Shrewd Food: Tips to Save Time, Money & Energy on Meal Planning, Prep


My hubby recently got an email from the student loan office. They are compiling a med student cookbook with inexpensive recipes and money-saving tips for food budgets. It has gotten me thinking about the things I have done to better manage our food bill and waste. As a stay-at-home Mom, I most often contribute financially by saving money through efficient household management—and one of the biggies in that department is food!

Here are some tips to help you avoid waste, and save time, money and energy on meal preparation:

First off, don't be pregnant in your first trimester and plan on cutting back on your grocery bill! ;) Haha. I say that only half-joking . . . I know the first few months of being pregnant are really a struggle for me in the kitchen (the smells!) and with food. When something sounds good, that is what I eat—I don't care that it costs four times the cost of a home-cooked meal would cost for the whole family. I just buy it, and I eat it. It's terrible, I know. But the last few weeks, I've really gotten back on the saddle of meal preparation. :)

Cooking meals from scratch saves your family money and is healthier too. You should incorporate home cooked meals wherever and whenever possible. Cooking from scratch does cost time—so, doing it efficiently is important. This lady has a pretty impressive system. But, for now with a little one, I like mine—which I will explain more about below.

Make a meal plan and stick with it! I make our meal plans for 15-day periods, (because that is how we budget our money.) For every two weeks, I plan on preparing 8-10 meals. At least one night a week, we eat a meal from the freezer, and the other nights are either filled with leftovers, breakfast for dinner or on the rare occasion, dinner out on the town. Making the meal plan and the coordinating grocery list makes grocery shopping much more focused. I rarely buy something that isn’t on my list. And we waste very little food because every food item has a plan.

I do a major grocery shopping trip every two weeks and a much smaller one for filler ingredients on the off weeks:

  • My week #1 grocery shopping list includes all fresh produce necessary for the first week, everything else non-perishable, freezable, and/or shelf-stable for the next two weeks.
  • My week #2 grocery shopping list includes all fresh produce/ingredients necessary for the second week that would have spoiled if purchased earlier, and milk or eggs as needed for the following week.

This is going to sound counter-intuitive to saving money, but I'm going to say it anyway: if you can afford one and you can make some space for one, buy an extra freezer. Our chest freezer only costs us about $30 to power for the whole year, and saves us incalculable amounts of money (and time) by allowing us to buy more food items in bulk and/or on sale. It also allows us to freeze extra leftovers.

We love our chest freezer—especially when it is well-stocked. :)

Buying in bulk is a great way to save money on food—especially on meat. We have recently discovered Zaycon Foods for bulk meat purchases. They sell all-natural, high-quality, fresh never frozen meat and fish at great prices by the case. We just bought a case of chicken from them and couldn’t believe how many breasts we got for what we paid. We plan to do as many of our meat purchases with them in the future as possible.

If you purchase a chest freezer, I also recommend you purchase a couple Costco-sized boxes of Ziploc brand quart and gallon-sized freezer bags. I have found that by not skimping on the quality of the freezer bags we purchase, that my food is very rarely (if ever) freezer-burned.


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