#money-tips | 3 min read

How to use meal planning to save money

By TymeBank - 29 January, 2021

Reduced impulse buys, healthier eating options, not having to come up with a new idea for dinner every night… it’s time you tapped into the magic of meal planning.

Making a trip to the shops every day – particularly in current times with masks, sanitiser and socially distanced queues out of the door – is less than ideal. And you might find it harder each time to stick to what you came for and resist the temptation to add a few extras to your basket.

Meal planning is a super simple solution to prepping your meals for the week that’s budget-friendly, healthier than takeaways and, as an added bonus, it’s a huge time saver too.

How meal planning can save you money:

Check your fridge, freezer and pantry

You might be surprised by all the ingredients you already have. Get organised by making a list of everything sitting on your shelves (and in your freezer) and order them by expiry date. This will identify which foods need to be eaten soon and which can spend a bit more time on the shelf.

Make the most of specials and coupons

You can find weekly deals in store flyers, newspaper inserts and online. For example, Pick n Pay has daily pantry and fresh food deals. The secret, of course, is to only buy foods you’ll use so that they don’t go to waste or end up just sitting on a shelf.

Create a menu

You’re now ready to start planning your menu. Stick to seven days and plan breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Focus on the items you have that need to be used up before their expiry dates, the staples you have in your pantry (like rice and pasta), any great specials you have come across and foods you and your partner love. The internet is full of recipes and cooking websites, but AllRecipes.com lets you search for recipes by ingredient, which is a super-useful tool if you’re new to meal planning and working with a specific list of ingredients.

Need some inspiration for your meal plan? Here’s an example you can use to get started.

Plan to use your leftovers

The beauty of planning every meal is that you can make the most of every ingredient. For example, for two people, you can roast a chicken, and each enjoy a thigh and wing for dinner, and then shred the breasts for a chicken mayo salad or sarmies for lunch the next day. The goal is to waste as little as possible.

Plan one meatless meal per week

Did you know that beans, lentils, eggs, tofu, peanut butter and canned fish are high in protein but are far more affordable than meat? One meatless meal per week is great for your health, your bank balance and the environment.   

Add grains to your meals

Rice, pasta, bulgur wheat and couscous are tasty yet inexpensive additions to meals that bulk them up. They’re also super-versatile and can be used in many different recipes, including soups, stews and salads, or as a side dish to any meal.

Skip special ingredients

Budget-friendly meal planning focuses on simple but tasty meals that don’t need fancy ingredients. If you do have a recipe you love that requires a special ingredient, leave it out or substitute it for something else (use Google like your own private chef). It’s also fun to experiment while cooking and you may surprise yourself with the finished dish.

Shop mindfully

Draw up a shopping list based on your meal plan for the week and stick to it. Don’t be lured by other ingredients that you probably won’t need, and don’t overshop. Another helpful shopping hack is to only go shopping once a week. It’s hard to overspend when you aren’t popping into the store every day.

Buy in bulk

If there’s an item on special that you use a lot of, buy extra. You might already be doing this with toiletries and cleaning items, but it’s also a good strategy for staples that can live in your pantry for weeks (or even months), such as pasta and rice.

Double up and freeze

This is the fresh food version of bulk buying. If minced meat is on special and you’ve added a cottage pie or lasagne to your meal plan, why not make a double portion and freeze one for next week? Easy meals that you can pull out of the freezer each week are great time savers.

Become a Smart Shopper

When you open an EveryDay account with TymeBank, you automatically become a Pick n Pay Smart Shopper:

  • Earn Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points when you swipe your TymeBank debit card at any till point ANYWHERE.
  • Earn double Smart Shopper points when you swipe and pay with your TymeBank card at Pick n Pay. Visit TymeBank’s Rewards page to find out more.

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