As a student, money is a precious thing. Every tip on how to save money is welcome, from simply trying to spend less money (less shopping, that is) to cutting down on snacks. But I find it very difficult to just spend less money or to cut down on the things I love (yes, I’m talking about you, chocolate). So, I recently discovered a way of saving money that actually suits me and my student-life: making a meal plan!
It sounds really childish, writing down what you’re going to eat, like your mother used to do when you were a kid – but it is actually really useful. A meal plan is really just an overview of what you’re going to eat during the week, as simple as that. I try to sit down every Monday, at the beginning of the week, take a look at my calendar and plan my meals according to my schedule. For example, on Mondays I usually have a group dinner for which we alternate cooking and on Fridays I usually eat at my parents’ place, so then I don’t have to plan my own meals.
For the remainder of the days, I check if I’m having dinner with Boyfriend and who is going to cook, plan that in and finally begin thinking about the fun part: what I’m going to cook! As soon as I have the overall lay of land, I look up recipes that I made before and really liked, or I check the free magazines from the supermarkets for inspiration or I just plan a meal that I just really want to eat (like home-made hamburgers, because why not).
But why would you use a meal plan to schedule your dinners? First of all, a meal plan gives you a nice overview of what you’re eating in a week. It provides you with the opportunity to sit down and take a look at what you’re eating, whether it’s healthy or unhealthy, and what you can do to perhaps take better care of yourself. If you have a pizza dinner scheduled for Thursday, for example, you could take this into account and eat a slightly healthier meal on Tuesday, what have you. This way, you can balance out your intake and try to eat healthier. I say “try”, because even though I preach having a healthy lifestyle here, I myself always find it quite difficult to eat both healthy and cheap. With setting up a meal plan every week, I try to achieve these goals.
Which brings me to the second reason why I like to use a meal plan: it can help you to save money! As a student, this is kind of the most important reason to use a meal plan, because it really helps to schedule your expenses. Before I started planning my meals, it happened quite often that I didn’t have any food at home, which is why I had to cycle past the grocery store after class (I’m sure other students can relate to this). If this happened more times a week, I had to go past the store quite often, which resulting in spending more money than when I go once or twice a week. Now I’m planning my meals in advance, I can also plan my groceries much more efficiently and thereby, spending less money on food. Which, in turn, leaves me with more money for the fun stuff (hello, shopping!)
In short, I’ve really enjoyed using a meal plan so far, because it gives me a good overview of what I’m going to eat in a week, which in turn can help me with maintaining a healthier and cheaper lifestyle. And when you’re a student, what else do you want?