Food costs have risen overall by 10 percent over the past few months and the experts are predicting that they will continue to escalate over the coming year. With this in mind, the benefits of menu planning as a way to cut the cost of your food shopping bill cannot be underestimated.
Menu planning will ensure that you do not misjudge the amount of food you are going to need. If you buy too much then the chances are that anything fresh will perish before it gets eaten, too little and you may find yourself having to run to the local shops to top up, which could work out more expensive, not only in terms of the price of food but the gas you will use getting there and back.
Before you start on your menu plan set yourself a weekly food shopping budget. Next, compile your menu planner; not forgetting to check what ingredients you already have in your pantry. It’s easy to forget about food that has gotten pushed to the back of the cupboard, fridge, or freezer, and you don’t want to arrive home with 2kg of rice and four family-size bags of pasta when you’ve already got enough for six months worth of meals at home.
Then, make a list of meals, like this one-pot pasta dish, keeping in mind what ingredients you already have available. Can you make a meal out of the ingredients you already have or do you need to buy more items to complete the meal? Next, add up the anticipated cost of the items you need to purchase. This will help you keep within your allocated budget. If what you need to buy is greater than your budget then adjust the menu accordingly.
Check for any money off vouchers or coupons that you may have, or what offers the supermarket have on that week, and adjust your menu planner accordingly. For example, if you have planned to cook a chicken and pasta dish, but minced beef is half price then change that meal to meatballs with pasta.
Menu planning will also allow you to put meals together that use some of the same common ingredients. So, for example in the same week, you could plan on making spinach and ricotta lasagne, a spinach and potato tart, and a cheesecake.
Knowing what you will eat for dinner that night also helps to avoid situations where you may opt for a take away, simply because nobody has a clue what they want to eat! Take away – even once every week – can add up to astronomical amounts over the course of a year. Let’s say an average take-out meal costs $50.00 for a family of four, that’s $200 a month – and a massive $2400 a year!
Finally, not only will menu planning save you money, it will also save you time as well as enabling you to put together a menu that is varied and interesting, and contains all the nutrients that you and your family need to stay healthy.