saving money

How to Meal Plan to Reduce Waste and Save Money

With minimalism, you’ll find that you want to purchase less in every area of your life. Groceries should be no exception. Meal planning not only allows you streamline your dinner time routine, but you can also save tons of money.

Having lived in a minimalist lifestyle for almost two years now, I often find that the grocery store is my downfall. Although we adopted veganism long before we found minimalism I still struggle with purchasing food that we don’t need. The worst part is that now most grocery stores sell everything you could need – toilet paper, cleaning supplies, vitamins, makeup – you name it and they probably sell it.

Dan and I have contemplated the best way to avoid the grocery store as much as possible yet still get those great deals. We love cooking from scratch and have a list of meals that we love to make that are very inexpensive. But are they really that cheap if I go to the store and buy five other things that we don’t necessarily need?

There are several ways to reduce expenses and waste when it comes to eating like a minimalist.

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Meal Planning from Scratch

If you’re more of the control freak hands-on type person like I am, you will enjoy the process of meal planning from scratch. Meal planning at home uses a variety of tools in your cooking arsenal so that you are as efficient as you can be.

Pantry Inventory.

Before you do anything else or bring more food into your home, you’ll want to do a thorough inventory of all the food in the house. Deep freezer, fridge, cupboards, pantry – all of it. Divide your list into different categories like frozen veg/fruit, meat, dairy, condiments, spices, staples (pasta, rice, etc) and write it down.

Recipe bank.

After you’ve done all of your inventorying, ask your family what their favorite meals are that you cook. Write them down and list out the main ingredients that you normally have to shop for. If they love chicken enchiladas, write out tortillas, chicken, cheese. This would be the case if you have the spices and tomato paste on hand to make the enchilada sauce.

Now that you have your family favorites, add in recipes that you like but don’t make as often. They shouldn’t be complicated or thought of “special occasion” recipes. One that I love but don’t make often is falafel. I LOVE it, but for whatever reason we just don’t make it as frequently as I would like. You’ll write out the ingredients like you did before.

Making the plan.

You’ve done the inventory and the recipe bank, it’s time to plan! To meal plan with as little waste as possible, you need to visualize what ingredients the recipes have in common.

For example, we normally make quinoa black bean burgers, lentil sloppy joes, and lentil bolognese all in the same week. Why? Because the burgers and the sloppy joes are both served on buns and I don’t want to buy buns more than once. I’m also able to cook the lentils in bulk (2 cups dry) for both the sloppy joes and the bolognese. As a bonus, the carrots that go into the pasta I also serve as a side! Score!

Making the list.

With the meals all planned out, it is time to make the shopping list. This should be easy since you will pull all of the ingredients from your Recipe Bank onto your shopping list. Make sure not to duplicate anything!

By planning meals together with like ingredients, this should reduce what you buy each week. You still have to think about breakfast and lunch. Certainly, you can batch cook like we do, or serve sandwiches. The choice is yours!

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Meal Planning Services

Wouldn’t it be super amazing to have a weekly meal plan pop into your inbox right when you need it instead of dreading the kitchen or just grabbing take-out? Dream no more! Services like PlateJoy are taking over the hassle of finding meals that fit your dietary needs and schedule for less than the cost of one take-out meal.

With PlateJoy, you take a super simple quiz to begin. They ask about your family size, dietary needs (i.e. vegan, paleo, gluten-free, sugar-free, or low sodium), your time constraints and schedule, and any health goals you may have like losing weight. From the short quiz, PlateJoy works its magic.

You’re presented with a weekly meal plan that isn’t just dinners. They include breakfast and lunch! Most boxed meal planning services don’t offer that. PlateJoy also gives you recipes for the whole week or however many days you need them. Once you select the recipes that look amazing (because they all look pretty darn good), they generate a grocery list based on the amount of servings you need and the number of meals you are cooking.

There are grocery stores already loaded into PlateJoy that offer grocery delivery services (think Shipt or InstaCart). You’ll get the cost upfront AND the groceries delivered to your door. This way you can avoid the store all together and resist the impulse purchases. You always have the option to print the list yourself and take it to the store. You’ll be focused and determined to not over-spend with that list in hand!

PlateJoy helps you eliminate food waste, saves you time by not meal planning from scratch, and saves you money with their pre-made grocery lists so you’re in and out of the store fast with no take-out in your future!

Use code GET10 to receive $10 off your subscription!

Boxed Meal Services.

Services like Hello Fresh are great for families on the go. Unlike Platejoy, Hello Fresh delivers pre-portioned ingredients right to your door on a weekly (or bi-weekly) basis. There is not a meal plan to think about, rather you just select the weeks you want meals delivered.

We love Hello Fresh! When we both worked jobs with crazy schedules, it was so nice to come home and already have the ingredients for dinner portioned out. The recipes are simple to follow and are often time things I would have never thought to cook.

Yes, it comes in a box with Styrofoam and an ice pack, but if your city recycles Styrofoam or if you re-purpose it, you can reduce the waste of the service.

By using our referral code, you’ll receive $40 off your first order! It’s like getting a week for FREE.

No matter what option you choose, you’ll find that your dinners have become easier. With less stress on your plate, you can enjoy more time together with your family.

If you’re a meal planning pro or have tips to reduce waste while preparing meals, let me know in the comments!

2 Comments

  • ashleyjoyorfe

    When I shop, I plan meals around what meats I’m going to buy. Since they come in larger packages than we need for one meal, I plan several meals around them so I use everything up at the end of two weeks. Plus, I cook enough for two meals, so I minimize cooking time during the week! Thanks for your insight!

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