How to save time and energy using meal planning

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I stood at the checkout, nervously watching as the total climbed, hoping it would match the tally in my head. I handed over the precious bills from a dog-eared envelope marked “Groceries”, the steadily reducing amount scrawled on the front read $140, $120, $100, $80. We were down to our last dollars. We’d been paid everything we were owed and there was no new work in the pipeline. We had a nine-month-old at home and a mortgage to pay. Times were stressful, very stressful.

The one relief was that, as I left the supermarket to take the groceries home, I knew I had enough to feed my family for the week. Come what may, I had that comfort. I had that comfort because I had a plan. I’d meticulously planned our meals for the week to match our diminished budget. From there, I’d made a list of exactly what we needed, no more, no less.

While I started meal planning out of financial necessity, five years later, with our cashflow woes long behind us, it continues to be a weekly ritual. Why do I still bother? These days, it’s less about peace of mind and more about taking a load off my mind.

Meal planning saves me time and money, but most of all it saves me from that dreaded task of trying to think up something to cook for dinner every night. If you are looking for an easy win to simplify your life, it’s meal planning. It’s not rocket science, but there are definitely some traps you want to avoid and some tricks to make it easier.

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A frugal shopping challenge dishes up dividends

Confession time: I’m an over-buyer when it comes to food.

I treat grocery shopping like a guilt-free weekly shopping spree rather than gathering essentials. You always need food, right? Who am I fooling? With my weekly food bill creeping up, and my pantry and freezer full, an intervention was needed.

I took the $21 challenge – you choose an aspect of your weekly food shop (or the whole thing!) and put a $21 limit on it. The aim is to get creative with what you already have to meet most of your grocery needs. I chose to set myself a $21 limit for dinners for my family of three for a week.

What I bought and what we ate

I usually spend around $200 a week for my entire grocery shop. I spent $147.16, saving around $50.

$21 challenge, food waste, #foodwastefriday, frugal shopping, budgeting
I spent $17.01 on ingredients for dinners for the week – this is what I brought.

I spent $17.01 on ingredients for dinner for three people for seven days. From these ingredients, and what I already had in the house, I made the following meals:

Continue reading “A frugal shopping challenge dishes up dividends”