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Planning Meals in Advance Saves Big Money

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Yesterday, I wrote about Marriage Tension and Money, which was inspired this graphic in this month's Money Magazine (click for larger version):

The real reason that graphic got my attention was the bottom line that 28% of couples frequently argue about "What's for dinner?" My wife and I don't argue about it, but for years that would be the question come around 2PM. The problem was that at that point, we didn't have meat defrosted. I greatly prefer to defrost in the fridge overnight rather than microwave or hot water... it tastes much better. Not only that, but we were limited to the sides that we had available.

What's worse? Sometimes we'd just throw up our hands and go out to eat. It was the easy fallback option. However, even with these tips to save money at restaurants, avoiding the restaurant in the first place is the best way to save money.

When our second child was born, I decided that enough was enough. Managing two children under 16 months was going to be a lot of work, dinner didn't have to be. I blocked off some time with the wife and we put together a list of a dozen meals that we can make easily. The 3 or 4 slow cooker meals are ideal since I can make them whenever I have time and they are ready to eat for hours. I can always use more slow cooker recipes, so hit me up in the comments with your favorite.

After we had all the meal ideas, I did something crazy. I scheduled them in Google Calendar (my wife can edit the calendar and schedule meals too.) I can tell you what I'm having for dinner two weeks from now... sausage and peppers. I can tell you that the night before is left-over night. We scheduled a weekly date night where we go to a restaurant by choice, not default. We can plan our date night for a Tuesday when restaurants have special deals. Getting those deals and not having to resort to going out for lack of planning saves us big money.

I admit that my wife thought this was crazy at first. By the third day of scheduled meals she said that it was one of the smarter things we've ever done.

The meals aren't set in stone. Nothing prevents me from moving a meal to another day if we get a last minute dinner invitation. Best of all, there's never a conversation about "What's for Dinner?"

Posted on April 10, 2014.

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6 Responses to “Planning Meals in Advance Saves Big Money”

  1. Money Beagle says:

    My wife always does a meal plan for the week. It’s created in conjunction with a shopping list, which is largely formulated based on sale items and coupons that we have. All together, it saves us money and time. It’s important to have flexibility. We often shuffle things around due to circumstance.

  2. We cook on the weekends and eat leftovers during the week. We have a couple of standby meals we make if we run out of leftovers. We’ve only argued about what is for dinner a couple of times – both were when we didn’t have leftovers and didn’t feel like eating/cooking our standbys. I would never survive without preplanning.

  3. kosmo says:

    1.5 – 2 pounds of shoulder roast
    2 small cans cream of mushroom soup
    potatoes, peeled and sliced into chunks
    onions/onion seasoning
    A-1 or Worcestershire sauce

    The last several ingredients should be varied according to taste. We generally use 2 small bags of baby carrots and probably 4-5 medium size baking potatoes.

    If you’re quick with the potato peeler, you can prep this in 5 minutes.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Peel potatoes? What do you think this is, Love to Work Man and Money ;-). Then again, maybe it’s easier than the scrubbing that I normally do. Thanks for the recipe. I think I have a shoulder roast in the freezer and we generally stock all that anyway.

      Did pork chops with BBQ sauce, onions, and pineapple chunks the other day. It came out excellent.

  4. kosmo says:

    If you have an actual peeler, as opposed to using a regular knife, you can make really quick work of the peeling.

    This isn’t a slow cooker meal, but here’s another really quick meal for mini pizzas.

    1 can pillsbury buttermilk biscuits per person (10 biscuits per can)
    flatten biscuits on cookie sheet
    top with pizza sauce and cheese (I’m partial to Contadina sauce)
    Bake at 450 for 10 minutes.

    Obviously, you could add other toppings as well.

  5. robyn says:

    you can weekly emails from the shiksa in the kitchen, tasting table, f & w for recipe tips. you can google slow cooker meals. one of my favorites is lamb and lentil curry. you’ll also save money on groceries if you plan your meals. when my kids were younger it saved my sanity.

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