You've probably already heard of meal planning, but have you heard of reverse meal planning?
Today we're going to discuss the differences between traditional meal planning and backwards meal planning. We will cover both the good and the bad. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you'll have figured out the perfect method for you and your budget.
Why Meal Plan?
Whether you choose to meal plan by week or by month, these are the two ways to do it and stay within your grocery budget. Traditional and reverse meal planning are both great for their own reasons. The point is to find the one that works best for you!
Cutting costs on your grocery budget can be a great way to maximize your monthly income and have more money at the end of the month. Some of the first places that people look to trim money from after an unexpected expense is the grocery/food budgets!
This is because it's the easiest place to trim from. There may be a few days where you need to cook from scratch, pull together a struggle meal, or really cheap family dinner ideas from thin air, but with creative ingenuity, you can keep your family well-fed.
What is Traditional Meal Planning?
Traditional meal planning is an amazing concept of creating a menu before going shopping. The best way to do this is by first taking inventory of everything within your home.
This keeps you from producing food waste, buying double of something you already had, and can help you to save money by utilizing the food within your home, similar to when you host a pantry challenge.
After taking inventory? What's next?
Now you move on to the next step of meal planning, which is to compare store sales flyers. Looking at the items currently on sale at your stores will help you to stay within a budget-friendly price range because you are buying low priced and in season.
Every month has its own sales cycles and things that you can expect to see on sale, for example-
- January has TVs, appliances, junk food, and healthy foods.
- August has fruit snacks, Lunchables, and boxed cereal.
- October/November has non-perishables, liked canned foods, boxed stuffings, and instant mashed potatoes.
You can create multiple meals by matching items in the sales flyers with the items on your inventory lists.
Get creative with them and swap one ingredient for another. Choose the ground turkey meat if it's cheaper than ground beef, etc. There are many ways you can save money on meat, and choosing to swap for a cheaper alternative is just one way to stretch your food budget.
Pros & Cons Of Traditional Meal Planning
As with everything, there is always good and bad. Meal planning can be a great asset to the grocery budget. See Tips for Meal Planning on a Tight Budget. That being said, there are still some negative side effects that you should consider before choosing this method.
Allow me to highlight the good and the bad, to help aid you in the choice of whether or not this budget-friendly meal planning method is for you.
By making a traditional meal plan you are able to:
- Make sure your meals for the foreseeable future are taken care of.
- Stay focused while shopping, since you have a list in hand.
- Curve unnecessary spending and reduce impulse purchases.
- Reduce your likelihood of eating out, or ordering take out because you have a meal planned in advance, like this Monthly Meal Plan.
- Compile meals made out of odds and ends in your current food stockpile.
- Plan for leftovers in advance and work them into your meal plan by repurposing the leftovers to create a new dish.
The negative side of traditional meal planning is:
By shopping with a premade list, you aren't trying to partake in the store's clearance sales or in-store markdowns not mentioned in the sales flyer. Doing things like this may cause you to go over your grocery budget.
Deciding meals in advance and scheduling them to specific days, can make you feel burnt out and less willing to continue through with the plan you made.
Maybe you DON'T want to eat Meatloaf with Ritz Crackers after a long day you didn't know you were going to experience 2 weeks in advance.
And the hardest part of adult life, trying to decide what's for dinner every night. You could feel writer's block when trying to make your meal plans and end up in a non-creative slump.
What is Reverse Meal Planning?
Reverse meal planning is when you shop first, plan later.
You buy items that "go together," and then come home and create a meal plan based on what you bought and what is in stock at home.
The most positive thing about reverse meal planning is that you can save money by starting your shopping in the markdown sections of a grocery store. Grabbing extremely discounted items that aren't mentioned in sale flyers.
Unfortunately, by shopping this way, you do open yourself up to more impulse shopping, and that can break your grocery budget.
Pros and Cons of Reverse Meal Planning
By reverse meal planning, you are able to-
- Buy the best-priced in-store items.
- Have more creativity with piecing meals together.
- It's easier to accommodate cravings, so you actually want to eat what you planned.
The negative side of reverse meal planning is-
- Without a shopping list in hand, you may grab more impulsive items.
- You could forget a necessary component of a meal (meat, starch, veggie).
- You could plan a meal based on an item at home only to realize it's gone rancid or isn't there anymore. (I swear this happens to everybody at some point in their adult lives).
Both meal plan types can start in your pantry before ever getting to the store thanks to a Clean Out the Pantry Challenge. With proper planning you can easily take a look around and figure out what's in your pantry first before making a meal.
So now that you know the difference between both methods of budget meal planning, which one is your preferred method?