HOW MEAL PLANNING CAN SAVE YOU MONEY - PART 2 HOW TO MEAL PLAN
In part 1, we talked about how much money you can actually save by simply eating at home and meal planning. We also addressed how you can reach your goals faster and avoid unneeded calories and potentially harmful ingredients that can cause food sensitivities, bloating, and high salt intake.
In part 2, we are going to dive into the real, practical, and helpful tips on how to go about meal planning. This is going to help you to avoid the traps that many of us fall into on the beginning of our journeys with meal prepping, as well as how to become natural at it in no time.
MAKE THE HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE OF FOODS THAT YOU LOVE
Here is the great part of meal planning in the 21st century, you have so many useful tools at your disposal. Get meal planning ideas and recipes on sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Google so you know exactly what you want to prepare for the week and how much you need.
If you think you aren’t creative with your food, a lot of food blogging websites will have already created dishes that excite you, for you to simply recreate. The best part is that most of the recipes are easy to follow and require minimal ingredients. Another great idea is to google the food you would like to make such as “Tacos” followed behind with “healthy alternative;” or if you have food sensitivities or dietary preferences type in “healthy vegan tacos” or “healthy gluten-free tacos” and watch Google do the work for you.
Below is a list of food blogging websites and books that I have found extremely helpful and inspiring that you may end up loving as well:
• True Comfort by Kristin Cavallari
• Forks Over Knives Cook Book
GO TO THE GROCERY STORE READY WITH A LIST
Plan a head of time what you are going to prepare for the week or two weeks and how much you need. So before you head to the local grocery store, have a list with exactly what would need to get as well as how much. This way you can actually estimate the cost ahead of time on how much you might spend. If it totals too high, you can always modify something on your list.
Two big tips to save you money in the long run when it comes to grocery shopping.
1.) Never go grocery shopping hungry. We can all recall a memory of not having time to eat, running to the store and getting 2 extra bags of snacks, an oven baked pizza, and some treats that we never needed in the first place because we were in our hungry mode.
2.) Start paying attention to where is the best place to buy your seafood and meats, and where is the best place to buy your fruits and vegetables. For example, you can buy 4 frozen filets of salmon from Target for $20 or two giant slabs of fresh salmon that will give you roughly 20 pieces for $20. A lot of Farmers Markets will have vegetables for super cheap and extremely fresh versus the price at convenient grocery stores. Knowing where to shop can save you money and enhance the taste of your dishes.
3.) Cut coupons. This doesn’t sound thrilling, I know. An easy way to do this is to go through magazines and newspapers as soon as it comes in the mail, toss what you don’t need and put the coupons in a drawer or folder. Only keep the coupons you would actually use. Before you go to the store, look through the drawer.
4.) Buy in bulk when you can, especially if it is a good deal. Freeze what you won’t use immediately. This will save you from running to the grocery store down the road, saving you time and money. You can put extra chicken, salmon, or meat in general as well as fruits and vegetables into the freezer to preserve their freshness for longer.
INVEST IN SOME NICE TUPPERWARE
Do yourself a favor and go out and buy some nice tupperware for yourself. You are investing in your health, mind and body, and you deserve it. It will make meal planning that much more enjoyable trust me.
You can find nice sets of containers for low prices especially online at sites such as Amazon or stores like Marshalls. A tip that I would offer is to buy glass tupperware. This will last you longer, eliminate the potential for bacteria build up over time and the harmful components of plastic. Most importantly, you can microwave your meal in the glass without having to remove it from the container.
TWO WAYS TO MEAL PLAN
There are two ways that you can go about meal planning that you may have never realized before. Do what works best for you. Keep in mind that this process may change and that is okay. You may prefer to do method 1 one month, and then method 2 the next month.
So let’s jump into it. Method one is cooking all of your meals and putting them into containers individually. For example, you put a cup of brown rice, a bit of broccoli and 4 oz of chicken into a container with a small container or homemade lemon aioli sauce on the side. When it is time for your meal you just grab your container and it’s ready to go for you.
Method two is to cook all of your food exactly as you would in method one for the same amount of portions. For example, cook enough rice for 5 meals aka 5 cups, 5 chicken breasts, and a large portion of broccoli and sweet potatoes to split into 5 meals. Then store each food in their own containers. This way you can mix and match foods as you would like. You don’t have to eat the same food each day throughout the week this way. One day you can put chicken, sweet potato and mixed vegetables together. The next meal you can have salmon sweet potato and broccoli. This way is a little more flexible so you can eat what you are in the mood for.
A bonus method is to use method two to cook standard foods in bulk such as rice, vegetables, sweet potato, cut up fruits, etc. Then make some more unique meals such as vegan tacos, healthy wraps, etc. using method one already pre put together. This way, you can have the best of both worlds for the week.
ALWAYS HAVE OPTIONS AT HAND
When you start meal planning, don’t forget to incorporate some healthy snacks throughout the day. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to snack then don’t worry about it; but if you’re like most people, myself included, snacking is something that keeps our appetite on track. Always have options at hand so you don’t cave on foods that can set back your progress. This way you won’t feel guilty later from eating a bag of Doritos or Oreos in a moment of hunger because nothing was ready to grab and munch on.
Below is a list of some healthy snacks that you might consider keeping on hand for yourself:
• Nut mix You can get store bought or make your mix yourself. For me, I put together unsalted/unoiled nuts such as cashews, almonds, macadamias, and pecans, with dried banana chips, and dark chocolate covered almonds. You can also add dried cranberries or other items you enjoy. Just be careful to not add too many dried fruits. Activated, non-salt/non-oiled nuts will help you avoid that bloated feeling after eating nuts that you can sometimes get.
• Cut up fruits or mixed berried already washed and in containers.
• Homemade granola bar such as the ones on running on real foods website.
• Protein balls
• Protein powders to make a shake (Option to add banana and some almond milk, maybe even spinach)
• Quest bars, Go Macro bars, Power Crunch bars, One bars, etc.
• Celery already cut up and washed to dip into a nut butter.
• Carrots and cucumbers pre cut up to dip into hummus.
To repeat what was previous mentioned in part 1, keep a money jar. Each time you would normally go out to eat but eat a meal at home instead put how much you would typically spend into the jar. Repeat this every time you didn’t go out to eat. At the end of the month, count how much you saved. To reward yourself for your effort, an option is to treat yourself with 1/4 of the savings and put the rest into your actual savings. Write down how much you saved at the end of each month. Then at the end of the year count your yearly total savings from your commitment.
Cooking at home also allows you to make an experience out of it by lighting some candles, playing some music, and making a night of it. If you have a significant other, this can become a ritual that brings you closer and becomes the highlights of your week. Have fun with this process, it is meant to be enjoyable.
TIEING IT ALL TOGETHER
We are going to recap everything that we have gone over in part one and part two. Meal planning can save you upwards to $3,500 a year. It can also help you avoid consuming an excess of calories and unnecessary salt intake throughout the week which benefits your health and brings you closer to your fitness goals.
Don’t forget to find a balance though. Have fun with this process. Go out to eat when you want to treat yourself but make meals that you enjoy at home to have the majority of the time. Also make the process enjoyable and savor cooking at home by having date nights either by yourself, with a friend, or your significant other.