it. (Although, again, I wouldn’t be surprised if some families did.)

Will meal planning save us money? Help me lose weight? Become an incredible bore? Only time will tell.