Last year was my first year of full time work, it was wonderful but at the end of the year I had managed to save literally zero dollars. I actually saved more whilst unemployed, I didn’t even make large adult like purchases like a car or holiday. This is likely due for my penchant to “treat myself” for ridiculous achievements… good job Lauren you went to work today – doughnut time!

Anyway, this year I decided to change things up, tighten those purse strings. One area I could cut costs in was frivolous eating, I know you are shocked and horrified. So I would like you to introduce you to my NEW.BEST.FRIEND. my meal planner.

I tried meal planning a couple of times before and there are a few core principles that need to be considered before you adopt this yourself:

  1. Economies of scale are needed so either find a willing house mate/dining partner or really love frozen meals.
  2. Set yourself rules – I used to aim for a $50 grocery shop per week and would force all diners to eat as much as I did, turns out this is not enough food for people who are taller than me, exercise, most normal people.  I now go for $70 to feed 2 people and make lunches.
  3. Pair things, if you are buying tomato paste for a soup plan on using that tomato paste in your next rotations – hello pizza night! This is also key for things that you won’t use all of: fresh herbs, bag of potatoes etc etc.. plan meals that can use similar ingredients.
  4. You have to already have “staples” you know those sauces and oils that you slowly collect over time.. otherwise things BLOW OUT and you end up at the cashiers like this:
  5. You have to be disciplined – sure you can go out a night or two for dinner but then those EXACT planned meals are just pushed to next week or later in the week.
  6. Variety is the spice of life! I try and group by cuisine or food type, no more than 2 pastas a week, no two Asian cuisines in a row etc etc. no one is going to love a meal plan if it’s just spag bol everynight.
  7. Pick your battles – In my meal plans I aim to reduce cost and food waste, I’m not doing it to be super-duper healthy  (just reasonably healthy) or organised.
  8. Plan a night off – it’s going to happen anyway peeps – may as well not over buy and enjoy those Friday dumplings! In line with this, I also get my house mate to cook twice a week then everyone fends for themselves on weekends. I used to let them choose what to pick but it usually meant I wouldn’t know what to buy so now I pick a meal (because I’m clearly a control freak, let’s be honest) and give them the recipe.
  9. You’ll probably forget things and have to do a top up shop. I always forget bread.
  10. You may get in a food rut with favourites, so research aka googling food or thumbing through cook books is necessary.

There are literally thousands of cute, practical and fun meal planners out there in the internet world and they are great! The only thing is they are paper and I don’t like printing off a new one every week. I then moved to writing on the fridge, but it seemed weird that literally everyone that walked into our house knew what was for dinner. So finally, while moving and unpacking billions of frames I came up with this STROKE OF GENIUS.

Voila, here is my meal planner, it’s cute, somewhat discreet and I can change my mind endlessly!

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What you need:

A backing sheet
An old glass frame
Whiteboard markers

Let’s do this:

  1. Create your backing sheet, if you can’t be effed at all you can use a blank piece of paper OR (this thought literally just came to me) print off one of the online templates. Seriously, I can’t believe I painted one when I could just print off one… anyway you can chose.
  2. Put the frame back together with the backing paper.
  3. Spend four hours researching “quick” “easy” and delicious” meals.
  4. Write your meal plan.

The beauty with this is you can wipe everything off with a tissue or if you find you fail at meal planning dismally repurpose the frame to house a picture.

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