Last time, we kicked off a series introducing the concept of meal planning.
Not that this is unfamiliar territory to anyone, but I’m always surprised when people don’t do it and then wonder why their diet is lacking, or why they are scrambling at dinner time, or worse, eating fast food and being frustrated with themselves.
Meal planning, like anything else, takes effort and routine to start, but once you get it started and set up as a part of your system, it flows. And simplifies your life.
So, where to start?
Not surprisingly, many people start with a meal planning software that emails them a menu – full of choices that don’t fit their time, budget, or family tastes. Other people start with their cookbook. These seem logical, right? You need to know what you want to make before you go to the grocery store?
Both of these are great places, but they aren’t the starting point, in my opinion.
The starting point is the budget. You need to know what you typically spend on groceries. Is it excessive? Is it low? Just right for your income level? Only you know. And you need to know what you have available to spend on groceries.
Take the time to determine how much you can actually afford to spend on groceries for a month.
Then take the time to track your spending. The length of time that you track depends on how often you shop. I shop one big trip per month with one or two small trips for milk and perishables. Tracking for me took a few months. Many people shop weekly. If this is you, I’d recommend tracking for a month. **In this tracking, you’ll need to include restaurant expenses, as well.
Then compare the two – what you can afford to spend versus what you are actually spending.
Are you on plan? Or do you need to adjust? You should know where you are with your expenditures before can make your shopping list.
When I first started looking at my grocery expenses, I was shocked. SHOCKED. (I have an affinity for novelty, specialty items that can get pricey…)
During this time, I’d also recommend that you practice making meal plans to get yourself in the habit. Especially if you don’t shop often. We’ll tweak the process later.
Next time? Step two. And nope, we’re still not making the shopping list yet. It’s a process. Good processes take time, but once implemented will save time (and money). Promise.
In Light & Love