Meal Planning Can Give You Your Dream Budget

If you like to budget, chances are good that you already like to plan

Welcome. If you’re here for a 5-star meal idea, and a way to satisfy your family and friends with your killer combination of spices and flavor creations, you should probably just leave. Like, right now. Because I’m a terrible cook.

And if you’re awful at cooking (like me), it makes things even harder when you have to try and make something out of nothing. AKA, one can of corn, 18 bags of pasta, wheat thins galore, and adobo sauce. I mean, adobo sauce? Who am I trying to kid?

However, I recently felt like I had been spending more on groceries but was still unable to make quick meals that were budget-worthy. So I took it 12-steps further (because I’m me) and calculated what I’ve spent on meals eaten out so far this year.

Let’s just say it’s more than we’ve spent on groceries.

Although I am absolutely awesome at making my lunches for work 5 out of 5 days *pats self on back*, I always despise dinner time. Because honestly, at that point in my day – I’m more interested in eating to survive.

THE BEGINNING OF THE TRIAL RUN

One chilly October weekday, I decided to plan my meals. We went to the grocery store after work on Monday and picked up everything we need. I even went as far as becoming a complete genius and using ingredients in multiple dishes so that we SERIOUSLY saved money (and when I put words in capslock I mean them).

Of course I can’t be a complete genius all the time, and hardcore failed when I tried to make these delicious Smashed Chickpea, Avocado + Quinoa Lettuce Wraps (more words equals more goodness).

Quinoa: check Chickpeas: check Lime: check Lettuce: check Ripe avocados: NOPE

Let’s be honest, we all suck at picking avocados (okay fine, it’s just me), so when I went to go and cut one in half and somehow managed to cut through the core and was unable to even remove the delicious insides – I was fuming. You should know by now that it doesn’t take much for me to become dramatic.

My husband suggested we go to the grocery store and grab some ripe avocados so that I could still make the same meal. But being the frugal superstar that I am, I immediately got defensive and said: “I’M NOT PAYING FOR MORE AVOCADOS BUDDY”.

I stomped back to the kitchen to reread the recipe. Avocado was the main ingredient. Was I just going to smash some chickpeas, throw in some lime juice, and toss it in some lettuce? Probably. If I lived alone.

But I don’t. And I didn’t think I’d be winning any wifey points with that recipe. So instead, I added every vegetable we had in the fridge to the smashed chickpeas, mixed it all together, and then the Gordon Ramsay came out in me and I was like “Chickpea burgers with lettuce for the bun! I am a MasterChef”.

Yeah, you can be impressed.

In the end they turned out to be pretty good, but this scenario also made me realize, even meal planning has its possible downfalls (if you’re me).

Although, let’s get one thing straight: this small downfall (being my terrible cooking skills) does not outweigh all of the benefits of meal-planning.

I’M INTO IT

Meal-planning allows you to stick to a strict budget, prevents the stress or anxiety of trying to decide on dinner after a long day at work, and definitely contributes to that healthy living we're all trying to be apart of.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, let me try even harder at becoming saleswoman of the year through my best tips and tricks for meal-planning.

  • Have a meal-planning calendar

Sometimes a visual tool is best, and a calendar allows you the opportunity to see what’s going on that week, ensuring your plans are realistic. For instance, if I’m working late on Wednesday evening, we could plan to make leftovers from Tuesday’s meal to save time and money.

  • Show your ingredients whose boss

If you’re buying a more expensive ingredient, consider using it throughout multiple meals each week. For example, avocados are not cheap where I’m from, so it was easy to plan a taco night, vegetarian chili, and lettuce wraps for one week. I could also use my sour cream in those meals as well because otherwise we wouldn’t normally finish the container before its expiration date.

  • Split the workload

If you’re like literally every other couple in the entire universe, you struggle to decide what you want to eat. Every. Single. Day. Meal planning takes some of the edge off by giving you both multiple nights to choose a dinner plan, and also allows you to split the prep work. If you know you’re supposed to chop the vegetables for a stir-fry, and your partner is supposed to make the sauce, dinner can become a fun part of your relationship instead of a chore.

If you like to budget, chances are good that you already like to plan. And if you like to plan, you’ll love that you get to wait and see what deals are going down at the local grocery store. Never has it become more appropriate to celebrate about a sale on kale (rhyming was necessary, thanks for asking). You get to choose how much you tighten the belt on that grocery budget each week. Challenge yourself!

Do you meal plan? What is your favorite part about it? Let me know in the comments!

PS - Looking for more Mixed Up Money? I don't blame you.

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