Plan Meals to Save Money
Monthly menu planning can curb food waste, improve nutrition, and save money.
Imagine bringing home eight bags of groceries and throwing two straight in the trash. It sounds crazy—but Americans do it all the time. Statistics vary, but some estimates have us tossing as much as a quarter of the food we buy.
A healthy plan
Menu planning is one strategy to cut down on that waste and improve our diets at the same time. “Planning can make a huge positive difference,” says Toby Smithson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago. “People make healthier choices when they plan.”
A month at a time
Monthly menu planning is easier that it might seem. “I found that our family was enjoying similar meals each week and that I could easily shop and plan for several weeks at one time,” says Jessica Fisher, a monthly food-planning advocate and blogger. Fisher, who has been planning menus a month at a time for nearly 10 years, recommends starting with a paper or electronic calendar. She first fills in special occasions, regular taco or pasta nights, and other favorites. By the time she fills in the standards, she is often halfway done.
Cut calories, trim waste, save time
Fisher says planning ahead saves her time because she can buy in bulk, cut down on shopping trips, curb impulse buying, and resist eating out. Lindsie Lizotte, who writes a blog from her home in Littleton, Colo., agrees. “I always know what is for dinner, I know what is in my fridge, and I know how much money I have to spend each week,” she says.
If plotting a whole month seems like too much regiment, Smithson suggests starting with a week. You can always build in nights for dining out. You also can leave nights open for flexibility. Last, don’t overlook food storage. Much of our food gets tossed because it spoils or expires. When you store food properly and use the most perishable items first, you’ll waste less.