Many families are seeking easy ways to save time and save money. One spending category that can easily be adjusted to save money is dining expenses. By following these simple suggestions, you will not only save money on dining, but you will also save time with savvy planning.
These suggestions are going to require you to cook at home (meals prepared at home are much more frugal than meals prepared by a restaurant) so if your family is accustomed to lots of take-out or dining out in restaurants, it will require much more determination and discipline on your part in order to make these changes that will save money for your family. However, even changing your habits to cook one or two meals per week at home instead of getting take-out will help you save money.
Step 1 of Family Menu Planning to Save Time and Save Money
Write out a list of meals that your family likes and that you already know how to cook. Obviously, you’ll want to focus on meals that you already know are inexpensive, but don’t be afraid to include a few ‘splurge’ meals (for example, steak or seafood). If you completely deprive yourself of your favorites, you are less likely to stick with the plan and save money.
Step 2 of Family Menu Planning to Save Time and Save Money
Working off your list from Step 1, create a weekly meal plan. As an example, here is my personal weekly meal plan (I only include the main dish; sides are variable):
Sunday – Indian Style Curry
Monday – Cheeseburgers
Tuesday – Pizza
Wednesday – Thai Style Curry
Thursday – Spaghetti and Meatballs
Friday – Chicken
Saturday – Free for All (everyone has leftovers or makes their own dinner) or BFD (Breakfast for Dinner)
You should cater your plan to your family’s preferences and tolerances. For example, my family doesn’t mind having the same thing for dinner every Monday night. This makes Monday night cooking extremely easy for me – a bonus for the first day of the work week. Your family may place a high value on variety. You can still create some kind of rotation schedule based on a main ingredient or food type, as I have done for my Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday selections. When I get tired of cooking something or my family groans “This for dinner AGAIN?” I know it is time to change my menu rotation.
This is where the list from Step 1 comes in handy. You can just pull whatever meal doesn’t work for you anymore out of rotation, and replace it with one from your list. If you have enough recipes, you can also make several weekly plans and rotate those to allow for variety. Having pre-made plans to use will really help save time because you will never wonder what to fix for dinner – you’ll already know what’s on the menu and have all the ingredients you need when you follow the next step of Family Menu Planning to Save Time and Save Money.
Step 3 of Family Menu Planning to Save Time and Save Money
Create a master shopping list which contains all of the ingredients necessary to cook the meals on your weekly menu plan. Even if you have a variable menu selection (such as “Thai curry”), you should be able to include some of the basic ingredients on your list. If you have multiple weekly plans, create a master list for each week. You can do this on your computer or hand write and photo copy your list. Having these lists readily available will save time when it is time to go shopping.
Before you go shopping, always take a quick check of your cupboards to see what you have in stock. Place a check mark next to the items you already have (but don’t cross them off yet). Now you’re ready to use your list and save money at the grocery store.
Step 4 of Family Menu Planning to Save Time and Save Money
When you go shopping, purchase two times the amount of the items on your list or, if you have multiple plans, the items on two different weekly plan grocery lists. In other words, enough for two weeks of menu plans. Of course, only purchase perishables if they will last that long. Cross things off your list as you put them in your cart.
While shopping, always be on the look-out for marked down items, special sales, or clearance goods for items that are on your shopping list. When you find a good sale, stock up with as many of that particular item as you can store, afford, and use in a timely manner. (It doesn’t save money if you buy it only to throw it away!) Over time, doing this will be your biggest way to save money on groceries, and it requires very little effort on your part since you are in the store already. It will also save time because you will have more ingredients on hand in the future, which means less shopping.
These steps will save time and save money only if you use them regularly. They are simple and require just a small amount of time invested at the beginning to save you lots of money and time in the future. Best of all, anyone can use this plan to save money on their dining expenses. It isn’t necessary to clip coupons or read weekly sales flyers in order to save money at the grocery store – although if you enjoy these activities, feel free to do them and see if you can save even more money.