Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is Meal Planning My Ticket?

I've been ashamed of my food spending for the past few months. I budget $50/week for food and have easily blown through more than a quarter of that budget with my work day breakfast purchases, alone.

Shout out to Panera Bread. I love your hazelnut coffee (w/skim milk) and cinnamon swirl and raisin bagels, toasted with no cream cheese or butter.

Any who, I've laid out my spending through the end of the year using my new budget template, noting that I'll be using my new rewards credit card (and maintaining the tradition of paying the balance in full), and trying to plan for upcoming expenses, such as a weekend trip to the Big Apple.

In an effort to restore my ability to "respect the budget", I know I have to do a better job of sticking to my $50/week food budget. And I'm wondering if meal planning is the way to go. Frankly, I have not been a model for eating meals that are nourishing or financially responsible. I won't go into any great detail about the $20+ I spent for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory a week or two ago...or about the beer and banana chips I ate for "dinner" last night, but I know I have to spend a reasonable amount (i.e. not $20+/meal) and it should be good for me (ex. add veggies, protein, and maybe better carbs to my beer).

This is where meal planning comes in. I've heard about it here and there, I know that it involves me making a list of stuff I want to eat for the next week, and making sure that my grocery list allows for some flexibility around core items, but frankly, I've never done it. The closest I've come to meal planning is whipping out a grocery store circular and buying only what's on sale. I wouldn't say that peanut butter, cantaloupe and pork chops constitutes a meal, but at least I spent less on such purchases =)

Have you successfully used meal planning to manage your finances and to ensure you eat balanced meals? What has worked best for you? I appreciate your insight!

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