A meal plan literally saved us thousands.
Yes, you read that correctly. Thousands! Nearly nine-thousand in fact!
At the time, you absolutely could not have convinced me that having a meal plan would save us one dollar, much less nine-thousand.
I was couponing, matching them with the sales, and stockpiling. In my mind, I was doing all the right things! No way could I save more!!
Boy was I in for a rude awakening!
At that time, we were spending $700-800 per month on groceries and household products for a family of four. There was no real plan for the food that I did buy, so a good portion of it ended up in the trash, and we ended up in a restaurant spending another $500-600 per month eating out!
That's about $15k per year combined...on food! I still look at that number and blink repeatedly in disbelief.
Enter job changes while following God's call and BLAM! Our income went from $43k per year to $22k.
The good Lord just loves shoving me out of my comfort zone.
I can recall few things in my life that kicked me in the rear quite as hard as losing half our income. There were moments I remember thinking we were going to lose everything.
We didn't have a lot of debt - no credit cards, no car loans, etc. - but our mortgage would have to be paid and that was no small thing. Losing our home was something that I wanted to avoid if at all possible.
I was forced to make some drastic changes. We no longer had the option to spend $700-800 on groceries every month, and we certainly didn't have the option to eat out multiple times per week.
Something had to give!
We did quite a few things to cut our expenses, but without a doubt, our food spending was the biggest cut. Admittedly, my attitude about it was pretty pathetic. I like eating out. I like eating good food that I don’t have to cook. I didn’t want to stop!
I'll do whatever God requires of me, and I was prepared to do it then, but I wasn't particularly fond of the plan. I mean, if Jesus can ask God to "take this cup from me" (Luke 22:42) then I figured I could too.
And I did….a lot! I begged and pleaded and whined and kicked and screamed and wallowed and generally acted and thought like a 2 year old throwing a tantrum sometimes.
Thank you God for grace!
God had a plan and, like it or not, I had to get used to it.
I picked myself up off the ground, stopped the woe-is-me suffering of Job act, and got my butt in gear. I knew I had a lot of work to do if my family was going to eat anything more than rice and beans.
There was a decent stockpile of food and other supplies from my couponing, but it wasn’t going to last forever.
So I pulled out a notebook, took inventory of what I had, and started to meal plan around what was already in the freezer and pantry. We had what some would consider strange meals sometimes, but we ate, and God provided.
Since then our monthly grocery and household items budget has dropped to $350-$450, and I have our meal plan to thank for it.
We rarely eat out and when we do we have budgeted for it well in advance. It's no longer a spontaneous "I just don't feel like cooking" decision. That just isn't an option so we don't even consider it.
Even eating out is an exercise in "spend as little as possible." We will go to places that the kids can eat free - Denny's is a favorite - or where we can get a lot for less - Wendy's & Cookout. I can feed all four of us at these places for around $10. That's doable, at least on occasion. It's definitely not a habit.
Side Note: If you’re at a place where you have to make do with what you have on hand already then I highly recommend heading over to http://myfridgefood.com/ . You can check off all of the ingredients that you have and the site will give you a huge list of recipes that you can make with those ingredients. This site has saved my butt many a times!
Why A Meal Plan Saves Money
Having a meal plan has helped me save money in a number of ways:
- I buy less impulsively, which means I stay on budget. I have a list and I have tunnel vision with it!
- I waste less. Everything that I buy has a specific purpose so there's hardly ever anything left unused to spoil or rot.
- I am able to focus on recipes that keep us within our budget rather than just making things we love but are too expensive.
- I am less overwhelmed. When there's less in the cabinets, and a plan in place, I don't even really have to think about meals. That saves me both time and sanity!
- I save hundreds of dollars that I would otherwise spend on fast food and eating out. I am rarely stressed about dinner preparation, and if I am, it's because I dropped the ball and didn't plan as I should have.
Over the next four days I will be sharing the meal planning system that I use every week to keep us within our budget.
I'll also be sharing some free printables to help you get started making a meal plan for yourself!
Here's a sneak peak!
Do you struggle with creating a meal plan?
What are the obstacles you're facing?
Please share in the comments! Let's help each other!