Do you eat “grab and go” foods more often than you should? The ease and convenience of fast food or takeout can wreck your budget. Frequently eating these foods, which are often loaded with salt and calories, may also have negative health impacts.
If you would like to cook at home more often, both for savings and health reasons, meal planning may be a helpful option. Keep these tips in mind:
- Learn the basics. If cooking isn’t your strength, ask a friend or family member for lessons. There are also plenty of free instructional videos or simple recipes available online.
- Cook what you like. Focus on recipes that you (or your family) will eat. If you have limited cooking skills, work on expanding your repertoire over time.
- Make a meal plan. Each week, list the meals you want to make, how many portions each meal will yield, and what ingredients will be needed. Use this plan to create your grocery list so you can stay on track at the store. If a fixed meal plan feels too rigid, build in a bit of flexibility or schedule “free spaces” a couple times a week.
- Buy in bulk. If you eat certain foods frequently, it may make sense to buy larger packages at a discount. Staple ingredients such as beans, rice, and pasta can be stored in airtight containers for use over time. Breaking large packages of meat into smaller batches that you can freeze for later will also cut costs.
- Go meat-free once a week. Try a salad, vegetarian pasta, or casserole on “Meatless Monday” — or any other day of the week!
- Plan for snacks. Snacks are often a forgotten aspect of meal planning. It’s cheaper to buy snacks in bulk and keep them stashed in your desk or pantry than it is to buy single serve from a vending machine. Choose healthy snacks, such as vegetables, fruits, or nuts whenever possible.
- Challenge yourself. Expand your list of meal planning options by trying a new recipe or menu item once in a while.