Save Money This Year with Menu Planning

Terri Carr

Photo by Fábio Alves on Unsplash

If you really want to save money on food costs, there’s one surefire way to do it. Menu planning.

‘Thanks, Captain Obvious!’ you might be saying right now.

Sure it sounds obvious. Yet, studies have revealed that Americans routinely throw away up to 40% of their groceries. I’ve certainly been guilty of this.

A lot of us think we don’t make home cooked meals as often as we’d like because we’d just rather do other things with our time and attention. But is that the real reason?

Some people argue that the time you need to order and pick up a takeout order or eat at a restaurant is actually about the same as what you would spend on prep, eating and cleanup. When you think about it, cooking homemade meals doesn’t really take that much time compared to eating out. When you add in the money savings, cooking at home is a no brainer.

Let’s look at what really prevents you from making food from scratch.


Not a good cook?

Solution: Rely on a 15 minute recipes kind of cookbook. My favorites right now are The McDougalls Quick and Easy Cookbook and The Everything Vegan Cookbook, both of which contain over 300 easy recipes. This week I’ll be enjoying Chickpea Salad Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Latkes and ‘Chicken’ Banh Mi Sandwiches, among other dishes. As you might have guessed, I am a vegetarian and sometime vegan, but you can use whatever recipe sources work for you.

I can vouch for them both of the above mentioned cookbooks. And while the recipes claim that most dishes can be made in 15 minutes or less, they are talking about prep time, not cooking time. The total time start to finish will often be more than 30 minutes. Although some of the recipes rely on canned beans, tomatoes and frozen veggies, these ingredients are usually combined with fresh veggies to balance things out.


Cooking for one but don’t want to cook several times a week or eat the same thing repeatedly.


Use your freezer to keep meals fresh for the following week. Make a batch of soup, eat it once or twice and freeze the rest for next week or the week after.


You like really delicious food that requires more culinary skill than you have.


Take a cooking class. The investment will pay off over time. Also, plan to adapt your tastebuds to healthier homemade foods. The reason many of us like restaurant food more than homemade is because commercially prepared foods almost always contain an excess of salt, sugar, oils and chemicals you cannot pronounce. If you have any doubts, check out for the scoop on what many huge food chains use in their food. Many so-called foods that taste good going down are taking a gradual toll on your health.


You don’t think you have the time or necessary focus for all that shopping and food prep.


Think of it this way. Handling and preparing food is not a skill possessed only by talented chefs. It is an innate human skill that has allowed us to survive. There is a reason we have the amazing hand structure we do. We are designed to cut food, stir, pour. Trust me you can do it!

You may think you can’t boil water, but if you had no other way to eat, you would figure out some of the basics. All of the trips you make to Starbucks and various eateries to get ready made food is using your time and energy too. By slowing down and taking time to prepare your own food, you will benefit from less rushing around and you will feel better too.

The best reward of all

You will suddenly find extra money in your bank account and you will find out how much you really spend on food.

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I write fun, inspiring stories about food, travel and yoga.


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