Meal planning — we all have a general ideal of how it works, though a lot of us never bother to do it. But if you’re looking to eat healthier and save money, it’s one of the easiest things you can do.
The most intimidating part of starting a meal plan can be planning it all out. So to keep things simple, plan just one meal a day in the beginning, like dinner.
Next, look at your calendar for the week and take note of any events that may affect your mealtimes, like friends coming to town on Monday or a trip to the beach on Saturday. Put it all down in your schedule, because this will help determine how many meals you need and how much time you’ll have for prep.
The next step is to create a master recipe list with all ingredients listed. Be sure to note the serving sizes so you’ll know how many meals to expect. Once you have a few ideas down, take a look at what ingredients you already have in your kitchen and cross those off the list. Whatever’s left, you go shopping for.
The final step is grocery shopping and meal prep. Since you’ll be preparing your meals in batch, pick a day where you’ll have the most time. Have all your containers ready to go and once you’re done cooking, fill them up and put them in the fridge.
Give these basic tips a try, and you’ll see that the more meals you plan, the more money you’ll save.
Related: 5 foodie sites that can find you fine meals for less
BiteHunter.com claims to provide more dining deals in real-time than any other player in the frugal-eating space. It monitors thousands of restaurants nationwide, sorts through the barrage of special dining offers zipping around social networks, daily deal sites, newspapers and magazines any given week, and pulls them together in a searchable database. The site allows consumers to find restaurant deals based on location, time of day and specific kinds of food, among other filters.
It just launched an app for the iPhone that includes a “Bite Now” feature with limited-time offers from companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial.Yelp reviews are available on the app, as well as reviews from Localeats.com.
The review site, which ranks the best cheap products and services, partners with Foursquare, the location-based mobile app, to provide picks for the best cheap restaurants in major cities nationwide. Cheapism taps its editors in local markets to review restaurants for affordability and quality. It pairs that input with reviews from sources such as Zagat, Yelp and Urban Spoon, as well as local magazines and newspapers. It then aggregates the reviews, making sure to get a clear positive consensus before recommending a restaurant.
The site bills itself as a portal to the world’s bests local restaurants. Users can search by city, state, country or price point, as well as by types of cuisine or specific foods, such as clams or ribs. Other search options include “top 100 winners” and “best of category winners.” It aggregates the opinions of critics and local bloggers, as well as “trusted friends and site visitors,” according to the website. “So, if you see a restaurant listed here, you know it’s good!” the site says.
Ueatcheap.com tracks restaurants that offer meals for $ 10 or less per person. On the site, users can locate eateries in their city and state, read restaurant reviews, add their own reviews, and sign up to receive coupons and updates of new restaurants in their area.
Restaurant.com, which aims to be a community matchmaker, “introducing great restaurants to great people,” works a little differently than the aforementioned sites. Foodies save by purchasing one of the site’s 45,000 discounted gift certificates to local restaurants around the country. Users can enter either a ZIP code or destination city to find offers for local gift certificates. They can also search the site by type of cuisine, average entree price, new restaurants, atmosphere, among other filters. Registered users can even make reservations on the site.