July 23, 2011
Planning our week's meals before going to the grocery store has been one of those Do as I say, not as I do things for me.
I recommend meal planning all of the time and truthfully, I've always wanted to meal plan. I saw the utility and value behind it, but for the past 5 years, Scott & I have always lived in walking distance to a grocery store.
In Boston I lived across the street from Whole Foods, in New York City I had four supermarkets and one boutique health food store within two blocks of my apartment and even here in St. Maarten I am about 40 steps away from a small market that has just about everything we need.
Having instant access to a grocery store meant I went pretty much everyday to get whatever I needed for meals that day. We also didn't have a car so large shopping trips and bulk buys were out of the question anyway. I like to fashion myself as a strong woman, but I can only carry about four bags safely before I come a walking hazard with zero balance and coordination.
On the one hand, I really liked this habit. We always had ultra fresh food and I could sort of plan dinner around what caught my eye at the market. On the other hand small incremental spending on a day-to-day basis never made me realize quite how much I was spending on groceries. $7 here, $18 there -- whose counting? But after reviewing my finances recently, I choked when I added all the sums up and saw the grand total.
We eat a lot of food -- true, and we do eat pretty much everything I bring home, but the problem is with all the incidental purchases -- the buying of items I don't really need or have a plan for.
I remember going to the grocery store once, buying $200 worth of food, and then come dinner time, scratching my head thinking "I have nothing! What the hell did I buy?"
This was clearly happening in much smaller quantities--seemingly unnoticed.
To get my budget back on track (and break the daily grocery store habit) I decided to take a stab a meal planning this week.
I was hesitant, mostly because what's available at the grocery store here is always a gamble. Since everything is flown in to St. Maarten we run out of things a lot, sometimes for weeks at a time, which can make planning tricky. My resolve? Contingency planning. I had back up recipes on my list in case I couldn't get ingredients for the recipes I picked.
I have to say I'm all in -- a total convert.
It wasn't just the gratification from the amount of money we saved (grand total of $127 compared to an average of $205) but the fact meal planning saved me time and stress -- the two things I sought after with my minimalist lifestyle.
Going to the grocery store, even if for only 15 minutes, adds up quick over a week (almost 2 hrs!) and with meal planning I don't have to stop and think about what's for dinner -- it's already decided for me. Minimalist indeed.
I still can't believe how much more zen meal times became when I had a plan in place and my brain wasn't racing while I washangry. It was also wonderful to open my fridge and know that everything in it was spoken for and I didn't have to scramble to find a way to use the spinach before it expired.
Meal planning also gave me the chance to sort of clean out my pantry. Assess what items I had too much of or had been hanging out for a little too long, and pick recipes that use those items.
All in all, meal planning was an absolutely great exercise and when I think about it -- meal planning is minimalist. For me, minimalism is all about streamlining my life and meal planning really fits into that.
p.s. a new feature is coming to happyherbivore.com that will help you with meal planning - stay tuned!
Do you mean plan? Any tips?