Newlywed Meal Planning Tips

by Becca Matheson Ortiz, Tastemaker in Residence

When it comes to budgeting, especially for newlyweds combining finances for the first time, things can be a little sticky to sort out. Figuring out our biggest spending areas, differentiating between the necessary expenses and the wants, as well as figuring out which areas we can cut back on is something my husband and I are finally working all the kinks out of. Now that we’re settling into life together and getting used to how much we’re comfortable spending on everything from unchanging rent payments to personal shopping money, it’s easier to see where we can save a few bucks.

A main area we’ve worked to cut back on is our food cost. This includes everything from the monthly grocery budget to eating out. Recently, we’ve noticed taking the time to plan our meals out each week, and then shop specifically for those ingredients, greatly cuts back our spending so we have more left over to put into savings at the end.

It’s easy, fun, and allows for healthy home-cooked meals on a more regular basis. Over the weekend, we sit down and decide what all we’d like to eat for dinner the next week, usually leaving at least 1 free night for date night out or dinner with friends. This is a great time for us to survey the contents of our fridge and pantry, which has really helped us to stop throwing out produce that has gone bad because we forgot to use it—an annoying and expensive problem that can be so easily avoided. Picking out sides or even main dishes (we have a lot of frozen venison in the freezer thanks to last year’s hunting season) in advance lets us shrink our list and utilize all of the food we already own that needs to be used.

After we plan around the ingredients we already have and devise our weekly menu, we list the ingredients that we’ll need to buy that week as well as breakfasts and healthy snacks. Always (always!) make a list for the store and stick to it! We aren’t cool enough to coupon or shop at multiple stores for the best prices, but just sticking to the list and looking for deals in the store you happen to be in can really help keep your wallet heavier. Often, one main protein can go a long way. If I make a crock-pot of shredded chicken, we can make salads, tacos, and more all with that one buy, so if you know about deals in advance, you can plan main courses around a great bargain. Plan to make a extra food with most meals and then you have lunch, too!

We’re still new to the whole meal planning, but so far we’ve really enjoyed it and have seen a difference in our savings. Having a great, homemade meal also helps us avoid those eating out cravings at lunch during the week. And limiting eating out drastically reduces the amount of money we spend on food.

So, get together, plan some meals together and some fun date nights in between, go shopping together for the weekly list and bond over cooking delicious meals while saving for the future.