How to save time and energy using meal planning


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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Mantras to stop impulse buying

I’ve decluttered thousands of things from my home. I love it and I want to keep it that way. I’ve also set an audacious financial goal that excites me. Does that make me immune from buying crap on impulse – no!

Financial freedom feels better than any purchased products. Mantras to stop impulse buying. Shopping. Black Friday. Cyber Monday.

Despite all my good intentions, I still find myself in a shop, a prospective purchase in hand (or in my online cart), on the precipice of a not-so-great buying decision.

Occasionally, I slip up and make a random impulse purchase. However, while I’m still tempted – often – my powers of resistance are much improved. Pesky social conventions like actually buying the thing I’ve stood in line for five minutes waiting to purchase are no match for me! So, what’s my secret?

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It’s not a bargain if you bin it

Welcome to Food Waste Friday. This week, I fell victim to the supermarket’s super-marketers.

First, the good news. The system I implemented last week – designating a shelf in the fridge for items that need to be used up ASAP – is working well. All leftovers, half used jars of tomato paste, etc., were used up.

Food waste, Food Waste Friday, shopping
Broccoli to the bin – Food Waste Friday 3 July 2015

The bad news –1 ¼ heads of broccoli in the bin. I went to steam and puree it on Monday (in an attempt to save it) but it was too far gone. This was a clear case of “bargain blinkers”. Broccoli wasn’t on my shopping list, but I couldn’t resist it at a bargain two for $3. Wow, I could save $1 by buying two! So I did, but I barely used any of it – really, I wasted $2 and a lot of broccoli.

I have written before about how my desire to bag a bargain ends up costing me money and my efforts to overcome this. Today, I’m adding a new mantra for the supermarket:

“It’s not a bargain if you bin it.”

Are you a sucker for supermarket multi-buys? How was the food waste situation at your house this week?

Is FOMO ruining your money mojo?

Is FOMO ruining your money mojo?

I get loads of email, loads, and a large chunk of them are advertising. In an effort to save money I’d signed up to receive the latest offers from, well it would seem just about everybody. I follow them on Facebook too, just so I don’t miss out.

It seems that I have a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and it’s costing me money. If you find yourself hovering over the unsubscribe link but feel a sudden angst you may be afflicted too. The good news is, I’m getting past it and I’ve got some tips so that you can too.

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out (on bargains!)

Fear of missing out is something I am sure all of us have experienced in some way at some time. In the age of social media it’s known as FOMO, and is most commonly associated with millenials. Seeing their peers lives played out in real time across Instagram and Twitter, stokes feelings of anxiety and indecision in FOMO suffers who lose enjoyment in what they are doing to constant obsessing over what they might be missing out on.

FOMO in the digital age plays out somewhat differently for me. I’m not afraid of missing the party of the century – I’m afraid of missing the bargain of the century.

In my circles, it’s all about bargains. When we talk buying stuff we talk bargains, savings, deals. I mean what sucker pays full price these days/ When someone says “nice skirt”, what do you reply? NOT “oh thanks, I paid full retail for it”! To keep up I subscribe to emails from all sorts of stores, daily deal and group buying sites.

The price of buying into bargain hunting

 Since the financial crisis of 2008, bargain hunting has really come to the fore. It’s okay to be cheap, in fact it’s kind of insensitive not to be. Marketers keep us buying more by convincing us of the great savings.

In buying into this culture, I’ve created a big problem for myself. You see, I also buy into believing that materialism is not the answer, that mindless over-consumption is ruining our lives and our planet. So yeah, there’s some conflict there. Constantly trying to reconcile it is exhausting.

Over-spending and over-accumulation isn’t the worst part of the problem for me. It’s the self denial! Sure I make the occasional impulse purchase but its not out of control. For the most part I am good at resisting. And that is the problem – the resisting. It takes a lot of energy to resist. These offers are tempting, they lead me to want stuff, to desire stuff, and then deny myself. Over and over again. You can only deny yourself so often and then surely you deserve it, right? Marketers 1, Self 0.

Taking back control of your bargain-hunting

To get out of this cycle of temptation, self denial, capitulation and guilt I needed a new approach. I wanted a way I could shop around online, without ending up just shopping.

From my experience, here are three things you can do to take control of your bargain hunting.

  1. Unsubscribe from email offers and Facebook too!

Remember the old adage “the deal of a lifetime comes along once a week”. How much will you really be missing out on?

Unsubscribing was liberating, but also somewhat angsty. I haven’t unsubscribed from everything. The weekly specials at my supermarket are really handy for meal planning. There are a few places that have genuine sales a few times a year for kids clothes, shoes and toys that I plan around, so I kept those.

Another area of concern for me was missing out on discount vouchers for local family attractions. So instead of voucher sites, which send me all kinds of other offers, I am following the attractions I visit and want to visit directly. They’ll let me know about the deals I want without wasting energy on the other stuff. I did miss out on a half price deal at the zoo the other day – but no great loss and I’m sure there will be another one soon.

  1. Write a shopping list

Yes, the object is to buy less. How does writing a shopping list help? It’s all about getting intentional about your spending. I now have lists for my clothes, major household items, kids clothes and kids equipment. When writing and revising these lists I think about what I need: do I really need it? Do I need it now? What priority is it compared to other things?

Having it written down keeps me focused on my priorities, not those of marketers. I stick to comparing prices for the stuff on the list only (mostly!). Writing the list also gives time for reflection before purchasing – I’ve been surprised that if I just wait it turns out that I don’t need the stuff I thought I needed after all, and I get along just as comfortably without it.

  1. Apply the “stranger test”

The “stranger test” is a quick and easy one to clarify your priorities. If you’re about to make a purchase, especially an impulse purchase, and you have some doubt ask yourself this: If a stranger came and offered me the value of the item I am about to purchase in cash, what would I want – the cash or the item?

Am I over my FOMO? Maybe a little, but not really. Instead I’ve accepted it and in doing so gained some of power back. I’ve acknowledged it as a weak spot and from there developed some simple strategies that, in the face of FOMO, help me keep my money mojo.

Need more help with preventing impulsing buying? Check out my mantras to stop impulse purchases.

Are you a bargain hunter? What strategies do you use to stop yourself over buying?