The Meal Prep Made Meal Plans are designed to maximize the use of of purchased grocery items. Maximizing the use of food will cut down on waste, even though you may not use 100% of every item.
The use of items can vary depending on the servings that you require, and how items are packaged at the grocery store. For example, some people will be meal prepping for their entire family and others may be preparing food for just themselves. If an item is only sold in larger quantities and you do not require that many, you may want to consider either modifying a recipe or switching it out with another meal in your plan.
Pre-built meal plans are still a good place to start as you will likely find yourself purchasing less and wasting less almost immediately. We have left room in our meal plans for creativity in the recipes, snacking, and days off of your plan.
Everyone’s meal plan goals will vary. If your meal prep goal is to maximize your food budget you are in the right place. Use the tools you have already learned about in the previous lessons, such as the ingredient based recipe apps that can help you use items on hand, cut down on waste, and stretch your food budget even further. To help those who are seeking more frugality we have created a plan called “Budget Busters”. The Budget Busters plan combines all of the lowest cost per serving recipes that we offer and can help you reduce what you spend on your weekly grocery bill.
We continually scour our sources for the best, low-cost recipes and test them out before we approve them. This will allow us to build more Budget Buster plans for our members in the future. (A “Budget Busters Two” plan is in testing and will be published soon. Look for announcements and find it in the Pre-made Collections of your meal planning tool.)
Knowing Your Costs
In order to be successful in the very challenging restaurant and prepared foods industry, businesses must know what their profit margins are. That means they track their spending closely, especially their food costs. Food purveyors provide their customers with detailed reports on costs of goods and spending reports.
For the home cook, it can be more difficult to track your actual food costs since consumers do not have access to all the data normally generated from wholesale pricing and invoicing.
Understanding Food Supply Costs
Food costs fluctuate much like the price of gasoline. Weather, disease outbreaks, war, and natural disasters, supply and demand all affect the cost of what you purchase at the grocery store. Although food prices have risen steadily over time, recent events and inflation have caused a spike in the cost of grocery items. Tracking these costs ahead of time by utilizing data from the USDA may be a good method for adjusting your home food budget.
Track your food spending on an on-going basis. Use a simple spreadsheet to accomplish this. Each time you arrive home from shopping, before you throw away the store receipts, simply open your spreadsheet and log the expenses.
This accomplishes two things, first of all it forces you to look at the line items on the grocery receipt. It is easy to spot the high ticket items that you popped into your cart while you were experiencing a shopping buzz. Yes this is real, the stores depend on us to be lulled into a state that makes us hungry, stressed, and willing to ditch our grocery list.
The second thing this big picture view accomplishes is it can help you realize patterns in your spending over time. The best way to set a truly accurate budget is to look at historical spending. Budgeting for holidays, seasonal changes, and changes in the number of people your are feeding during certain months. If you will be having house guests or hosting social activities, these numbers need to be reflected in your food budget.
Going back to the restaurant analogy, they know what their capacity numbers are for how many guests they serve on specific days of the week and then purchase accordingly. This cuts down on waste and manages food costs. The chef is tasked with creating menu items and specials to accommodate these fluctuations. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to visit a restaurant that is always running out of your favorite dishes?
Learning to be realistic and learning to manage your budget can seem counterintuitive at first, however over time you can start averaging to get the real cost of your food. Using a basic spreadsheet to understand your spending habits is a great tool. We have provided a simple example below. However to be truly in control of your budget will require that you take some additional steps.
Tool To Cost Recipes
In an earlier lesson on budgeting we taught you about an application that helps you use items on hand and turn them into recipes. In this lesson we will share that there are are also tools that can help you to cost out recipes. Just like those well-managed food businesses, you can have the knowledge about every item you use.
The tool that we use is called Cookkeepbook. It allows you to put in your recipe items and the cost you pay for them. To start with you can use an average and then you can add in and track what you actually paid for the particular item in your recipe. You only have to add the item once and then in future recipes it lets you choose the item to add it to your recipe. It is 100% free to use and does not require a credit card to open an account.
When you can average your cost per serving for creating your favorite meals it becomes easy to see what your really spend on that homemade spaghetti sauce that grandma used to make or see how little it costs to make a homemade pizza.
Now that you have some budgeting tools in your arsenal you are ready to move on to the next lesson.